ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.-- The 56th Air Refueling Squadron has begun assisting units across the United States with their initial stand-up of KC-46 Pegasus aircrew by instructing the KC-46 Phase Three Flight Line training at the 97th Air Mobility Wing.
The 56th ARS is training members from seven units hailing from McConnell, Pease, Seymour Johnson AFB, and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The first training course started in late August 2021 with four additional classes scheduled for pilots, boom operators, and aircraft commanders.
“Bringing the (formal training unit) (main operating base) students into our FTU is important because we can consolidate and standardize the training that they achieve and make sure the standards are met from the MOBs,” said Maj. Derek St. John, 56th ARS assistant director of operations. “Having a common understanding of Air Force technical regulations, instructions and manuals is of the utmost importance. Teaching those standards here is how we give back to the (Mobility Air Force) students.”
There are three different phases of aircrew training: phase one is computer-based training, phase two is simulator training and phase three is flight line training. For pilots, this includes eight flights and a check ride, and for boom operators five flights and a check ride to become fully certified in their respective positions.
“This opportunity stands out because it makes you an overall better system navigator and operator for the aircraft,” said Maj. Shaun Hibshman, 78th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46 student pilot. “It makes you a better fuel receiver pilot and gives you the ability to be a net increase to the situational awareness of the battlespace.”
Each Class will have roughly 20 students from installations across the Air Force. The goal of these courses is for the students training here to all graduate the same way regardless of where they received training in the past.
“The training standards should be the same all the way across the board,” said St. John. “We're hoping to standardize all the units from the MAF, whether it be Guard, Reserve, or active duty. As always, our goal is to produce the most qualified Airmen possible.”
The initial standup for qualified KC-46 aircrew across the Air Force is handled by a contractor, but they have not been able to acquire enough instructors to teach the number of aircrew the service needs. This is where Mobility’s Hometown has come in to augment the buildup phase for the KC-46 enterprise.
“It's going to test our boundaries with the current pilot team we have,” said St. John. “There's not a whole lot of downtime for them, so making sure the students are constantly engaged with an instructor is one of the biggest challenges we're going to have throughout this phase. Right now, we're going to have 14 pilots on the flight line, which is the most we've ever had. Come October, we're ramping up to approximately 24 to 26, that’s really going to test our ability to execute the mission while meeting all the other day-to-day needs of the office.”