A KC-46A Pegasus tanker jet gave a group of congressional staffers an impromptu lesson in airborne emergencies during an introductory flight this week.
Two of the Air Force’s new tankers took off Tuesday with a group of 16 staffers who work for New Hampshire’s congressional delegation — Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas. The guests were onboard for a firsthand look at the KC-46s that belong to the New Hampshire Air National Guard’s 157th Air Refueling Wing.
Pease Air National Guard Base in southeastern New Hampshire was the Air Guard’s first to receive the KC-46, which replaced its older KC-135 Stratotanker planes from 2019 to 2021.
When one of the airplanes demonstrated its ability to refuel other jets, the cable used to retract the fuel boom into the fuselage snapped. So, pilots diverted to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, and landed the KC-46 with its boom still outstretched.
“Emergency services ... responded and safely secured the scene, with no fire or injuries to crew or passengers,” Pease said in a statement provided to Air Force Times on Thursday.
The resulting domino effect sent the pair’s other KC-46 to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, Guard officials said. Pease’s runway had closed because one of the Air Force’s massive C-5M Super Galaxy transport planes had diverted there amid its own in-flight emergency.
Pease did not say what the C-5′s emergency entailed.
Airmen called in another Pease jet, on its way back from Florida, to pick up the briefly stranded staffers in New Jersey and bring them to New Hampshire.
It’s unclear how much damage was done to the boom or the aircraft itself upon landing.
“The 305th Air Mobility Wing is fielding an investigative team to determine cause and extent of damage to the boom,” said New Hampshire National Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn.
New Hampshire’s congressional delegation frequently grills defense officials on the status of the KC-46 rollout amid a series of software and hardware problems that continue to keep the planes out of combat, including a faulty refueling system. The Air Force plans to own 179 Pegasus jets by the end of the decade.
Rachel Cohen joined Air Force Times as senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in Air Force Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), the Washington Post, and others.