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DAY 35

DAY 35

FILL YOUR TANKS AT 35,000 FEET

The MRTT performs the world’s first automatic large aircraft air-to-air refuelling

Just off the southern coast of Spain, Susana Carballo Cuesta looks out from the plane, to see the fighter jets gathering around it. As the jets get closer, they slow.

“The jets seemed like they were floating beneath us, less than 20 metres away. You could see the pilots in the cockpits.”

These are the words of Airbus’ Chief Engineer on the Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), and she is describing the experience of witnessing firsthand the aircraft’s air-to-air refuelling missions.

Susana and her team are always working to improve the MRTT, particularly focusing on improving the saftey of these important refuelling capabilites.

So on 20 June 2018, when the MRTT completed the world’s first automatic air-to-air (3AR) refuelling with a large receiver aircraft, it marked a significant moment of progress, proving that these crucial operations could be made safer than ever before.

“Two aircraft flying close enough to be coupled is always a risky manoeuver. It involves a lot of stress for the operator,” explains Juan Cabrera García-Ochoa, lead engineer for the automatic refuelling project. “Safer operations are always one of the prime drivers.”

“We’re trying to eliminate human error from the refuelling missions as this makes the process significantly safer,” Susana adds.

Watch the automatic refuelling process take place below:


“We’re trying to eliminate human error from the refuelling missions as this makes the process significantly safer.”

Susana Carballo Cuesta, Airbus Chief Engineer on the Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT)

The 3AR system reduces the workload of the refuelling boom operator by automating the contact and refuelling process. This not only improves safety but also makes the process quicker in operational conditions.

Following sucessful testing, Airbus is now introducing the system on the current production A330 MRTT – the only new generation tanker transport in service today.

As well as refuelling all kinds of receivers, the three-in-one aircraft is capable of transporting up to 300 people, or can be configured to accommodate up to 40 stretchers for medevac missions.

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