KC-46 U.S. Supplier Spotlight: Sensor Systems LLC

Sensor Systems is one of more than 650 suppliers in 43 states that supports the KC-46 program and helps fuel the U.S. Air Force’s global mission.

April 18, 2023 in Defense, Innovation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. --- Donovan Rodrigues credits the experience of his company’s workforce as a reason why the team takes such pride in the quality of its work.

“Everyone here knows what the end product is and that peoples’ lives are on the line,” he said.

Rodrigues is chief operating officer for Sensor Systems LLC, a Florida-based small business of about 100 employees that supplies a pressure transducer used on the refueling boom of the KC-46A Pegasus tanker.

The pressure transducer regulates fuel pressure from the KC-46A to the receiver aircraft, maintaining desired fuel flow to the receiver aircraft even in extreme operating conditions and ensuring that the KC-46A can extend the rapid global mobility of U.S. forces.

Sensor Systems makes pressure sensors for the KC-46A Pegasus tanker’s refueling boom by hand in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“Our part,” Rodrigues said, “is able to help so many people and help so many service members.”

Carlos De Santiago and Jean Petoia take special pride in their support for the KC-46 program.

“There are lives depending on the products that we produce,” De Santiago said.

“There is nothing better that I can do,” Petoia said.

Both men immigrated to the United States – De Santiago from Mexico and Petoia from Haiti – and feel their work for Sensor Systems represents their contribution to the nation.

“I feel proud that we are doing this for not only myself, but as a citizen of this great country,” said De Santiago, who is the production manager for the team of five employees that builds these sensors.

Production manager Carlos De Santiago (left) and chief operating officer Donovan Rodrigues (right) examine pressure sensor test results.

“We are a part of the country’s process, progress and standing in the world,” said Petoia, a quality assurance engineer. “We’ve got a part in (the KC-46 program)! It’s a great feeling.”

Sensor Systems is one of more than 650 suppliers in communities across the nation that deliver parts to support the KC-46A and make it the world’s most advanced multi-mission aerial refueler. These businesses combine to employ more than 37,000 American workers.

“We have a workforce that has been here 20, 30, 40-plus years,” added Rodrigues. “They take great pride in the ownership of their work because they’ve also helped develop these products.”

Sales and customer service representative Gail Ihrig processes orders for the KC-46 program. She is in her 40th year with the company and still shows off her employee badge from her first year in 1983.

Gail Ihrig is celebrating her 40th anniversary with Sensor Systems this year. She is one of many employees who have spent decades with the company. The photo on the right is from Ihrig's employee identification badge in 1983.

“I feel very proud knowing that Sensor Systems has a part in the KC-46 program and the refueling boom,” Ihrig said. “It’s a proud feeling knowing that you’re doing something to help the servicemen do their job and to keep them going.”