KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Al Fiori was a member of an Air Force crew that refueled the first non-stop flight around the world.
The former Air Force Sergeant showed us a refueling plane, the type he flew in during the Korean War and earlier. Fiori was 19 when he joined the Air Force in early 1948. That was months after it was established as a separate branch of the United States Armed Forces.
“Just when I got in they changed, had changed, to the United States Air Force. We had khakis for all of our uniforms,” said Fiori.
He was one of the first to wear the blue Air Force Uniform.
“It was much better than the khaki stuff, much more attractive,” he added.
Fiori was good with his hands and had a quick mind. He was first trained as an engine mechanic, then a flight engineer on one of the more challenging airplanes in the Air Force at the time.
“I was a flight engineer on a B-29,” said Fiori. “The flight engineer on a B-29 was considered the third pilot.”
He monitored the functions of all four engines. He sat behind the co-pilot.
On March 2, 1949, Lucky Lady II an Air Force B-50 became the first airplane to circle the world nonstop. Air Force General Curtis LeMay set a high bar for the Superfortress.
“He wanted to prove that our heavy bombers could make it to anywhere else in the world at any time without having to land to refuel,” said Fiori.
Fiori was a junior enlisted member of the 43rd Refueling Squadron in 1949. The refueling planes are circled in this flight map. Al’s B-29 rendezvoused with Lucky Lady II over the Azores in the North Atlantic.
“How it worked the B-29 flew above B-50 flew below. So, the refueling operator in the B-29 started releasing the hose. It had a big giant brass ball,” said Fiori.
The precise maneuvers took place at about 32,000 feet.
“Their refueling guy on the B-50 would hook onto that ball and pull it in. What was amazing is that we transferred fuel at 300 gallons a minute. I was thrilled that we were able to accomplish it. It was quite a feat,” said Fiori.
After his service ended, Al became a DJ in California in the mid-50s into the 60’s, adopting the name Al Anthony for TV and radio.
“All kinds of people say thank you for your service. It really is neat when they do that. They didn’t do that a long time ago. But lately, they seem to be more appreciative of the military,” said Fiori.
If you know a Veteran who could be recognized, send Don Dare an email at email@example.com or give him a call at 865-633-6923.