As the video (posted by Air Force amn/nco/snco on Facebook) in this article shows a KC-46 crew from the 157th Air Refueling Wing had to declare in-flight emergency during a New Hampshire National Guard orientation flight for state congressional staffers on Aug. 23, 2022 after the aircraft’s boom failed to retract.
According to a post compiled by New Hampshire National Guard and 157th ARW Public Affairs on New Hampshire National Guard’s Facebook page, nine personnel from the offices of Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas had just witnessed a mid-air refueling when the mishap occurred. The tanker would have returned to Pease Air National Guard Base, but the runway, shared by the Wing and Port City Air, was temporary closed. An unrelated IFE earlier in the day forced a C-5 Super Galaxy out of Dover, Delaware to divert to Pease, shutting down runway operations.
As a result, the congressional flight on the newly painted “Spirit of Portsmouth” was diverted to Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, New Jersey where it landed with the boom extended without incident. Emergency services from the 305th Air Mobility Wing responded and safely secured the scene.
A second KC-46A carrying seven personnel from the offices of Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan was diverted to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. The Wing provided a shuttle back to Pease for the staffers.
A third tanker from the 157th ARW that was returning from Florida diverted to McGuire to transport the House staffers back to Pease that evening. The runway had since been reopened after the C-5 was towed to a secure location.
Shaheen, Hassan, Kuster and Pappas were not on the flights.
The confluence of events was unlike anything the crews and passengers had experienced, according to those on board. Despite the long day, all but four of the congressional party arrived at Guard headquarters in Concord on Aug. 24 for a second orientation flight on two Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters.
“I received a lot of positive feedback from the staffers,” said Capt. Jeremiah Neault, a congressional liaison for the NHNG. “Some were texting me from New Jersey. They were all amazed at the professionalism of the crew, how cool-headed and calm they were.”
A Kuster staffer told Neault, “once you’ve seen a refueling, you’ve seen them all. Watching your crew respond to multiple contingencies and do it in such a methodical and smooth manner was better than the actual refueling.”
The KC-46A is the first phase in recapitalizing the US Air Force (USAF) aging tanker fleet.
At full operational capability, the KC-46A will be able to refuel most fixed-wing, receiver-capable aircraft. The KC-46A is equipped with a refueling boom driven by a fly-by-wire control system, and is capable of fuel offload rates required for large aircraft. Its hose and drogue system adds additional mission capability that is independently operable from the refueling boom system.
The aircraft’s fuel can be pumped through the boom, drogue and wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs). All KC-46As are capable of being configured with WARPs, and when equipped, the aircraft is capable of multi-point simultaneous aerial refueling. The Boom Operator controls the boom, centerline drogue and WARPs during refueling operations. The Air Refueling Operator station (ARO) includes panoramic displays giving the ARO wing-tip to wing-tip situational awareness.
The KC-46A can accommodate a mixed load of passengers, aeromedical evacuation and cargo capabilities. Two high-bypass turbofans power the KC-46A to takeoff at gross weights up to 415,000 pounds. Depending on fuel storage configuration, the aircraft can carry a palletized load of up to 65,000 pounds of cargo. The KC-46A can carry up to 18 463L cargo pallets. Seat tracks and the onboard cargo handling system make it possible to simultaneously carry palletized cargo and passenger seats in a variety of combinations. The KC-46A is also equipped with a number of self-protection, defensive and communication features making it more survivable in a contested environment.
Photo credit: screenshot from Air Force amn/nco/snco video
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