373rd TRS begins training first KC-46 pipeline Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Alan Ricker
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Mission Ready Airmen course instructors assigned to the Air Education and Training Command’s 373rd Training Squadron Detachment 8 are currently readying the Air Force’s newest KC-46A Pegasus crew chiefs to take on the branch’s most recent addition to the aerial refueling fleet.

McConnell is providing support to produce the first four Airmen to be specifically qualified on the new heavy airframe. The estimated 56-day MRA course utilizes a virtual maintenance trainer and hands-on experience to prepare trainees for their future career as a KC-46 crew chief.

“It teaches them basically everything they need to know to hit the flightline and learn more,” said Tech. Sgt. John Kopas, 373rd TRS Det. 8 Mission Ready Airman instructor. “They’re leaving here with the general information so they can build off of that, learn and become a better crew chief.”

The 3D simulation software allows students to learn, test and explore the aircraft without leaving the classroom. This means the refueling mission that McConnell supports is able to continue without interruption, and the students are able to learn at a sustainable pace.

Kopas, having three years of experience with the coursework, explained that one lesson involves the Large Display System, which is located in the flight deck of the new airframe. While it could be done on the aircraft, the similarities of the cursor control device and displays resemble a computer monitor and mouse. Once an aircraft is available, the skills learned from in-class lessons and assessments are applied during the hands-on portions of the course.

“When we go out to the flight line [the students] are very excited that they’re getting to touch an aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Shane Farrell, 373rd TRS Det. 8 Mission Ready Airman instructor. “Every time that they’re out there they are — kind — of wide eyed, so they’re definitely excited to work on them.”

The students were recently able to apply their knowledge gained from the VMTS towards jacking the axel of a KC-46, operating appropriate aerospace ground equipment and powering on the aircraft.

“When you actually go to the real airplane and you touch it, it gives you a lot more ability to retain the information,” said Airman 1st Class Cuong Nguyen, 373rd TRS Mission Ready Airman student. “It helps a lot with the studying process.”

Approximately 77 students are forecast for fiscal year 2020 at this time, and each student will receive an estimated 448 hours of instruction from KC-46 qualified instructors.

“Getting an opportunity to come over here and not only teach, but teach the next generation of crew chiefs coming in, is kind of a rewarding factor in all of this. It’s kind of mind blowing to me,” said Farrell.

While the instructors ensure that the students become great maintainers, Staff Sgt. Heather McKinney, 373rd TRS Det. 8 military training leader, supports the schoolhouse by building trainees into dependable Airmen.

“It’s pretty hard for the instructors to focus on the school work, be instructors and take on the MTL role,” said McKinney. “So, I [help] take that burden off of the instructors.”

Physical training, inspections, paperwork, administration duties and accountability are some examples of what the MTL does to help ready the students for the future in the Air Force as KC-46 maintainers.

Kopas described the apparent success of the program and that the course will become even more streamlined while students and instructors continue to familiarize themselves with the material.

The first four students are scheduled to graduate the MRA course around Nov. 6, 2019.