AAFB opens new milestone KC-46 training pipeline

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Trenton Jancze
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Instructors from the 56th Air Refueling Squadron recently graduated their first home-grown batch of pilots and boom operators through the initial pilot qualification and initial boom operator qualification courses at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

KC-46 Pegasus students originally transitioned from other air refueling tankers, but now the squadron has developed a syllabus to train students straight from basic training, undergraduate pilot training, or retrainees.

“What we can do now is take somebody from basic training or cross-training from a non-flyer career field, and train them from the ground up to be able to do basic operation and employment of the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Fritz Thompson, 56th ARS student training management flight chief. “We’re opening up a new pipeline, so this is a huge milestone for the KC-46.”

The students go through different phases during their training: classroom and computer-based training, simulator training, and flightline training. The phases are focused on developing students who know nothing about the KC-46 to eventually operate it. This occurs on both boom operator and pilot sides.

Lt. Col. Teddy Boyd, 56th ARS commander, said setting up this new training pipeline has come with challenges.

“This is a different level of instruction,” he said. “Our instructors will require more detailed instruction on basic concepts, because it’s a different training than the transition course. It’s a shift for all of our instructors in getting more into the fundamentals.”

When asked to describe this moment for the squadron, Thompson described it as a “stepping stone” to a more efficient future.

“This will set the pace for how we conduct our training,” he said. “It’s only up from here. If there are any bumps in the road, we can adapt, learn from it on the fly, and press forward.”   

According to Boyd, the 56th ARS expects to complete three classes of initial qualification students by the end of 2022.

“We will be learning with every class and adapting our program of instructions to produce the highest quality KC-46 pilots and boom operators we can,” said Boyd.