The last two posts covered all the procedural steps necessary to accomplish an air refueling mission or qualification. Completing an AR mission is an exercise in flying formation with another aircraft, specifically in close trail formation. Just as in any other formation flying, maintaining position involves recognizing relative movement between the airplanes and managing the momentum of aircraft movement. Obviously, the bigger the airplane, the more momentum is involved. I was also an instructor in the USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) program, teaching in the Cessna T-37, a small, 2-seat jet. Formation training was part of the flight syllabus and was usually the first time that the student had the opportunity to get close to another aircraft in flight. The skill sets required to fly formation in the T-37 and to air refuel in the C-5 are very similar, though with the C-5 you have to be more patient with power changes. The C-5’s flight controls are quick for an aircraft of it’s size and the engines are powerful enough that power changes, once in position, rarely require more movement than 1/2 to 3/4 throttle knob width. Pilots new to air refueling or to formation flying in general have a tendency to make corrections that last too long. When in close proximity to another aircraft heading changes of one or two degrees are all that are needed to see movement. You have to make a concerted effort to barely change bank angle and then level the wings again to make a lateral position correction. Just a little rotational pressure on the yolk is used rather than actually rotating it to see a bank angle change. Power changes need time to take effect. If you get impatient and make an additional power correction before the first one has time to take effect, you end up with at least twice the power change that you need. Soon you find yourself fighting your own corrections.
I spent most of my last four years in the Air Force teaching or evaluating pilots while air refueling. Most of the missions were fairly routine, but every once in a while we’d have an interesting time trying to complete a training mission.