Chicago Air, Water Show: Romeoville native in charge of refueling jets like Blue Angels mid-air

Air and Water Show in Chicago this weekend

ByChristian Piekos via WLS logo
Friday, August 19, 2022
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While you may be looking at the jets in Chicago today, a Romeoville native is in charge of refueling those planes in a KC-135 Stratotanker.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A Romeoville native has a unique job at this year's Air and Water Show: He's in charge of refueling the jets that will be seen whizzing through Chicago's skies all weekend -- mid-air.

Not all the planes featured in this weekend's Air and Water Show are speedy jets: The KC-135 Stratotanker, for example, is responsible for refueling military aircraft mid-air.

This beast was built in 1959.

The U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker has been soaring thousands of feet above the Chicago lakefront, ahead of the 2022 Chicago Air and Water Show.

ABC7 had the rare chance to fly aboard the KC-135, as it refueled U.S. Navy F-35 Lightning fighters.

"Every day it's different. It's an awesome feeling," said Master Sgt. Paul Fusek, with the Illinois Air National Guard. "I always say I have the best office view in the world."

That office is on the underbelly of the KC-135.

It's his job to make sure jets needing fuel connect with receiving aircraft.

On Thursday, it was the F-35 fighter.

SEE MORE: Chicago Air and Water Show returns this weekend with Blue Angels, Golden Knights performing

"You're back there, and all of the pressure is on you. You're keeping everybody safe," Fusek said.

His job literally has him lying on his chest, as he carefully controls the hose that connects to other aircraft flying hundreds of miles per hour.

If you're claustrophobic, this is not the job for you.

"We refuel a variety of aircraft, ranging from fighters such as the F-16, F-15, the cargo planes, like the C-17, C-5," Fusek said.

Fusek grew up in Romeoville, and is grateful to be flying once again in the Chicago Air and Water Show.

"I love it. It's a thrill for me to come back up here to the Air and Water Show, to see Chicago, see family and friends. It's beyond words," he said.

You'll be able to see the KC-135 this weekend, as it soars over Chicago.

"For me, it's just a good reset. I just enjoy it. It never gets old," Fusek said.

It's not First Class, but the Stratotanker comes with the smallest microwave, toilet paper and coffee makers, just to make the mission a little more homie.