MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --McConnell Air Force Base’s fire department held the first ever Air Force-wide fire protection training on the KC-46 Pegasus from Nov. 12 to 14, 2019.
The wide body aircraft was first welcomed by Team McConnell on Jan. 25, 2019. The aircraft, which currently serves alongside the KC-135 Stratotanker, is capable of not only air refueling but the carrying of passengers, cargo, and aeromedical personnel.
“Any time the Air Force has a new aircraft or weapons system, it is critical for the Air Force firefighters to receive training and familiarization,” said Denny Heitman, Air Mobility Command Fire and Emergency Services chief. “This is a common aircraft that will be traveling around the globe. The training and familiarization is essential to provide effective life and fire safety response for Airmen and mission critical weapons systems.”
After six months of planning, the opportunity to take part in the KC-46 Firefighter Symposium, was open to all Air Force Fire and Emergency Services organizations. Installations with the KC-46 or scheduled to receive it were given first priority to attend the class.
“The primary goal was to make sure those installations who received or will receive the aircraft are trained and ready to respond,” said Heitman.
In total, 12 participants, both civilian and Airmen, from United States Air Forces Central Command, The United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa, Air Mobility Command, Air National Guard, and Wichita came to McConnell to take part in the three-day training.
The training, which was put together by the McConnell fire department began with an overall familiarization of the KC-46 designated escape locations and emergency response procedures. The interior emergency systems in place and the response actions taken by aircrew on board are all factors that can affect how a fire department will have to approach an emergency situation.
“Each emergency is going to dictate how we setup on the aircraft,” said William Dodson, 22nd Civil Engineering Squadron assistant fire chief of training.
Participants also had the opportunity to tour McConnell’s KC-46 fuselage trainer, which replicates the interior body of an actual KC-46.
“It’s one of only two KC-46 fuselage trainers in the world,” said Senior Master Sgt. Devin Kay, 22nd Operations Support Squadron operations superintendent.
The trainer which is typically used by boom operators for quarterly cargo load training as well as initial qualification training allowed for firefighters to practice operating doors, removing the interior cargo netting as well as seeing the deployment of the slides used for emergency escape. During training, participants also traveled to the flightline to view a KC-46 live-demonstration by McConnell fire fighters that displayed optimal vehicle positioning and how to properly gain entry into the aircraft to then shut off the engine.
“The expectation when they leave here is to be able to provide the information their firefighters back home and help prepare them for when the aircraft arrives to their location,” said Dodson.
Throughout the duration of the training, Team McConnell ensured not only to focus on proper familiarization of the aircraft but made it a point to highlight the significance of the relationship between firefighters and those aboard the aircraft. Through open discussions with pilots, boom operators and aircrew life support, firefighters were able to address any disconnection and how the communication between their interacting roles can be strengthened to help both sides in the future.
“The training has been excellent,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bradley Beaty, Air Force Central Command fire chief. “It allows us to have some continuity to be able to pass onto the firefighters that deploy in. I thank, the fire fighters from McConnell Air Force Base for inviting us into their house and treating us like family and letting us see their mission.”