‘World-class Airmen on a high class aircraft’

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kari Degraffenreed
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, has been training pilots and aircrew for decades, but throughout the last six years, a majority of this training has evolved along with technology.

New weapons training systems and simulators take up most of the new student’s time in the schoolhouse, and now, AAFB has added one more set of KC-46 Pegasus simulators to better prepare their pilot and boom operator students.

On Nov.2, 2022, a delivery of two new KC-46 simulators, one for pilots and one for boom operators, arrived. They are the sixth set of KC-46 simulators AAFB houses, and for now, the final simulators to be installed in the schoolhouse. The simulator is set up like a large box, with hydraulics underneath to ensure all movements are
similar to what the students would feel on a real flight.

“In the airplane, you have a lot of illusions that could come up as a result of the motion that you feel while being in the simulator,” said 1st Lt. Peyton Chester, KC-46 Pegasus student pilot. “You can create a more difficult scenario of being in the clouds or being in adverse weather. So, when we actually go to do this in the future, I feel like we'll have a lot of experience doing this under difficult scenarios and that will result in better performance down the road.”

Even though the pilots and aircrew aren’t really flying through the skies at first, the realism of the simulators is one of the many aspects that creates proficient and adaptive Airmen from the AAFB schoolhouses.

“We always try to keep it realistic as far as real weather,” said Nicola Borghini, KC-46 lead pilot instructor. “They fly with headsets, and the instructors play the boom operator and the crew chief. We do all the radio calls, so that when they go to fly the jet they are more used to this kind of operation.”

While most of the pilots who go through this training have already flown on different types of planes, the KC-46 is in a category all on its own, so the simulator for the plane must also be equally as unique.

“It’s better than anything smaller that we’ve flown before,” said Chester. “I've never had a full motion simulator to help me in flying, so getting the feel for things here means we'll have a better time transitioning into the actual aircraft and now I have a little bit more confidence.”

Of course, the training for these students does not end with the simulators, but the lessons that are taught during this critical time are invaluable to forming multi-capable aircrews and pilots.

“We take the student as a new flier and then we transition them to be a world-class Airman on a high class aircraft,” said Stephen Grice, KC-46 contracting officer representative. “I think we do that with high proficiency. When they leave here, they should be very confident and proficient and they should be able to go into the world and take on any environment.”