56 ARS Showcases KC-46 Capabilities for AETC Civic Leaders

  • Published
  • By Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

“Varmint 11, cleared to contact…”

It’s not often you see an F-16 Fighting Falcon refueled in flight. It’s even rarer to view it in person from the Air Force’s newest aerial refueling aircraft. During a recent Air Education and Training Command (AETC) civic leader tour, 25 distinguished visitors shared in this truly unique experience aboard a KC-46 Pegasus from Altus Air Force Base.

The four-day tour, hosted by Maj. Gen. Andrea D. Tullos, Deputy Commander of AETC, and Chief Master Sgt. Erik C. Thompson, Command Chief Master Sergeant of AETC, provided an opportunity for civic leaders to visit several bases within the AETC area of responsibility.

Led by Lt. Col. Christopher Gathmann, 56th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) director of operations, and Maj. Derek St. John, 56 ARS assistant director of operations, the Altus-based aircrew flew the delegation to three Air Force bases in Texas: Goodfellow, Laughlin, and Randolph.

In addition to learning about each base’s mission, the civic leaders spent considerable time interacting with the “Mad Hatter” pilots and boom operators. Tech. Sgt. Ian Sweaney, 56th ARS boom operator instructor, said, “The tour was an excellent opportunity for those that operate the KC-46 to showcase its unique capabilities.”

Mrs. Amanda Davis, Altus Public Schools public relations director, agreed. “I truly enjoyed the tour and our aircrew was the best ever. The KC-46 is clearly an amazing aircraft. To see the Pegasus in action is an experience none of us will forget.”

Tour highlights included the aerial refueling of four Texas Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. With 56th ARS boom operator Tech. Sgt. Amy James and Tech. Sgt. Sweaney at the boom pod controls, civic leaders observed firsthand the dynamic process of aerial refueling. The aircrew also performed a KC-46-on-KC-46 receiver air refueling maneuver.

“It was exciting to demonstrate the KC-46’s capabilities to our community leaders,” said Lt. Col. Gathmann. “The looks of amazement as we showcased our mission sets was my favorite part of the trip.”