Tanker Takes First Night Flight

The Air Force’s next generation tanker flew at night for the first time this week, Boeing announced in a tweet Monday. The jet, EMD-4, took off the evening of April 30 from Boeing Field, south of Seattle, and flew a three-hour flight to test the jet’s night exterior lighting, Boeing spokesman Charles Ramey said. The Air Force now has all four test aircraft for the KC-46 program, but it’s still relying on the aircraft it will replace for flight tests. The new tankers have successfully conducted refueling tests, but are not yet cleared to refuel, so KC-135 Stratotankers fly alongside the test aircraft to refuel receiver and chase aircraft, according to an Air Mobility Command release. While chase aircraft approach the KC-46’s boom to test wake turbulence, the KC-135 is on standby to refuel both aircraft. “When we weren’t flying, we were on cockpit alert status as a backup,” Maj. Jason Barry, 350th Air Refueling Squadron instructor evaluator pilot, said in the release. “We watched all the testing that was done while in formation, listening on the radio to directives and refueling both aircraft as they needed it.”