March Field History

The Army Air Service first demonstrated in-flight air refueling on June 25th, 1923, at an altitude of approximately 500 feet near Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. Yet, one of the most important milestones in aviation history occurred on Jan. 7, 1929.

 

Staff Sgt. Roy W. Hooe, 2nd Lt. Elwood R. Quesada, 1st Lt. Harry A. Halverson, Capt. Ira C. Eaker, and pilot, Maj. Carl “Tooey” Spaatz set an endurance record for a refueled airplane in flight, having flown for 150 hours, 40 minutes, and 15 seconds since January 1 in the Question Mark, a Fokker C–2 Trimotor airplane from March Field. The crew accomplished this feat by flying a 110-mile path from Santa Monica to San Diego.

 

Spaatz would later be stationed at March Field from 1930-1933. He would rise to the rank of general—eventually being appointed by President Harry S. Truman as the first chief of staff of the United States Air Force in February of 1946.

 

The Question Mark was a high-winged monoplane with two 96-gallon wing tanks supplemented by two 150-gallon tanks installed in the cabin. The two refueling aircraft were Douglas C-1 single-engine bi-planes with two 150-gallon tanks for offloading and a refueling hose that passed through a hatch cut in the floor. During the contacts, the tanker crews also passed oil, food, water and other miscellaneous items, by means of a rope. By the end of the mission, the Question Mark had received 5,700 gallons of fuel.

 

The crews of the tankers were Capt. Roy Hoyt and lieutenant’s Auby Strickland and Irwin Woodring in the No. 1 aircraft, and lieutenant’s Odas Moon, Joseph G. Hopkins and Andrew F. Solter were in the No. 2 aircraft. Capt. Hugh Elmendorf was in charge of ground operations and logistics for the mission.

 

This monumental accomplishment ushered in the importance of aerial refueling. Decades later, air refueling would become one of the many important missions at March Air Force Base.

 

To watch a history video on this event, visit

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