Boeing finishes FAA tests on KC-46 tanker


 Boeing KC-46 refuelling during flight (Image: Boeing)

Boeing’s KC-46 tanker program has completed all of its required Supplemental Type Certificate flight tests following a successful refueling and communications flight with a C-17 Globemaster III.

The data and reports will be reviewed by the FAA before the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) is awarded.

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 tanker is derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe and is being 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.

The STC tests looked at the military systems installed on the 767-2C aircraft to make it a tanker, and is one of two required FAA airworthiness certifications.

As part of the testing, Boeing and the US Air Force validated both the boom and drogue systems for aerial refueling with multiple receiver aircraft. They also demonstrated that the KC-46 can take on fuel from KC-135, KC-10 and other KC-46 tankers, conducted night and day lighting tests and tested the aircraft defensive systems and avionics.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager said, “This is a huge milestone for the program and moves us closer to first KC-46 delivery. We’ve got the best of Boeing working together to ensure the Air Force is getting a game-changing tanker with unmatched capabilities.”

Jeanette Croppi, KC-46 test program manager, “While the majority of our testing was conducted out of Boeing Field in Seattle, we connected with assets out of Nellis and Edwards Air Force Bases and also travelled to Naval Air Station Patuxent River for centerline drogue system testing. This was truly a great team effort.”

The program has six aircraft that have supported various segments of Amended Type Certificate (ATC) and STC testing. In total the aircraft have completed 2,900 flight hours as well as more than 2,500 “contacts” during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10 and KC-46 aircraft.

April 30, 2018

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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