Boe­ing, US Air Force KC-46A tanker com­pletes suc­cess­ful first flight


The Boe­ing and US Air Force team suc­cess­fully com­pleted the first flight of a KC-46A tanker air­craft to­day, tak­ing off from Paine Field re­cently at Boe­ing Field in Seat­tle.

This was the first flight of a KC-46A tanker-con­fig­ured air­craft, fol­low­ing on­go­ing flights of the pro­gramme’s first test air­craft, a 767-2C. Dur­ing the flight, Boe­ing test pilots per­formed op­er­a­tional checks on en­gines, flight con­trols and en­vi­ron­men­tal sys­tems and took the tanker to a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 35,000 feet prior to land­ing.

“This first tanker flight is a key mile­stone for the pro­gramme and we’ll now be­gin free air sta­bil­ity tests and flight con­trols of the boom and wing aerial re­fu­elling pods (WARPs) be­fore con­duct­ing aerial re­fu­elling tests where the KC-46 will make con­tact with other mil­i­tary air­craft down the road,” said Colonel Christo­pher Coombs, US Air Force KC-46 Sys­tem Pro­gram Man­ager.

The Boe­ing team now will con­duct a post-flight in­spec­tion and cal­i­brate in­stru­men­ta­tion prior to the next se­ries of flights, dur­ing which the tanker boom and WARPs sys­tems will be de­ployed. Be­fore the end of the year, the KC-46 will be­gin con­duct­ing aerial re­fu­elling flights with a num­ber of US Air Force air­craft. Those flights, along with the mis­sion sys­tems demon­stra­tions and a re­cently com­pleted ground cargo han­dling test, will sup­port the planned Mile­stone C de­ci­sion in 2016.

As part of a con­tract awarded in 2011 to de­sign and de­velop the US Air Force’s nextgen­er­a­tion tanker air­craft, Boe­ing is build­ing four test air­craft – two are cur­rently con­fig­ured as 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The KC-46s will fly as fully equipped tankers through the FAA and mil­i­tary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process, while the 767-2Cs en­ter flight test prior to re­ceiv­ing their up­grade to the KC46A con­fig­u­ra­tion and the ad­di­tion of their aerial re­fu­elling sys­tems.

The KC-46A is a multi-role tanker Boe­ing is build­ing for the US Air Force that can re­fuel all al­lied and coali­tion mil­i­tary air­craft com­pat­i­ble with in­ter­na­tional aerial re­fu­el­ing pro­ce­dures and can carry pas­sen­gers, cargo and pa­tients. Over­all, Boe­ing plans to build 179 KC-46 air­craft for the US Air Force.

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