A KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft taking 21 middle and high school students with an interest in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics for an educational flight made an emergency landing at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida Thursday.
The students safely exited the aircraft after it landed and were checked out by a flight doctor from the 6th Air Refueling Wing before being released from the base, MacDill said in a Facebook post.
MacDill spokesman 1st Lt. Brandon Hanner said the students were from local school districts and were members of the STEAM enthusiast groups Vibots and Girls Who Code.
Hanner said MacDill regularly invites local students on these flights as part of its “flying classroom” program to teach young people about the engineering and aeronautics involved in flying aircraft such as the KC-135. Pilots and maintainers typically talk to the students about the mechanics involved in flying a KC-135 and what it takes to get it off the ground, and what kind of career opportunities there are in the military for people with interests in STEAM subjects.
MacDill said in its Facebook post that the KC-135′s pilot decided to land after the crew noticed “a potential issue in the boom pod area.”
Hanner said the plane landed safely “due to the expertise of the pilot and everyone on the aircraft,” but the incident is now under investigation. Maintainers are now looking at the KC-135 to try to figure out what may have been wrong with the aircraft, Haanner said, but he could not provide any further details.
Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.