KC-46 refuelling test program relocates to Edwards AFB


The KC-46 program’s first test aircraft, a Boeing 767-2C (EMD-1) touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, California last week (October 15), where Boeing and the 418th Flight Test Squadron are conducting ground effects and fuel onload fatigue testing on the new tanker, due to last a fortnight.

 Ground effects testing is to gather aerodynamic data for updating the KC-46A simulator as well as supporting certification. Fuel onload fatigue is gathering data to characterize the aircraft interaction typically experienced when the KC-46A is flying in receiver formation behind a current KC-135 or KC-10 tanker.

While the KC-46’s role is to refuel other aircraft, it may itself need to refuel from other KC-10s or KC-135s to extend its range. fuel onload fatigue testing is the first look at the KC-46 acting in that role and the interactions between the three different tankers in an aerial refueling formation.

“For ground effects, Edwards AFB provides calm morning weather and long runways, including the lakebeds, both are requirements to take the data,” said Capt. Dylan Neidorff, KC-46 test operations engineer. “For fuel onload fatigue, Edwards has a top notch Special Instrumentation section who provides modifications to legacy tanker aircraft to support data collection on the 767-2C.”

Neidorff said Boeing and Air Force pilots have been operating as combined crews through all of the testing at Edwards including the ferry flight from Seattle. “This also includes flight test engineers who have been on each fuel onload fatigue flight.”

Several units from both on and off base are supporting the testing. The 412th Test Engineering Group is providing special instrumentation support. The 416th Flight Test Squadron is providing chase aircraft support. The 370th Flight Test Squadron is providing KC-135 tanker crew support. The 92nd Air Refueling Wing based at Fairchild AFB, Washington, is providing the KC-135 and maintenance support. The 60th Air Mobility Wing out of Travis AFB, California, is providing the KC-10 and maintenance personnel.

According to Neidorff, the KC-46A will return to Edwards AFB to accomplish testing in the Benefield Anechoic Chamber as well as conduct aerial refueling certifications.

The KC-46A Pegasus is intended to replace the US Air Force’s aging tanker fleet, which has been refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. The 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the lead developmental test organization for the KC-46 program. 

October 22, 2015

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