McConnell Pilots conduct receiver training
By Senior Airman Preston Webb, 931st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 14, 2016
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas -- Team McConnell pilots continue to expand their Receiver/Tanker capabilities. This was evident during an R/T training flight July 13, 2016, McConnell Air Force Base, Kan.
Since R/T was only recently slated as part of the 931 ARW expanded mission, Citizen Airmen with the 18th Air Refueling Squadron made use of an on-base Field Training Unit, managed by the 22nd Air Refueling Wing. The FTU’s mission is to create certified instructors and seasoned copilots with R/T capability.
“Most active-duty pilots on base are either already R/T certified, or have experience with R/T, whereas our pilots are home-grown and needed to be spun-up,” said Capt. C.J. Hein, 18 ARS training chief. “So we sent around 10 pilots to the FTU with the intention of eventually getting them to be instructors, and now we’re actually helping train [active duty].”
The Total Force Integration at McConnell has allowed both reserve and active-duty missions expand more than they might have alone.
“It’s been great having the active duty around because we can send our people over there and, in turn, they can lean on us when they need to,” Hein said. “It’s been as easy as walking across the street, or walking out to the ramp and flying together’”
Real-world training flights are necessary for Team McConnell pilots to gain hands-on experience for R/T missions a simulator simply can’t provide. Hein acknowledges several differences that must be overcame through training.
“Receiving fuel is more exhausting, fun and challenging [than offloading] because you have to fly by hand, while the tanker that’s offloading is probably in autopilot to provide the most precise, straight and level platform you can,” Hein said. “I enjoy it because it’s a different type of flying. It’s challenging because it goes against your natural instincts to fly within a few feet of another aircraft.”
Every KC-135 configured to receive fuel is stationed at McConnell. However, there are only eight of them in total, so pilots from both wings must work together to share training and gain much-needed experience.
“There are a lot of folks around McConnell with exceptional R/T experience that can help us through the process, and obviously pilot training gives you a small piece, maybe six to nine rides of training, to fly in a close formation but not actual air refueling,” said Lt. Col. Eric Rivero, 349th Air Refueling Squadron operations officer. “The folks dedicated to the R/T training program here are phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for better instructors in that regard.”
Hein believes the unit and its pilots are well on their way to posturing themselves for the arrival of the KC-46A, which will be capable of performing a wider array of in-air refueling missions. With the ability to refuel any fixed-wing aircraft and two separate aircraft simultaneously through a multipoint refueling system, the addition of the KC-46A will improve on the existing Team McConnell mission.