KC-10 Tankers Get Their Final Inspections at Travis Before Retirement

Editor’s Note: This story was updated July 8 to correct the fuel and cargo capacity of the KC-46.

The 60th Air Mobility Wing, the last active-duty wing to operate the KC-10, conducted its final inspection on their Extender fleet ahead of the aircraft’s retirement in September.

Maintenance teams at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., concluded the A-check for the K-10 on June 28, a routine biannual inspection assessing wear and tear, engines, landing gear, flight controls, avionics, and other critical components. A base spokesman told Air & Space Forces Magazine that this marks the last evaluation for the tankers, with no further inspections scheduled.

“An A-check is a weeklong inspection performed on a KC-10,” Master Sgt. Wessley Chandler, 60th MXS maintenance flight superintendent, said in a statement. “If the inspection does not happen, the aircraft is grounded until the inspection is performed.”  

Maintainers at Travis and other bases have long upheld the KC-10’s readiness with comprehensive A-checks, addressing repairs and confirming system functionality to ensure operational readiness.

With the final inspection at the aircraft’s last operational base complete, Airmen are preparing to bid final farewell to the KC-10 fleet. Once decommissioned in September, the Travis aircraft will relocate to the Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. There the tankers will be put in open-air storage and preservation, overseen by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.

One of the Travis’ KC-10s is serving its retirement as a display aircraft at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Ohio, instead of at the Boneyard. An Extender with a serial Number 84-0191 was delivered to the museum in April. This particular aircraft played a pivotal role in 1986 during Operation El Dorado Canyon, serving as the primary refueling aircraft for the Air Force’s F-111s targeting a Libyan terrorists in Tripoli, according to the museum.

The Extender, fondly known as “Big Sexy,” has been in the service for 42 years serving a variety of combat and humanitarian missions. The aircraft served its final combat sortie from its last deployment assignment at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in October. The last KC-10 left the East Coast in June 2023, leaving Travis as the only Extender base left.

“It’s a bummer that the KC-10 is leaving,” said Senior Airman Thomas Mihalyi, 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron inspection section team member. “We are moving to a whole new era of aircraft. We have already done four or five A-checks on the KC-46, and we are all learning.”

As the base transitions from the KC-10 to the KC-46 Pegasus for air refueling, crews will complete cross-training on the Pegasus before the Extender fleet’s decommission in two months.

Travis received its first KC-46A Pegasus in July 2023. The spokesperson added that the number of remaining KC-10s or incoming KC-46As at the base won’t be disclosed, citing operational security. The new tanker promises greater survivability than the aging Extenders in contested environments, equipped with numerous self-protection, defensive, and communication features. It can also carry more than 212,000 pounds of fuel and nearly 65,000 pounds of cargo. The Air Force expects a total of 179 Pegasus aircraft to be delivered by 2028.