KC-46 completes FAA certification

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Boeing’s KC-46 fuel tanker has completed FAA certification.

The Supplemental Type Certificate (STC), verifies that its refueling and mission avionics systems meet all of the FAA’s requirements and marks completion of KC-46 FAA certification.

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.

To receive its STC, Boeing engineers completed a series of lab, ground and flight tests, which started in 2015. As part of the required flight testing, the team also had to validate the KC-46’s boom and drogue aerial refueling systems to met FAA certification criteria.

Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46 tanker vice president and program manager said, “Our test team did an outstanding job successfully leading us through all the requirements, and we appreciate the FAA’s collaboration as well.”

“This milestone is important in that it is one of the last major hurdles in advance of first delivery to the U.S. Air Force.”

The STC is one of two required FAA airworthiness certifications. Boeing received an Amended Type Certificate for its core 767-2C aircraft configuration in December 2017. While those certifications cover most of the jet, not all military functions and equipment can be certified by the FAA. The U.S. Air Force also must grant a Military Type Certificate (MTC), which is expected in the coming months. Boeing completed MTC flight testing, which included the jet’s aerial refueling, defensive and other military-specific systems, in July.

Six aircraft have supported various segments of STC and MTC testing and completed 3,500 flight hours and offloaded more than three million pounds of fuel during refueling flights.

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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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