U.S. KC-135 refueling plane crashed in Kyrgyzstan. Air Force got rid of parachutes on these tankers in 2008.

Local news outlets are reporting that a C -135 tanker (most probably a KC-135) aircraft disappeared from radar screens near Kyrgyz-Kazakh border owned by U.S. Manas Transit Center.

According to Interfax, the Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Ministryconfirmed the information about the plane crash. Looks like citizens of Zhayil region saw the blast of the aircraft crashing into a mountain.


Image credit: Russell Hill

Although it’s too early to say ejection seats or chutes may have saved the crew, we can’t but notice that the KC-135 has no ejection seats.

Actually, there is an escape hatch on the KC-135 but chutes were removed from the Stratotankers, bacause:

“KC-135s are not like other aircraft. They seldom have mishaps, and the likelihood a KC-135 crew member would ever need to use a parachute is extremely low,” according to an article published on the Air Force website.

KC-135 are deployed to Manas in Kyrzyzstan to support Operation Enduring Freedom over Afghanistan.

In 2004, an Air Force KC-135 collided on the ground at Manas with a Kyrgyzstan Airlines Tupolev Tu-154. There were no injuries on either aircraft.

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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. it was not in 2004, when a KC-135R collided with a Tu-154, it was on 2006-09-26 and the unlucky KC-135 was the 63-8886 …

  2. Let’s not forget that these jets should have been retired years ago but our own bumbling acquisitions process couldn’t get around to making a timely selection. And we’re still years away from the KC-46 reaching IOC.

    • Let’s put it this way this plane has a great history but many new missions will make it obsolete though it still has a lot of life in it after the reengine in the late 80s was supposed to last up to 2050 let’s hope the KC 46 has such an illustrious service life
      even with replacement aircraft there are unforseeable accidents let’s hope there Are no incidents in the future

  3. The Escape spoiler does not shear off or punch thru the door. The fwd hinge pins and aft door latch are released prior to the escape spoiler nitrogen bottle actuating the spoiler down into the slip stream. The door will fall away quickly. During alert stances, the seat cushions are replaced with the parachute, either way, once an airplane starts spinning, it would be very difficult to escape. In the commercial world where I now work, we install hand holds and modify the fueslge with additional escape hatches and a drag-chute so the crew has a fighting chance of getting out of an out of control airplane.

  4. Units still put 3 chutes by the boom pod. But getting it on in an emergency is unlikely. Meanwhile, there have been about 75 total -135’s lost since it came out and at least 8 fuel system related explosions. A/R pump overheat or boos pump initiated explosions. I’d say that is a dismal rate for explosions. Glad I lived to see retirement recently!

    Boom’s checking off…

  5. In every case that I am aware of the emergency situation was either so catastrophic that no one could get out, or the aircraft was able to land safely. I was quite happy when we no longer had to put parachutes in the seat. I spent 17 years as as a 135 crewmember. It is a very safe aircraft, losses are rarely due to malfunction, but no aircraft is perfect.

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