The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) McDonnell Douglas KC-10 refuelling aircraft has made what is likely to be one of its last international air show appearances before the type is retired.

The KC-10 appeared in the Avalon show’s static park along with the USAF’s other two operational tankers, the Boeing KC-135 and KC-46. It is part of a large USAF presence at the show, which also includes two Boeing F-15Cs, three Lockheed Martin F-22s, and a single Lockheed C-5M Galaxy strategic transport.

USAF Colonel Henry Schantz is the “Air Boss” of the US presence at the Avalon show, the first iteration held since 2019 – the show was cancelled in 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I make sure that all the US forces show a combined picture for what we, the United States, represent… and increasing those partnerships across the board.”

Considerable effort went into assembling the small USAF armada at the show, with aircraft coming from as far as the continental USA. The jets also carried other US gear on display at the show, including a US Army Lockheed HIMARS rocket launcher.

Schantz adds that the KC-10 and its tanker counterparts fulfil the tanking role primarily for the USAF, but also for the US Navy and international partners. It is being steadily replaced by the KC-46.

“With the KC-10 I’ve flown a number of missions where we’re refuelling international partners or the navy through hose and drogue, or USAF aircraft through the boom,” says KC-10 pilot captain Jeffrey Schafer.

“It’s just up to the schedule on who we’re refuelling. We have no problem switching from boom to drogue.”

The KC-10 on static is configured with passenger seats in the forward section behind the cockpit adjacent to the cargo door, while the aft cargo deck is empty. Unlike the KC-135, where refuelling personnel lie down to look out of a window to guide the boom, aboard the KC-10 this role is performed seated, looking rearwards through a large window.

The aircraft is part of the of the 9th Air Refueling squadron based at California’s Travis AFB.

The KC-10 is based on the DC-10-30 airliner. Cirium fleets data indicates that the jet at Avalon (83-0078, MSN48219) has been in service since December 1983. It is powered by three GE Aerospace CF6-50C2 engines.

The USAF is listed as having 32 in-service KC-10s, with an average aircraft age of 38.1 years.