JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — For the first time ever, 446th Airlift Wing Reserve Citizen Airmen performed a C-17 Globemaster III aerial refueling with the U.S. Air Force’s newest KC-46 Pegasus tanker Jan. 29.
With Boeing Field just up the road from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the blended aircrew from Team McChord performed an aerial refueling in the C-17 Globemaster III during a series of special missions to train KC-46 aircrew Jan. 29 through Feb. 1.
During the special missions, the KC-46 crew accomplished receiver training with a KC-135 before they transitioned to the role of tanker and met up with the C-17.
“I was honored to be part of the 446th Airlift Wing’s first ever refueling with the KC-46,” said Capt. Gregory Gause, 313th Airlift Squadron scheduler. “Flying our C-17 behind a brand new tanker was a unique experience. Everything we did can be best described as deliberate and conservative as we got used to the characteristics of the new tanker.”
Pilots remarked about the differences from flying with the KC-10 or KC-135.
“Not being able to see the friendly face of the boom operator staring at you from the back window, like you would in the KC-10 or KC-135, is odd, but doesn’t change the bottom line of maintaining position to get the gas,” said Gause. “The new camera system the boom operator uses to see us and fly the boom worked well during our sortie.”
Capturing data to help train C-17 aircrews was a mission focus for the refueling mission’s aircraft commander, Capt. Ryan Arsenault, 62nd Operations Support Squadron Flight commander and Wing Training.
“Air refueling is one of the most difficult things we do in the C-17 and takes the longest for newer C-17 pilots to grasp,” said Arsenault. “Performing air refueling with a tanker we had only seen pictures of was challenging, especially while we were trying to capture data to develop references and techniques to publish for the entire C-17 crew force.”
We passed along lessons learned to fellow C-17 aircrews to help shed light on the KC-46’s subtle differences compared to other tankers, said Gause.
While training was intensive for the pilots, the loadmasters described the KC-46 refueling to be a smooth ride.
“Refueling was little different than with any other airplane,” said Master Sgt. Scott Templeton, 728th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “It was more stable from my perspective.”
After completing the rounds with Team McChord’s C-17 aircrew, KC-46 refueling training transitioned to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Dover AFB, Del., Feb. 15 for more C-17 refueling training.