Odds and Ends: Status of KC-46A; US Airways without AA; CSeries timeline

KC-46A: Aviation Week has this article on the current status of the Boeing KC-46A tanker and the management challenges. AvWeek also reports what we did earlier: the tanker gets nailed in sequestration. We have the specifications sheet here: KC46 Tanker Specifications.

US Airways without American: In case this merger doesn’t happen, US Airways is looking ahead, according to this Aviation Week article.

CSeries timeline: Aviation Week has this piece about the Bombardier CSeries timeline for first flight and EIS, comparing it with the Q400 and CRJ700 programs, which were both late.

BAE-EADS: EADS CEO Tom Enders calls this a perfect fit. The Financial Times has this story. Free registration may be required.

36 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Status of KC-46A; US Airways without AA; CSeries timeline

  1. So finally, i’m now sure that the KC46 is 2 m longer than the 767-200.
    That was said in the days following the outcome of the bid, and since then no mention of the jumboization
    That’s not on the shelf buy…

    Have a good day

    • The drawings indicate a 2m fuselage stretch. If there is 4.9 billion dollars being spent on development, theoretically that should buy correct dimensioning.

  2. To stir the pot a bit the leaflet reads
    like an Airbus MRTT conversion done to a 767 ( did Boeing get a quote from EFW ;-)

  3. Uwe, how many Booms have fallen off the various KC-767/-46s? I think the A-330 is wining that race now with a score of 2-0, not even counting it cannot refuel the Tornado.
    Poncho, the KC-46 is not based on the B-767-200ER, nor has it ever been. It is based on a new B-767 model that Boeing is offering to everyone. The new model is called the B-767-2C, which is a combi version.
    Scott, yes the KC-46A will get nabed in the sequestration process. I believe everything is on the table for the DOD except miltary pay.

    • We’re all aware the aerodynamics of a boom flying alone are not the best & I had imagined this would come to the fore.

      It’s history now but Boeing regained this contract in panic mode, it’s now evident that it was never the best planned or costed, which was always the prime concern.

      Quite how the US Air Force addresses this cost escalation so early in the process must be a concern as Boeing going cap in hand to the purse holders will not be best recieved & quite a humiliation.

      • Wouldn’t it be quite fortitious for Boeing to get a (potentially) loss making contract canceled?

    • How long did Boeing have to iterate over the 767 tankers to fix their “morbus parkinson” ;-?

    • Well Uwe, I guess you can consider the pot fully stirred.

      KC135TopBoom,

      Don’t you think that it is just a tad superfluous to point out that Airbus has had two booms fall of of their aircraft? I think everybody here knows all about that.

      It certainly isn’t something that Airbus can be proud of (quite the opposite) and I can see it being a huge problem vis a vis Airbus sales of this aircraft type in the future.

      Having said that, I do not know the causes for either of these incidents. I must admit though, that I have never heard of a boom falling off of any other tanker.

    • The boom falling off an MRTT is an embarrasing event, I’m curious on the backgrounds. Maybe flutter? The Boeing tanker also had its share of embarrasing events (boom, flutter, delays, Italians balking) over the last decade. Hopefully this has now come to an end. I had expected the AF to select more future proof engines. Those will be previous generation at EIS.

      • Flutter is an aerodynamic event. Yes, Boeing has had ts share of fludder events, and not just on tankers, and so has Airbus. But Airbus (and the RAAF) never went public with the findings and causes of the first boom seperation, and Airbus is quite about this event, too. Boeing’s new KC-767s in its 3 current versions (two of which are operational) have not lost a boom. AFAIK, the only damage suffered by any KC-767 was when a truck, loading cargo aboard a Japanese KC-767J backed into the airplane and damaged it.
        Some of the Italian complaints were around the inflight cockpit noise levels being above the contract 75 db.
        As far as the USAF KC-46 engine selection goes, neither Boeing nor Airbus were offering a current of next generation engine, Boeing offered the PW-4063 and Airbus offered the GE CF-6-80E. Both were offered to help keep costs down for the USAF selection. The USAF had the option of selecting any engine they wanted for either tanker but did not exercise that option due to increased costs and a longer flight testing program and certification program.

    • apropos: how many USAF booms are damage/lost in regular tanker activity every year, TopBoom? Any numbers around?

      • Uwe, I don’t have the current numbers of how many USAF Booms have been damaged or lost. When I was still in the USAF and flying the KC-135, the tanker fleet (KC-135 and KC-10) lost a Boom at the rate of one per year. Almost all of the losses and damaged Booms were the result of a collision during air refueling, and I remember at least one KC-135 Boom was actually seperated for the tanker due to a lack of proper maintenance of sevear corrosion of the Boom trunion and yoke that attaches the Boom to the KC-135. I myself had two events that lead to damaged Booms, one with an F-4C when the receiver pilot got into an uncontrolled PIO, and the other during refueling a B-52G when the KC-135 autopilot made an unexpected change in pitch. For the F-4, I pulled the refueling receptical out of the receiver trying to get an emergency disconnect (also call a brute force disconnect), and damaged the Boom ice shield doing it. For the B-52 the damage was more extensive as the Boom layed across the top of the receiver and dented and damaged the skin as well as two ejection seat hatches on the top (which caused a rapid decompression in the B-52), skin and nozzle damage to the Boom, skin and structial damage to the tanker tail, and the Boom shock absorber (which sits atop the Boom and is for absorbing shock when stowing the Boom) punched a hole in the left elevator. Both of us had to make emergency landings as a result of the damage. In both cases the accident investigations boards cleared me of any responsibilities.

      • KC135TopBoom :
        Uwe, I don’t have the current numbers of how many USAF Booms have been damaged or lost. When I was still in the USAF and flying the KC-135, the tanker fleet (KC-135 and KC-10) lost a Boom at the rate of one per year. […]

        Thanks very much indeed for your detailed accounts, much appreciated!

      • Thanks for the info. I would have been surprised if there weren’t any accidents, even with longstanding material and welltrained participants.
        Snipet on the side: During his time with DFS Felix Kracht was involved developing a complete framwork for in air attaching, towing (on a variable tether/hose) and fuel transfer between airplanes.

        • anfromme :

          KC135TopBoom :
          Uwe, I don’t have the current numbers of how many USAF Booms have been damaged or lost. When I was still in the USAF and flying the KC-135, the tanker fleet (KC-135 and KC-10) lost a Boom at the rate of one per year. […]

          Thanks very much indeed for your detailed accounts, much appreciated!

          Uwe :
          Thanks for the info. I would have been surprised if there weren’t any accidents, even with longstanding material and welltrained participants.
          Snipet on the side: During his time with DFS Felix Kracht was involved developing a complete framwork for in air attaching, towing (on a variable tether/hose) and fuel transfer between airplanes.

          Please remember that when I retired from the USAF, we still had about 600 tankers flying some 300,000 hours per year (not counting Desert Storm), so the Boom loss/damage rate was around 0.33 per 100,000 hours per year (the number of flying hours the USAF uses to track accident statistics).

        • Uwe :
          I would expect a mature ARBS to reach similar numbers ( well, with the small fleet and probably sparse usage I would expect slightly higher numbers per flight hour.
          apropos a recap on tanker requirements I hadn’t seen before:
          http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a454450.pdf
          probably stale for most?

          That is probibly correct, as the Airbus Boom matures. But also, the Boom Operators on those tankers will have a lot less experience, as a group, as the USAF counterparts.

          As for that 2006 report, I have always had problems with it, as their numbers are not only out of the park, but out of the city. They jump all over the time line, using some numbers from 1991 and some from 2004. Also, they stated that in 2004 the KC-135A was “burning in excess of 200 lbs of fuel per minute”. While the fuel burn rate for the “A” model is correct, there were no KC-135As flying in 2004. The “75% reduction in refueling time, thus increasing the amount of fuel available by 75%” is not, nor has it ever been correct. The report never takes into consideration that the rate of fuel transfer, with any receiver, drops off significantly as the receiver’s fuel tanks fill and the valves close those tanks off. So even with the P&D transfer rate of “400 gallons per minute” will drop to less than 100 GPM after a few minutes. Also in 1991, the USAF had significantly more that just 669 aircraft that could take full advantage of the full off-load rate via the Boom, it was much closer to 1200 aircraft (including large cargo aircraft like the C-5, C-130, and C-141), almost twice the number in the report, not including the USN E-6A/B Mercury or any NATO aircraft that could Boom refuel (such as the E-3 AWACS). Many USAF fighters also can (initially) take on fuel at a much higher rate than 4000 pounds per minute in 1991, the F/FB-111, F-15, could and even the F-16 on-loaded fuel at near 3000. In fact the F/FB-111, which was still in the inventory in 1991 had an initial on-load rate of 6500 lbs per minute.
          In other words, this was more of a political report (by the US Navy, and their desire for the so called KC-10B) than it was a report on USAF refueling operations.

    • KC135TopBoom :
      Uwe, how many Booms have fallen off the various KC-767/-46s? I think the A-330 is wining that race now with a score of 2-0, not even counting it cannot refuel the Tornado.

      Not sure how mentioning the two A330 MRTT boom incidents contribute anything to the discussion. Even those here that were never a fan of the KC-767/KC-46 don’t take the latest report of how things aren’t quite as rosy with the programme as Boeing had hoped as just another opportunity to point out *yet* again the lengthy delays in first delivery of KC-767s to Japan and Italy.
      It usually – in my view – doesn’t reflect very well when your first response to criticism of yourself or your preferred vendor is to simply go “But look at the other guy…!”.

      As regards the Tornado refuelling capabilities: a) That appears to be probe-specific, as the issue did not occur with Saudi-Arabian Tornadoes (which use different probes). b) As of July, a software update had cured spinning issues with the probe basket and a modified coupling design was under test to rectify the observed fuel leakage issues.
      (Source: http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/2012-07-09/new-airbus-tankers-enter-service-teething-troubles-are-resolved among others.)
      Given this, to state that the A330 tanker “cannot refuel the Tornado” is if nothing else at least a gross oversimplification of facts.

      • Actually, the link doesn’t say the A-330MRTT issues are solved, it says they are still working on the issues. Also the RSAF tanker testing was done with a Spainsh Tornado. But it still doesn’t address the RAF Tornado issue, which is still being worked on. The RAF Tornados (and those of Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain) have not had problems refueling from the A-310MRTT, VC-10, French or American KC-135, or the Dutch and American KC/KDC-10. The Voyargers are being bought to replace the VC-10s in the tanker mission, so not being able to refuel some RAF receivers is not an ‘oversimplification’. The story goes on to say the RAAF F/A-18s will not be cleared to refuel from the A-330MRTT baskets until next year, and the RAAF still cannot use the Boom (to refuel their C-17s and Wedgetail E-737AWE).

      • KC135TopBoom :
        Actually, the link doesn’t say the A-330MRTT issues are solved, it says they are still working on the issues.

        The link did say that the basket spinning was solved and that a new coupling was undergoing testing to resolve the leakage. I never claimed all issues were already resolved.
        Yet, stating as you did that the A330 tanker “cannot refuel the Tornado” is as much of an oversimplification as saying that the tanks in the 747-8’s horizontal stabilizer cannot be used.

        Some further selective reading on your part there: “The story goes on to say the RAAF F/A-18s will not be cleared to refuel from the A-330MRTT baskets until next year”.
        The article actually says “operational clearance to refuel F/A-18 Hornet fighters is expected later this year.”

        Anyway – back to the topic of KC-46 development challenges and potential/real cost overruns.
        (I have no issues discussing the A330, but as indicated before, I think it’s funny how comments to any article that’s critical of Boeing spin into a debate about Airbus’s faults.)

  4. I think there is a bit of diplomacy/negotiation in this address from Scott Kirby. They are trying to tell AA that even though there would definitively be some pros to a merger but if it doesn’t happen, US AIrways won’t be crying a river.

    Would AA buy this posture?

  5. I had always believed that Bombardier would get it together with not too much drama but the Aviation Week article pointed out a few facts and items that I had either not known or not fully considered.

  6. KC135TopBoom :
    Actually, the link doesn’t say the A-330MRTT issues are solved,….
    The article “title” does say they were resolved. The material of the article didn’t seem to contradict the title to me..

  7. Okay, the RAF Tornados leak. Every other plane doesn’t. Seems like there is a solution out there. Isn’t this issue being a bit overdone?

  8. “rapid decompression in the B-52 ….structural damage to the tanker tail…..a hole in the left elevator….. emergency landings .. investigations boards cleared me ”

    Another day in the office ;) during the cold war there were drama with burning plutonium spread all over the place in Spain and Greenland, but thats another story

    “FAIK, the only damage suffered by any KC-767 was when a truck, loading cargo aboard a Japanese KC-767J backed into the airplane and damaged it.”

    lets not forget the burning Japanese boom that wouldn’t retract..

    “Also the RSAF tanker testing was done with a Spainsh Tornado.”
    F18 Tornado may ;)

  9. KC135TopBoom :
    nicetry, Phil, going to the Airbus brochure web page for the A-330MRTT. Airbus isn’t going to something like that in their sales brochure. But they do have a picture of the insude of an A-330F, which has not been ordered as a tanker by anyone.

    cite from Airbus article:
    .. The main deck cargo compartment can also be used for cargo, as required, when the aircraft is specified as a freighter.
    /cite
    Additionally you can have the freighter door as a mod to the regular A330 frame afaik.
    Independent of whatever plane they used for that loading box through freight door pic.
    the freight door is mandatory if you go for medevac and/or freight/passenger conversion
    capabilities. ( No idea which mrtt orders have it. )

  10. Re MRTT cargo, I guess its one of the options for this platform. There’s a lot of off the shelf options, such as a stretch (-300) leveling nose gear (330F), cargo door (330F), 240 MTOW, the sharklets being studied, center gear for heavy landings and even a NEO doesn’t seem to complicated. Maybe the french AF will go for a “full option” variant..

  11. (I have no issues discussing the A330, but as indicated before, I think it’s funny how comments to any article that’s critical of Boeing spin into a debate about Airbus’s faults.)

    That is just to make the critics and factual correctors appear as Airbus whiners ;-)

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