Airmen take KC-46 tanker for a joyride within the title of sleep and fatigue science

A KC-46 Pegasus tanker jet not too long ago flew across the continental U.S. for greater than 24 hours straight, breaking an Air Drive Mobility Command report and providing insights for future long-haul missions, the service mentioned.

Eleven airmen — six pilots, three gas growth operators, a doctor assistant and a photographer — from the twenty second Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Drive Base, Kansas, took the tanker for a spin Might 5-6.

“The purpose of this flight was to set a baseline for long-endurance operations and set up a baseline of human, mechanical and mission components to construct from, to be used in future KC-46 long-endurance operations,” Air Drive spokesman Johnny Van Winkle mentioned.

It’s additionally a method the beleaguered tanker can assist out whereas its producer and Boeing work via quite a few main deficiencies on the airframe.

The experiment was not a part of a large-scale train McConnell held the identical week.

“This 24-hour sortie is a crucial step within the operational evolution of tankers and the position the KC-46 performs in that,” Col. Nate Vogel, twenty second Air Refueling Wing commander, mentioned in a launch.

When it departed, the Pegasus first traced an overview alongside a lot of the nation’s shoreline, air visitors radar confirmed.

Its crew began out in Kansas and departed northwest to Oregon earlier than heading down the Pacific Coast. At Los Angeles, the jet turned east and handed Phoenix, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico and northern Texas.

Then it bisected the USA with a path via Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, reduce throughout the Higher Midwest and the Nice Lakes, made a rapid go via Canada close to Toronto, and up into Maine.

Pivoting south, the KC-46 hugged the Atlantic shoreline and made a U-turn on the backside of the Florida peninsula. One other westbound flip despatched the Pegasus again towards house.

The flight lasted about 4 hours longer than the earlier report of 20 hours, 20 minutes. That was set in February 2002, when a C-17 Globemaster III airlifted individuals suspected of ties to the Taliban and al-Qaida nonstop from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to the U.S. detention heart at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

That journey stays the longest nonstop C-17 mission in Air Mobility Command historical past, Van Winkle mentioned.

Aboard the KC-46, two groups of pilots swapped out to sleep each 4 hours whereas a backup workforce took notes on the flight. Over the course of greater than 9,000 miles, they refueled 4 Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jets and acquired gasoline from one other KC-46, and practiced filling up a 3rd KC-46 in a dry run.

Their grand tour of the USA supplied loads of time to catch — and examine — some Zs.

All through the flight, the airmen crammed out a fatigue questionnaire known as the “Karolinska Sleepiness Scale,” and took a take a look at designed by NASA to match modifications in cognitive operate over time.

Software program dubbed the “Fatigue Avoidance Scheduling Software” additionally helped create an excellent flying schedule for the pilots, the Air Drive mentioned.

Van Winkle mentioned the service remains to be crunching the information it collected from the experiment.

Some have criticized the trouble as frivolous, however Van Winkle mentioned it helps the service put together for operations throughout significantly lengthy distances, or staying airborne for lengthy durations of time if touchdown isn’t an possibility. The 24.2-hour sortie can result in new techniques and processes for the KC-46 to make use of when it will get authorised for full operations.

“Lengthy-duration flights are inherently filled with danger,” Vogel mentioned within the launch. “We should be able to execute anytime, anyplace.”

Rachel Cohen joined Air Drive Occasions as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Drive Journal, Inside Protection, Inside Well being Coverage, the Frederick News-Put up (Md.), the Washington Put up, and others.