Boeing KC-46 completes flight testing

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Boeing and the US Air Force have completed the flight testing required for the KC-46 fuel tanker before its first delivery, which is planned for October.

Last week the KC-46 team concluded its Military Type Certification (MTC) testing and receiver certification testing with the KC-135, F-16 and C-17 aircraft.

When in service, the KC-46 will refuel US, allied and coalition military aircraft using its boom and hose and drogue systems and will be able to take on fuel to extend its operational range. The boom allows the tanker to transfer up to 1,200 gallons of fuel per minute, while the hose and drogue systems, located on both the plane’s wing and centerline, enables the KC-46 to refuel smaller aircraft with up to 400 gallons of fuel per minute.

The KC-46 is derived from Boeing’s commercial 767 airframe and is built at the company’s factory in Everett, Washington. Boeing is on contract for the first 34 of an expected 179 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

The test program has six aircraft that have supported various segments of STC and MTC testing.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46A tanker vice president and program manager said, “This is a significant achievement for the Boeing-Air Force team and continues us on our path to first delivery in October.”

Receiver certification began in April and was conducted from Boeing Field in Seattle and Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. As part of the testing, KC-46 and receiver aircraft flew at different airspeeds, altitudes and configurations to ensure compatibility and performance throughout the refueling envelope of each receiver.

Receiver certification testing of A-10 and KC-46 has also begun, with final certification of A-10, F/A-18, KC-46, F-15 and B-52 to be completed prior to the start of Initial Operational Test and Evaluation testing.

“Our main focus now is obtaining the Supplemental Type Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration as well formal Military Type Certification from the U.S. Air Force,” Gibbons said.

The KC-46 test team completed Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) flight testing in April and is now working through associated paperwork prior to STC award.

The program’s six aircraft have completed 3,300 flight hours and offloaded two million pounds of fuel during refueling flights with F-16, F/A-18, AV-8B, C-17, A-10, KC-10 and KC-46 aircraft.

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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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