Boeing’s first KC-46A tanker slated for the US Air Force operational fleet made its maiden flight this week, pushing the aircraft closer to a newly-delayed, 2018 delivery.
While Boeing has flown six other test articles, the newest 767-2C-based aircraft will be one of the first 18 inducted into the service next year. The USAF had expected Boeing to deliver the first KC-46 by the end of 2017.
According to a Government Accountability Office report released in March, Boeing is expected to deliver the first 18 aircraft by February 2018, a seven-month slip from the previous delivery date. The Cobham wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs) will still be delivered separately in October, Boeing confirms.
Part of Boeing’s schedule woes are attributed to delays in US Federal Aviation Administration certifications. The KC-46 requires both an amended type certification from the FAA for the baseline 767 with tanker provisions, and a supplemental type certification for the militarised variant. Boeing expects to wrap up work for the ATC by the end of 2017 and STC sometime next year.
But the KC-46 isn’t out of the woods just yet, Boeing must solve one outstanding deficiency identified on the tanker earlier this year. The USAF identified three “category 1 deficiencies” on KC-46, including the boom scraping problem that continues to plague the tanker today. Although legacy tankers have also scraped refueling aircraft, Boeing does not know how often the issue occurs on the KC-46 aircraft compared to older aircraft.