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KC-46 fuel tank removal: an Air Force first

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – --

For the first time in history, eight McConnell Airmen removed a fuel tank from a KC-46 Pegasus to perform repairs.

Four fuel cell engineers and four crew chiefs teamed up to accomplish the ground-breaking task.

“There are no other aircraft in the Air Force fleet that can have the fuel tank fully removed before performing maintenance,” said Tech. Sgt. Shane Roten, 22nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron lead KC-46 crew chief. “This was a brand new, innovative way to work on those tanks — and this was the first time this job was done.”

The Airmen performed maintenance to the manifold leak detector and a shroud seal, two crucial parts of the Pegasus’ fuel system. In order to do so, a fuel tank had to be removed.

Maintainers must crawl into a confined space in the aircraft to perform these repairs on the KC-135 Stratotanker. However, the KC-46 has three removable fuel tanks in the lower lobe. Maintenance Airmen can now isolate a problem to a single tank, remove it and make the repair, as opposed to working around all three.

While performing the repair, the team used technical orders created by McConnell maintenance Airmen alongside aircraft manufacturer Boeing. The KC-46 TOs provide specific instructions and checklists for performing any maintenance jobs. They were in the making for three years, and finalized before the KC-46 arrived on station.

The team revised these TOs during this repair, as they were able to finally put practical application to the instructions.

“Since this was the first time these TOs were used, we ensured that the steps actually made sense to help out not only us in the future, but the entire KC-46 enterprise,” said Roten.

In development, the TOs logged a timeline for the reinstallation of the fuel tanks to take three to five days. Staff Sgt. Kyle Schultz, 22nd AMXS KC-46 crew chief, had a goal of crushing the time standard — and they did. The team completed the reinstallation of the tanks in a mere two days.

Being the first to innovate maintenance operations of the Pegasus goes hand in hand with McConnell being the first main operating base.

“I feel honored creating history by benchmarking this process and setting the standard for the rest of the Air Force receiving this aircraft,” said Schultz.