Boeing KC-46A Tanker fuel system causes new delays

The Boeing KC-46a Pegasus tanker aircraft. Image courtesy of Boeing.
The Boeing KC-46a Pegasus tanker aircraft. Image courtesy of Boeing.

A test of the new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker’s fuel system has encountered problems, causing further delays to aircraft’s long awaited roll-out.

The KC-46A Pegasus is a wide-body, multi-role tanker that can refuel all US, allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refuelling procedures.

In addition, the KC-46A Tanker is designed to carry passengers, cargo and patients.

The new multi role tanker was scheduled for an initial test flight in late August or early September but it is now not known how long this most recent incident will delay the commencement of test flights.

The test plane, which is the company’s first to be equipped with a working air refuelling system, was damaged when a mislabelled chemical was used to test the fuel system.

This chemical corroded and damaged the fuel system according to a report at The Seattle Times, causing the fuel boom and auxiliary fuel tanks to be removed for inspection and repairs.

In response to the situation, Boeing has named a new senior vice president Scott Fancher to oversee the tail end of the KC-46A program. According to 247wallst.com, Fancher had previously worked to get the 787 Dreamliner program back on track and then was assigned to oversee the 777X program.

GAO reports continuing delays

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) made a report outlining existing delays in the KC-46A Tanker test flight schedule, published last April.

“With [US Air Force] program office approval, Boeing restructured its nearly 2,400 development flight test hour plan to focus on demonstrating key KC-46 aerial refueling capabilities required for the production decision. Significantly less testing will now be conducted prior to the decision and only three test months will be on a KC-46, compared to the original plan of 13 months. This testing is intended to demonstrate design maturity and fix design and performance problems before a system enters production.

“Boeing remains at risk of not being able to demonstrate the aerial refuelling capabilities in time to meet the new production decision date due to late parts deliveries, software defects, and flight test cycle assumptions, which could result in additional delays,” the report explains.

Under the existing timetable the US Air Force expects to receive the first 18 out of an order for 179 of the planes by August 2017. This new fuel system debacle can only add more uncertainty to this final delivery date.

 

By James Philp