As we reported previously, the Air Force has expressed great concern over whether or not Boeing Defense will be able to deliver the KC-46A Pegasus on time. Boeing, on the other hand, is not letting the Air Force’s creeping doubt slow it down, so the dash toward the finish line is on. Helping to lead the charge is Lieutenant Colonel John Mikal, a pilot in the Air Force Reserve, and one of the Pegasus test pilots.

As the Air Force gets ready for the arrival of its newest aerial refueling and strategic military transport aircraft, a diverse group of Airmen is working hard to make sure the Pegasus is ready to meet the service’s needs. Reserve Lt. Col. John Mikal is one of them.

Mikal, a reservist KC-135 Stratotanker instructor pilot assigned to the 370th Flight Test Squadron, is also a KC-46 test pilot and member of the team that’s putting the Pegasus through a series of critical pre-production tests.

The Boeing Company developed the KC-46 from its 767 jet airliner and is scheduled to deliver 179 of the aircraft to the Air Force by 2028. The first 18 combat-ready tankers are scheduled to be delivered by August 2017.

To meet that timeline, Boeing is working closely with the Air Force to put the KC-46 through its paces. The company’s first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C, touched down Edwards Air Force Base for the first time Oct. 15 for several days of fuel onload fatigue testing. During these tests, the KC-46 flew in close formations with a KC-135 and KC-10 Extender to see how the aircraft performed in different aerial refueling positions. While no fuel was passed, Boeing engineers were able to test the stress and strain on the Pegasus.

A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tankers conducts its very first refueling with an F-16C. (Photo by Paul Weatherman/Boeing)
A Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tankers conducts its very first refueling with an F-16C. (Photo by Paul Weatherman/Boeing)

Mikal flew as the aircraft commander of the KC-135 during the first aerial refueling maneuvers of a KC-46 behind a KC-135 and in close formation with both the KC-10 and KC-46 on Oct. 19. Two days later, he flew as a pilot aboard the KC-46 during an aerial refueling receiver onload fatigue test behind a KC-10. He was the first Air Force Reserve pilot to fly the 767-2C, the commercial test variant of the KC-46.

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(Featured photo courtesy of Boeing)