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McConnell first to test KC-46 NVG flights

Staff Sgt. George Baylon, 22nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman, cleans a pair of night vision goggles April 22, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Night vision goggles provide aircrew the capability to execute takeoff and landings on covertly lit runways. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

Staff Sgt. George Baylon, 22nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment craftsman, cleans a pair of night vision goggles April 22, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Night vision goggles provide aircrew the capability to execute takeoff and landings on covertly lit runways. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

Maj. Tony Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron and chief of group training, has his helmet fitted by Airman 1st Class Trezvon Miers, 22nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman, April 21, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The crew prepared to execute the Air Force’s first night vision operational training mission on the KC-46A Pegasus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

Maj. Tony Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron and chief of group training, has his helmet fitted by Airman 1st Class Trezvon Miers, 22nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman, April 21, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The crew prepared to execute the Air Force’s first night vision operational training mission on the KC-46A Pegasus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

Maj. Tony Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs a preflight inspection on a KC-46A Pegasus April 21, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Preflight inspections require aircrews to perform visual checks of controls and instruments prior to starting engines. Aircrew prepared to execute the Air Force’s first night vision operational training mission on the KC-46A Pegasus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Fleshman)

Maj. Tony Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs a preflight inspection on a KC-46A Pegasus April 21, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. Preflight inspections require aircrews to perform visual checks of controls and instruments prior to starting engines. Aircrew prepared to execute the Air Force’s first night vision operational training mission on the KC-46A Pegasus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Fleshman)

Maj. Thomas Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs preflight checks in the KC-46A Pegasus with Col. Mark Baran, 22nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, April 30, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The flight was the last of two training missions to certify aircrews using night vision goggles on the new platform. This allowed aircrews to begin operational testing and evaluation in low-light emission environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

Maj. Thomas Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs preflight checks in the KC-46A Pegasus with Col. Mark Baran, 22nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, April 30, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The flight was the last of two training missions to certify aircrews using night vision goggles on the new platform. This allowed aircrews to begin operational testing and evaluation in low-light emission environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

Maj. Thomas Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs preflight checks in the KC-46A Pegasus with Col. Mark Baran, 22nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, April 30, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The flight was the last of two training missions to certify aircrews using night vision goggles on the new platform. This allowed aircrews to begin operational testing and evaluation in low-light emission environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

Maj. Thomas Gorry, 344th Air Refueling Squadron chief of group training, performs preflight checks in the KC-46A Pegasus with Col. Mark Baran, 22nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander, April 30, 2020, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas. The flight was the last of two training missions to certify aircrews using night vision goggles on the new platform. This allowed aircrews to begin operational testing and evaluation in low-light emission environments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

Maj. Jacob Belka, 22nd Operations Group evaluation pilot, approaches a runway for a touch and go flight maneuver April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. Belka performed a total of 17 touch and go’s in the KC-46A Pegasus using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

Maj. Jacob Belka, 22nd Operations Group evaluation pilot, approaches a runway for a touch and go flight maneuver April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. Belka performed a total of 17 touch and go’s in the KC-46A Pegasus using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

A 344th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46A Pegasus receives fuel from a 924th ARS KC-46 April 23, 2020. Aircrews practiced nighttime aerial refueling operations on the way to North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina, in conjunction with tactical takeoffs and landings using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

A 344th Air Refueling Squadron KC-46A Pegasus receives fuel from a 924th ARS KC-46 April 23, 2020. Aircrews practiced nighttime aerial refueling operations on the way to North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina, in conjunction with tactical takeoffs and landings using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexi Bosarge)

A KC-46A Pegasus parks after performing multiple flight maneuvers April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. The airfield is designed to test airframes and train aircrew in low-light environments. The testing data will be used to advance research in aerial refueling and night flying operations using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

A KC-46A Pegasus parks after performing multiple flight maneuvers April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. The airfield is designed to test airframes and train aircrew in low-light environments. The testing data will be used to advance research in aerial refueling and night flying operations using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

A KC-46A Pegasus parks after performing multiple flight maneuvers April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. The airfield is designed to test airframes and train aircrew in low-light environments. The testing data will be used to advance research in aerial refueling and night flying operations using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

A KC-46A Pegasus parks after performing multiple flight maneuvers April 30, 2020, at North Auxiliary Airfield, South Carolina. The airfield is designed to test airframes and train aircrew in low-light environments. The testing data will be used to advance research in aerial refueling and night flying operations using night vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Marc A. Garcia)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. – A 344th Air Refueling Squadron aircrew from McConnell Air Force Base was the first KC-46 Pegasus crew to conduct operational test flights using night vision goggles.

 

The crew of five pilots and a single boom operator performed the first of two NVG training flights beginning April 21, 2020 over Joint Base Charleston and North Auxiliary Field, South Carolina. The training opportunity evaluated the aircrew’s ability to perform tactical takeoffs and landing using NVGs.

 

The test flights enable crews to gain valuable experience using NVGs with the new airframe as well as earn a certification to instruct future Pegasus pilots.

 

“NVG operations allow the KC-46 fleet to operate out of airfields that would otherwise be limited to day-use only or that have lighting outages or deficiencies that would not guarantee uninterrupted operations,” said Maj. Jacob Belka, 22nd Operations Group KC-46 evaluator pilot.

 

The crew began the initial operational test and evaluation of NVG flights to examine how the new airframe and pilots perform.  The success of these flights are necessary for the KC-46 to become fully operational. The findings during these flights will be used to develop tactics, techniques and procedures for future Pegasus pilots.

 

“The biggest challenge to flying on NVGs is the lack of color cues and poor binocular vision,” said Col. Mark Baran, 22nd Air Refueling Wing vice commander. “This makes it a little more difficult for the pilots to judge things like height and distance using their vision.”

 

Despite the limitations and challenges of the NVGs, they provide a unique mission capability that allows crews to operate during low-light emission environments. The North Auxiliary Field was specifically designated for NVG training and tactical approach and landings.

 

Members of McConnell’s 924th ARS KC-46 reserve unit participated in the evening’s events conducting aerial refueling training enroute to North Auxiliary Airfield. 

 

“I am so humbled to be a part of the first NVG group,” said Belka. “I am passionate about making this program a success and helping those that follow to be successful. When we are progressing, we help the rest of our Air Force, joint and coalition members to progress.”