Aircraft to fly in 2005, followed by in-flight refuelling trials leading to delivery in 2006

The Italian air force's first of four KC-767A tanker/transports will be rolled out this week at Boeing's Wichita, Kansas plant, marking the start of a more than year-long flight-test and certification campaign ahead of first delivery next year.

James O'Neill, Boeing's tanker programme manager, says the aircraft will begin flying early this year and will be displayed at June's Paris air show in Italian air force markings. In-flight refuelling trials will be conducted from mid-year, with certification of the Italian tanker configuration due for completion next February. Italy's first aircraft will be handed over for acceptance trials in the USA in April 2006, he says.

Italy's KC-767As are 767-200ERs with a standard two-pilot cockpit, but with 767-400 flaps, General Electric CF6-80C2B6F engines rated at 62,100lb thrust (275kN) and modifications to fulfil aerial refuelling and transport missions. The aircraft also have an air refuelling receptacle, a Boeing-designed remote air refuelling operator station with two consoles and a digitally controlled fuel delivery system.

The aircraft uses Boeing's advanced refuelling boom and a new hose-and-drogue refuelling system consisting of two underwing pods and a centreline hose drum unit developed by Smiths Aerospace, which also provides the aircraft's integrated air refuelling system.

The aircraft has a maximum fuel capacity of 73,000kg (161,000lb) in its wing and standard centre-wing tanks, with the lower and upper part of the fuselage free for transport duties. The upper fuselage section is equipped with a cargo door and a "convertible combi" interior kit that allows the aircraft to be configured for 200 passengers, plus baggage, 19 military standard pallets or a combination of 100 passengers and 10 pallets. Boeing says other customers can increase fuel capacity by using the lower lobe compartments for auxiliary fuel tanks.

Italy's three remaining aircraft will be completed by Alenia Aeronautica's Aeronavali company in Naples. The firm is also involved in Boeing's Japanese, US domestic and international tanker programmes, providing the convertible combi or freighter and hose drum unit modification and installation kits. The Italian air force will receive all four of its aircraft by July 2008, to replace its four Boeing 707 tanker/transports assigned to Pratica di Mare air base near Rome.

* The United Arab Emirates is considering the acquisition of up three KC-767s, says Boeing.


Source: Flight International