Advanced training prepares boom operators for future

  • Published
  • By Louis Briscese
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing

Within the past year, KC-10 Extender boom operators have been receiving cutting-edge three-dimensional simulator training and life-size cargo load training that are benefitting career field around the world. The training is a welcomed site since KC-10s, aircrews and maintainers have continuously deployed since Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Travis Air Force Base, California, was the first base in Air Mobility Command to receive the upgraded 3D simulator and is the only base in AMC with the new state-of-the-art cargo load trainer.

The Boom Operator Trainer, referred to as BOT, has been upgraded with an advanced Visual System Replacement. The new BOT-VST provides greater capabilities than the old one, said Rob Tabor, KC-10 Extender boom operator instructor and contractor with FlightSafety International.

“The new system has the ability now to produce a three-dimensional visual image, we’ve gone from a flat rear projection display to a culminated 4K display,” said Tabor. “Instead of projecting an image onto a flat screen, we’re now projecting the image onto an 11 foot mirror.”

The upgraded image now provides boom operators a sense of depth that they could previously only experience in an aircraft.  

“The whole environment is much more realistic,” said Tabor. “That transition from simulator to aircraft is much more believable visually than it was in the past.”

This is a welcomed upgrade since the simulator hosts many students throughout the year.

“We train all active duty and reserve Airmen here at Travis and other locations, we also train foreign students from Italy and the Netherlands who have air refueling capabilities,” said Tabor. “We train over 600 students each year.”

Training courses include the initial qualification course, an instructor upgrade course and a requalification course. Every boom operator is required to complete the two-day refresher course every quarter once certified. The most demanding and time-consuming course is the initial training course.

“The initial qualification course is a 38-day intense scenario-based simulator training,” said Tabor. “Students must pass the course, then pass the Air Force administered evaluation in the simulator before they can start refueling in the aircraft.”

So far, the upgrade is seen as a success among those boom operators who have trained under both systems. Staff Sgt. Derrell Vann, 60th Operation Support Squadron, KC-10 Extender boom operator instructor appreciates what the new upgrade brings to the table.

“I like the new system compared to the old one,” said Vann. “The visuals give you a more realistic view of what it actually feels like refueling aircraft.”

Vann is responsible for training other boom operators at Travis and has received mostly positive feedback from those who have used the new system.

“The upgrades are definitely worth it,” said Vann. “I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from other boom operators that the training is better than what we used in the past.”

Another training upgrade that is now better from what was used in the past is the new cargo load trainer. The CLT is a life-size model that allows boom operators to become proficient at loading cargo. This is extremely important since boom operators are duel-hatted and serve as loadmasters on the KC-10. Ricky Jackson, aerial port lead for Pinnacle Solutions oversees the training.

“It’s a mock KC-10 Extender aircraft from the cockpit door back which was built from the ground up,” said Jackson “The Air Force did an amazing job purchasing everything we needed to make the training as realistic as possible.”

Although training has only been in place less than a year, course instructors have already built a variety of courses. There’s an initial qualification course, a requalification course and a refresher training course. And since this is the only CLT in AMC, the trainer is getting a lot of use.

“We built this CLT for boom operators so they could experience different types of load configurations,” said Jackson. “The 21-day initial qualification course allows students from all over to experience scenarios they’ll potentially see on the aircraft.”

For one student, the training has been valuable as a new boom operator in the Air Force. Airman 1st Class Meghan Sylvia, 32nd Air Refueling Squadron KC-10 Extender boom operator, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, said she’s more prepared now having used the CLT.

“This is my third temporary duty to Travis training on the CLT, we don’t have one at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,” said Sylvia. “Having a full-scale CLT is very advantageous. The training provides us a foundation on how to properly load equipment before going out and doing the real thing.”