ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, OK (TNN) - Excitement filled the air as the KC-46 flew overhead before touching down. Altus Air Force Base is the training school for the new aerial refueling tanker.
“So, every time you see a KC-46 flying anywhere in the world, what you need to know is that crew is trained here, for every crew," said U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General David L. Goldfein. "So, Altus is going to have their fingerprints, just as they have for the KC-135 on every crew that comes through this base.”
Some airmen are already training for this new aircraft. The pilot and boom operator we talked to are excited about the technology upgrades they’ll see. The first KC-135, which is the old gas station in the air, was built in the 1950’s. An instructor pilot for the KC-135, who is also a student for the KC-46 right now says the upgrades in technology will give them more situational awareness in the sky.
“We’re going to be working with the airplane trying to figure out what the best ways of moving forward with the new capabilities and how to communicate those capabilities that next generation of aviators,” said Instructor Pilot Jacob Ludwig.
It’s also going to be a change for the boom operators who refuel military planes in the air.
“In the 135 you have to lay down on your stomach to refuel and it causes a lot of back pain in the 135 community… a lot of issues with the boom operators where as in the 46 you’re just sitting there, and everything is right at your fingertips," said Boom Operator Mst. Sgt. Nathan Gibbs.
The KC-46 maintenance flight chief at Altus Air Force Base says this also brings in new equipment and provides training for them to adapt to the new aircraft.
“What we’ve done come up with an entirely new sustainment system for the Air Force to be fielded for the KC-46. So, it’s not just the machine that brings in innovation, it’s everything around is bringing innovation to the Air Force and the 97th," said Altus Air Force Base KC-46 maintenance flight chief Donnie Obreiter.
Not only does the Air Force Chief of Staff say this is good for the Air Force, but Oklahoma’s Governor Kevin Stitt says it will also bring jobs to the area. Officials say it will bring around 300 new jobs for civilians with more to come. “This is going to set Altus up and Southwest Oklahoma for the next 60 years," said Governor Stitt.
Two KC-46 were supposed to come in Friday, but due to weather, only one made the trip. They plan for the second one to arrive Saturday.