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US Air Force tests KC-46 tanker plane without co-pilot

McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas (USA), reported that it completed flights of a Boeing KC-46A Pegasus without a co-pilot, paving the way for limited-crew operations in certain scenarios. According to information from AeroTime, the KC-46A crew usually consists of a pilot, a co-pilot and a boom operator (responsible for in-flight refueling); however, on October 25, 2022, the 22nd Air Refueling Wing flew a Pegasus in two sorties with a single pilot and boom operator. The US Air Force said in a statement that such operations would allow the KC-46 to complete its primary mission with a reduced crew when needed to launch aircraft with incoming threats or extend long-range airborne operations with compensated crews. During the mission, the boom operator sat in the cockpit with the pilot, except when performing boom operations. A second instructor pilot was also on board, performing the role of safety observer. In addition, a second fully crewed KC-46 shadowed the limited crewed aircraft to provide radio assistance, should it be required.

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