McConnell Teaches Seymour Johnson about the Future of Aerial Refueling

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Reanna Hartgrove
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing
Instructors from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. assisted the 916th Air Refueling Wing with conversion training for the new KC-46A Pegasus.
With the delivery of the first KC-46A on June 12, 2020 the 916th ARW was provided instructors from McConnell AFB to train and equip 916th ARW Airmen with the necessary skills to operate the Air Force’s newest aerial refueling aircraft.
“We want to get them comfortable with the aircraft and teach them some basic components of their jobs,” said SSgt. Robert Bliven, KC-46 electrical environmental instructor.
Throughout the conversion training, 155 students were trained over the span of 3,000 hours.
With superior refueling, cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities, the KC-46 is the next generation of aerial refueling support. For some, these advancements served as a new challenge ready to be tackled.
“From someone who has more of an analog troubleshooting experience, this aircraft is a little different and that's one of the hardest things to overcome” said Bliven. “You have to stop thinking that you have to troubleshoot so much when the aircraft is going to do a lot of it for you. It’s one of those things that you get past and just let the aircraft help you.”
“Maintaining the KC-46 is very easy and pretty streamlined, it's just getting around some of the learning curves of the newer technology” said TSgt. Gene Bradbury, KC-46 airframe powerplant general instructor.
According to Bliven, The KC-135 had reliability on its side but was by no means as futuristic as the KC-46 with its many bells and whistles.
“This is a pretty historic thing,” Bliven says in reflection. “This is a new aircraft coming online so it is truly an awesome experience to be making history and breaking ground on something like this. It means a lot to us.”
With the newest fleet of aircraft growing around the Air Force, the community of those obtaining them have taken the opportunity to work together.
“The KC-46 community is a small community and I think it’s extremely important that this course makes people get to know each other,” said Bliven. “You may have guys from different squadrons working together, so now they might be more inclined to reach out to each other whether they’re air reserve technicians, traditional reservists or active duty.”
“I’ve noticed that with this aircraft I’ve already had people reach out from other bases, we’ve reached out to other bases and even commercial airliners that work the same type of airframe for guidance and questions that we had,” stated Bradbury. “I feel like the community is going to be pretty close-knit, especially because it’s new to everybody.”
The opportunity for community building and engagement is growing along with the air-to-air refueling capability the KC-46 brings to the Air Force and joint service operations.
The 916th ARW flew the KC-135 for roughly 25 years. The final aircraft was divested from the wing on February 8th, 2020, paving the way for the KC-46.