The US Air Force has stopped work on a new Boeing KC-135 programmed depot maintenance contract after an appeals court ordered the service to reopen the competition for a second time.

The ruling by the Court of Federal Claims upholds a year-long campaign by Alabama Aircraft Industries, formerly Pemco, to overturn the USAF contract first awarded to Boeing September 2007.

Alabama Aircraft's first protest to the Government Accountability Office was partially upheld, forcing the USAF to resolicit bids. The company filed a second protest after the USAF selected Boeing again in March, but the GAO upheld the USAF's decision.

In July, Alabama Aircraft took its case to the federal court, claiming that Boeing's team may have received critical insider knowledge during the original competition. Details of the appellate judge's decision are being withheld pending a one-week review period by Alabama Aircraft and Boeing.


"The deficiencies in the award obviously have been recognised and finally addressed, with the potential to restore integrity to the procurement process for the KC-135 PDM," says Ron Aramini, chief executive of Alabama Aircraft.

The KC-135 PDM contractor performs depot-level repairs and inspections on at least 44 aircraft. Boeing is partnered with Alabama Aircraft on a bridge contract to continue making repairs on aircraft until the dispute over the new deal is resolved.

Meanwhile, the ruling deals a further setback for the USAF's beleaguered acquisition community, which is still recovering from recent contract overturns for new tankers and search and rescue helicopters.

"The air force is committed to supporting the warfighter, while providing the best value for the taxpayer, and will take appropriate action consistent with the court's decision," the USAF says.

Alabama Aircraft confirms the USAF can appeal against the judge's decision within 60 days, while Boeing is allowed to file an appeal within 30 days.

Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing's global support systems division, declined to comment on the judge's decision until he his debriefed by his legal team.

Source: Flight International