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Air Mobility Command Advanced Console System

On 1 January 1929, a tri-engined Fokker C-2 aircraft, with a crew offive aboard, climbed into the southern California sky. This aircraft, dubbed the Question Mark, was not history’s first air refueling mission, but it played a crucialrole in the beginning of air refueling efforts and in the development ofthe US Army Air Corps. In fact, the first attempts at air refueling started in 1921 with five-gallon gas cans. On 2 October 1921, a US Navy lieutenant in the back of a Huff-Daland HD-4 used a grappling hook to snag a gas can from a float in the Potomac River, and on 21 November, a wing walker with a gas can strapped to his back climbed from an airborne Lincoln Standard to a Curtiss IN-4 and proceeded to pour the gas into the aircraft’s tank. While these two publicity stunts deserve mention, the first air-toair refueling using a gravity-flow hose occurred in 1923. Earlier that year, the US Army Air Service had equipped two De Haviland DH-4Bs with inflight hoses. Mter installation, testing, and preparation, the Army Air Service was ready to put it to use, and on 27 June, one of the DH-4s flew a 6-hour and 38-minute flight that included two air refuelings. Testing continued through much of 1923 until 18 November, when the hose became entangled in the right wings of the two aircraft. Lieutenant P. T. Wagner, the pilot of the refueler, was killed in the accident. At that time, however, the Army’s budget was very limited, and the aviation branch, in particular, had not yet recovered from the 1919 demobilization. The tests in 1923 attempted to show the practicality of air refueling, with a flight-duration (37.25 hours) and distance (3,293 miles) record set in August and a border-to-border flight from Lamas, Washington, to Tijuana, Mexico, in October. Still, between the budgetary constraints and the lack of an actual application, the testing slowly ground to a halt, and the November accident caused the US Army Air Service to cease it altogether.