KC-46 Deliveries Resume, McConnell Accepts Fifth Aircraft

Airmen disembark from a KC-46 that landed at McConnell AFB, Kan., on Saturday. The tanker is the fifth for the base, and the first since the Air Force paused deliveries of the tanker in early April because of foreign object debris found inside the aircraft. McConnell AFB photo.

The Air Force on Saturday resumed deliveries of its next-generation tanker after the second pause due to continued problems with debris in the aircraft.

A KC-46 flew from Boeing Field in Seattle to McConnell AFB, Kan., the Air Force’s main operating base for the tanker. It is the fifth aircraft for McConnell.

The Air Force announced April 2 it had stopped receiving KC-46s for the second time after more debris was found in closed compartments of the aircraft. The problem began in March, prompting re-inspection of jets and deliveries initially resumed after two weeks. This time, Boeing proposed a more in-depth inspection process for the aircraft, including going into closed compartments such as fuel tanks to ensure that no debris was left behind.

Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, told reporters the Air Force was satisfied with Boeing’s new plan and was waiting for a series of these new inspections to be completed before deliveries resumed.

“I’m very satisfied that they’ve treated this seriously,” he said about Boeing. “The inspections are thorough. It involves opening up areas that were sealed. It involves draining fuel tanks and climbing in and inspecting, so these are not insignificant inspections, but I’m satisfied with the plan.”

Because the new inspection process is so in-depth, aircraft that have already been delivered to McConnell and Altus AFB, Okla., will need to return to Boeing facilities so inspectors can go into the closed compartments. Air Mobility Command and Air Education and Training Command are determining a schedule for this that will not impact training at the bases.

Saturday’s delivery capped off a busy week for McConnell, which evacuated its KC-46s and 10 KC-135s to Fairchild AFB, Wash., before a storm hit the base last Wednesday.