By Carl Reese

If you hang around the Cannonball community long enough,  the topic of “in-air  refueling” is bound to come up.  An idea that you can refuel the car while on the move.  The term is borrowed from the Airforce, that refuels planes while they are still in the air.

Just last summer Carl Day and myself spoke about two separate refueling ideas we had to minimize fuel stops for motorcycle cross country trips.

While Ed Bolian and Dave Black whom currently hold the New York to Los Angeles in a petrol car, opt to simply carry extra fuel-cells to minimize gas stops.   You may laugh, but the cannonball community has discussed this for years.  The thought of refueling while traveling has been a hot topic since Alex Roy joked about it in the documentary 32 Hours 7 Minutes.

The idea of refueling on the go, is not an original idea.  Aircraft have been refueling during flight, since 1923.

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First mid-air refueling on June 27, 1923

The Air Force has made many improvements over the years, and now uses the KC-135 AKA “Stratotanker” for refueling fighter jets in the air.


This military refueling technique was a major factor when designing my fuel cell that was built for the  record BMW motorcycle run.   Though the fuel cell was totally capable of refueling on the fly, I did not incorporate the technique.  Mainly because I didn’t want to catch fire and die.  We worked hard to improved the design to minimize the risk factor considerably. Unfortunately  the factor was not ZERO.

In the end, I was more concerned for the team pumping gas into the fuel cell. For that reason, I felt that no record was worth setting my friends on fire.

One of my team members Matt Nordenstrom sent me this video of Mark Miller.  Mark used this refueling method back in 2004 during the Baja 1000.   Of course it was outlawed from the Baja 1000 the following year.

Dan Reeves and I had many discussions about how best to set up my Sprinter van to be the mule that would supply gas to the donor vehicle.

Unknown to us at the time, someone had already done it.  Proving great minds think alike, a Sprinter van had successfully refueled a GTR while going 85 MPH around a track back around 2 years ago.

This proves what my team knew last summer…Refueling a car on the fly is possible.


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