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Altus instructor selected for KC-46 test and evaluation team

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Robert Gunn
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
The 97th Air Mobility Wing plans to send one of their own to be a part of the U.S Air Force KC-46 Pegasus initial operational test and evaluation aircrew. 

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bartek Bachleda, 97th Operations Support Squadron NCO of current operations, will be one of 41 selected officers and enlisted members in the U.S. Air Force to be part of the KC-46 program. 

Bachleda says for him it's an incredible honor. 

"I was shocked and excited when I found out," said Bachleda.  "It's a huge privilege, an unfathomable chance that happens once in a generation."

Capt. Daniel Edelstein, Wing Current Operations flight commander, says that Bachleda is the right man for the job. 

"It's an extremely unique opportunity getting to be one of the first booms to be trained in the KC -46 and he's going to train the initial cadre eventually," said Edelstein. "He's gone above and beyond not just as a boom operator but as an NCO, so that definitely made him stand out amongst his peers."

The KC-46 is an Air Force top acquisition and recapitalization priority that will replace one-third of the tanker fleet.  Boeing was awarded the KC-46 contract in 2011 and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced in April that Altus will be the formal training unit for the KC-46. The 97th is responsible for training the next generation of pilots and boom operators and is scheduled to receive the first KC-46 aircraft in 2016. 

The KC-135 won't be easily forgotten for Bachleda.

"I've been flying in the KC-135 more than 10 years...and I'll miss it," said Bachleda. "I'll miss flying and looking through the window at whatever receiver we're about to refuel."
The KC-46 forgoes the traditional boom pod setup of the KC-135 for a high-tech video feed of the refueling process.  

"It's a little different because your eyes aren't looking through pressurized glass.  You have 18 cameras giving you a 185-degree view around the aircraft," said Bachleda.

The KC-46 will have the ability to refuel any fixed wing aircraft on a mission.  In addition to a new setup, the aircraft will have increased cargo and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.  All of these things call for someone with a background in training the next generation.

"He's very hard working, very dedicated to his craft being a great evaluator boom. He's constantly in the books always trying to get better and get his students better," said Edelstein. 

"Altus played a huge part in me being ready for this because coming here to the formal training unit is a totally different ball game," said Bachleda.  "Learning how to train students from scratch all the way up to getting mission qualified has shown me to change and adapt to a new way of thinking."

The KC-46 is expected to produce better mission-capable rates and less maintenance downtime.  This is another step in maintaining the nation's global reach for years to come.