After a delay of eight months, Boeing’s KC-46A tanker-transport has made its first flight, taking off from Paine Field, Everett on September 25 on a four hour test flight before landing at Boeing Field, Seattle.
“This first tanker flight is a key milestone for the program and we’ll now begin free air stability tests and flight controls of the boom and wing aerial refueling pods before conducting aerial refueling tests where the KC-46 will make contact with other military aircraft down the road,” Col Christopher Coombs, US Air Force KC-46 system program manager, said in a statement.
Boeing says the the KC-46 will begin aerial refueling flights with a number of USAF receiver aircraft “before the end of the year”. “Those flights, along with the mission systems demonstrations and a recently completed ground cargo handling test, will support the planned Milestone C decision in 2016,” Boeing said in a statement.
That Milestone C decision, due between January and April 2016, would see the US Department of Defense formally approve KC-46A production.
Under a contract awarded in 2011 Boeing is building four KC-46 test aircraft – two are initially configured as 767-2Cs not fitted with their boom and pod refuelling systems and two KC-46A fully-equipped tankers. The first test aircraft for the KC-767 program, the first 767-2C, made its first flight last December, and has since completed over 150 flight hours.
The US Air Force’s ‘program of record’ requirement for the KC-46A is 179 aircraft.