Navy F-18s stop in Ketchikan to refuel


On a sunny afternoon, Ketchikan International Airport got a surprise visit from some unusual guests.

At about noon on June 7, five U.S. Navy F-18 Super Hornets touched down at the airport for about two hours to refuel on their way north to Eielson Air Force Base near Fairbanks.

Lt. Cmdr. Brandon Hempler, one of the Hornet pilots, spoke with the Daily News by phone after the jets touched down at Eielson, where they will participate in RED FLAG-Alaska, a joint training exercise that takes place over the course of about 10 days. They’ll remain at Eielson for about two-and-a-half weeks in all.

Hempler and his cohort are based out of Naval Air Station Lemoore in central California. The First City was their second stop, he said. Earlier, they had stopped for refueling at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor, Washington.

But “Ketchikan wasn’t even our planned fuel stop,” said Hempler. “We were actually planning on going to Juneau. However, some of the weather forecasts we saw just kind of gave us a little bit of pause. So, we didn’t have to fly quite as far and we could have more gas onboard if we just dropped into Ketchikan.”

If their Air Force refueling tanker isn’t able to “drag us all the way home with our aerial refueling,” he said, it’s likely they’ll make a stop in Ketchikan again on the return trip.


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