Boeing air tanker finishes first flight

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The first Boeing KC-46A tanker due to be delivered to the US Air Force next year has successfully completed its first flight and airborne tests.

The KC-46A is a multirole tanker that can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients.

The aircraft took off from Paine Field at 10:30am December 7 and landed approximately three and a half hours later.

Col. John Newberry, US Air Force KC-46 System program manager, said, “Today’s flight is another milestone for the Air Force/Boeing team and helps move us closer to delivering operational aircraft to the warfighter.”

During the flight, Boeing test pilots took the tanker to a maximum altitude of 39,000ft and performed operational checks on engines, flight controls and environmental systems as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved flight profile. Prior to subsequent flights, the team will conduct a post-flight inspection and calibrate instrumentation.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager, said, “We’re very proud of this aircraft and the capabilities it will bring to the Air Force.

“We still have some tough work ahead of us, including completing our FAA certification activities, but the team is committed to ensure that, upon delivery, this tanker will be everything our customer expects and more.”

The newest tanker is the KC-46 program’s seventh aircraft to fly to date. The previous six are being used for testing and certification and to date have completed 2,200 flight hours and more than 1,600 “contacts” during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10 and KC-46 aircraft. The KC-46 is derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe and is built at Boeing’s Everett, Washington factory. Boeing is currently on contract for the first 34 of an expected 179 tankers for the US Air Force.

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Ben has worked all of his career as a journalist and now editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry. In the last 16 years he has written on subjects from nuclear submarines and autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies and commercial aviation. Latterly editor of a leading engineering magazine, he brings an eye for a great story and lots of experience to the team.

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