A crew of the U.S. Air Force 22nd Air Refueling Wing conducted a 24.2-hour flight on a KC-46A Pegasus tanker to and from McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, United States. It was the longest flight ever to be carried out by Air Mobility Command (AMC) airmen.
The flight crew was composed of six pilots and three boom operators and monitored by a photographer and a physician assistant. Pilots rotated every four hours, with one back pilot at the ready. During the day-long flight, the test aircraft performed “dry contacts with another McConnell KC-46, refueled four Marine F-35s, and was refueled by another McConnell KC-46.”
The purpose of the flight was to gather data on the physical and mental well-being of the aircrew during long-duration flights.
“In flight medicine, our goal is to preserve not only the health and safety of the aircrew, but also to preserve the safety of the missions those aircrew perform,” said Cory Henderson, 349th Air Refueling Squadron aeromedical physician assistant. “For this mission, we’ve tried to do that from the start of planning and now through the execution phase.”
The KC-46 Pegasus was intended to replace the KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender and reinforce the overstretched refueling capabilities of the USAF. But the aircraft has encountered numerous technical problems since the first delivery on January 10, 2019.
After most of its intended missions were suspended, the KC-46A was eventually cleared to conduct everyday refueling missions from its centerline drogue system on July 9, 2021. AMC has been progressively expanding the capabilities of its new aircraft.