KC-46A First Flight

Boeing flew the first all-up KC-46A Pegasus aerial tanker Sept. 25. The jet took off from Paine Field, Everett, Wash., at 1:24 p.m. local time on what was expected to be about a four-hour checkout flight ending at Boeing Field in Seattle. During the flight, the company said, technicians planned to check out basic aircraft integrity and fundamental systems, such as the engines, flight controls, and environmental systems. “The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James. “This flight represents progress and brings us a step closer to fielding this much needed aircraft.” After the flight, a Boeing spokeswoman said, plans called for calibrating instrumentation prior to the next series of flights, during which the refueling boom and probe-and-drogue Wing Aerial Refuel Pods (WARPs) would be tried out. The company declined to say when it expected to fly the jet again. Previous flights have been made with the jet’s stablemate, a “provisioned freighter” 767-2C, which has all the plumbing of the all-up KC-46, but without the fitted military gear and air refueling probe. The test fleet will comprise two 767-2Cs—which will clear all the FAA requirements for the type—and two all-up KC-46s. The 2Cs will be fitted with refueling gear later to join the test program, which will be flown out of Edwards AFB, Calif., and Boeing Field. All four test jets are expected to eventually join the operational force. “Today’s flight is the call to duty for this new aircraft,” said Col. Christopher Coombs, KC-46 system program manager. “EMD-2 will be conducting the heavy lifting of testing in demonstrating the capabilities of this aircraft and leading the program down the path toward its Milestone C decision.” Boeing is under contract to build 17 jets, to be delivered by 2017 for initial operational capability, and ultimately 179 KC-46s under the KC-X program. USAF plans a follow-on KC-Y and KC-Z program to finish replacing the KC-135 and KC-10 fleets, respectively.