1st Aerial Refueling

Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. John P. Richter (bottom aircraft) performing the first aerial refueling over the skies of Rockwell Field in California, June 27, 1923.
Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. John P. Richter (bottom aircraft) performing the first aerial refueling over the skies of Rockwell Field in California, June 27, 1923.

Historical Context

Aerial refueling is a dangerous process where fuel is transferred from one military aircraft to another mid-flight. It was adopted in widespread use during World War II, and has been used during multiple wars since then, to extend the range of aircraft on missions and reduce the take-off fuel weight to allow more payload onboard.

The first such aerial refueling took place on June 27, 1923 when two members of the United States Army Air Force, Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. John P. Richter, flew in De Havilland Airco DH.48B's. A hose was passed down from the tanker aircraft, flown by Lts. Virgil Hine and Frank W. Seifert, to Smith and Richter's plane.

Problems with Smith's engine prevented the duo from setting world records on the day, but they would do so two months later - 16 records to be exact, for speed, distance and duration.

Photo Info


Photographer: US Army
Date taken: June 27, 1923
Location taken: Rockwell Field, California, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1923-06-27 Capt. Lowell H. Smith and Lt. John P. Richter perform the first ever aerial refueling in a DH-4B biplane

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