Al and Fred Key

At 12:32 p.m. on June 4, 1935, brothers Al and Fred Key lifted off the grass strip of Meridian's airport in an effort to break the world record for sustained flight. Working with other Meridianites such as A.D. Hunter and James Keeton, the Key brothers devised a workable method of air-to-air refueling in order to attempt this feat.

The record they established in their 27 days aloft, totaling 653 hours and 34 minutes, remains unbroken in conventional flight. Not until orbiting space labs did man stay aloft longer. When they landed at 6:06 p.m. on July 1, 1935, before a crowd of between 30,000 and 40,000 fans gathered at the airfield, the Meridian airport was renamed "Key Field" in their honor, the name we bear today. 

In setting this record they flew an estimated 52,320 miles - or twice the distance around the earth at an average speed of about 80 mph. The engine in their Curtis-Robbins monoplane, the "Ole Miss", had made some 61 million revolutions "without a bobble," as reported by Meridian educator and writer Stephen Owen in his books "The Flying Key Brothers and Their Flight to Remember". Some 300 gallons of oil were used and they consumed 6,000 gallons of gas. Flying in shifts, the men maintained the plane by walking outside on a frightening catwalk that went around the sides of the engine.

Both brothers served in World War II, each piloting and contributing to the design of the famous B-17 Flying Fortress bombers.

The flight of Al and Fred Key proved that air-to-air refueling worked! The ability to remain in flight was limited only by the endurance of the flight crew and the structural and mechanical stability of the aircraft. The U.S. Air Force continued to refine and improve on the basic principal that was developed in Meridian in 1935. Today practically all military aircraft are capable of being refueled in flight. The KC-135R provides this service for all of the U.S. Military and its allies.