Refueling with @patch_wick

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Aerial refueling is a mind-boggling task, but Instagrammer and U.S. Air Force Reservist @patch_wick's photos share what it's like first-hand. Patrick Stout captures his photos from the rear of KC-135 planes. There's a window that looks straight down at the earth, and helps boom operators like Patrick see the aircraft that they’re refueling.

Boom operators are in control of the refueling pump or “boom.” They lie on their stomach throughout the entire process, moving the boom around, latching it onto the aircraft, and finally pumping the fuel. @Patch_wick explains: “It’s an amazing process because both aircraft have to fly very steady. As you can see in some of my pictures, both aircraft are very close to each other. The boom operator also has to pay attention because he’ll have to unhook the boom quickly if the other aircraft pulls down or his aircraft pulls up.”

In the process, @patch_wick also gets to photograph some gorgeous views: “After the first time I watched a refueling, I continued to lay and watch the passing landscape. I always feel like I’m watching a high-definition version of Google Earth… [With my photos], I try to find cool and unique patterns. And I snap hundreds of pictures. With the in-flight refueling, I try to take as many angles as I can.”