KC-46 air tanker completes fuel on-load certification tests

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KC-46 tanker during refuelling (Image:Boeing)

Boeing’s KC-46 aircraft has achieved its Supplemental Type Certificate for fuel on-load after a successful refuelling flight between two tankers

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.

During a 3 hour and 48 minute flight, a KC-46 successfully transferred 146,000lbs of fuel to a second KC-46, while achieving the maximum fuel off-load rate of 1,200 gallons per minute. Both aircraft took off and landed at Boeing Field, south of Seattle.

For its Federal Aviation Administration Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) testing, the KC-46 demonstrated the ability to safely/effectively receive fuel from three other tankers — KC-46, KC-135 and KC-10 aircraft. During the series of tests, KC-46 tankers took on 540,600lbs of fuel and completed 68 contacts with refueling aircraft.

The tanker refuels using its boom and hose and drogue systems, but also must 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.

Boeing and the US Air Force are currently working to complete the STC testing, which includes the military systems that are installed on the commercial 767-2C to make it a tanker. To date, the program’s test aircraft have completed 2,700 flight hours and 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.

The first Boeing KC-46A tanker successfully completed its first flight and airborne tests in December 2017.

April 9, 2018

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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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