Boeing KC-46 Pegasus refueler suffers boom malfunction during demo flight

U.S. Air Force photo

A Boeing KC-46A refueler transporting congressional staffers conducted an emergency landing with its boom extended after it failed to retract. 

On August 23, 2022, the tanker registered 76034 and known as “Spirit of Portsmouth” [named after New Hampshire’s first capital – ed. note] was on an exhibition flight for nine members of the state representatives’ offices, which included the mid-air refueling of an unspecified aircraft. 

The KC-46A, which was recently painted in a patriotic livery, belongs to the 157th Air Refueling Wing of the United States National Guard. It operates from the Pease Air National Guard Base located at Portsmouth International Airport (PSM), New Hampshire. It was accompanied by a second Pegasus, which carried seven congressional staffers. 

After the Spirit of Portsmouth demonstrated its aerial refueling capability to the congress personnel, the tanker’s boom failed to retract due to a malfunction of its hoist cable. 

“The flight on the newly painted “Spirit of Portsmouth” was diverted from Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington after an unrelated IFE [In-Flight Emergency – ed. note] involving a C-5 Galaxy shut down the runway at Pease,” the New Hampshire National Guard said in a statement.  

Consequently, the tanker landed with its boom down, scraping along the runway of Joint Base McGuire Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington, New Jersey. The aircraft was followed by emergency crews. No fire or injuries were reported. The extent of the damage sustained by the boom is unknown.  


The Boeing aircraft has encountered numerous technical problems since its first delivery on January 10, 2019. After the United States Air Force discovered issues with the design of the KC-46A’s boom, operational refueling missions were temporarily restricted to the use of the aircraft’s centerline drogue system. In August 2021, the USAF Air Mobility Command finally approved the use of the refueling boom for operational missions. 


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