Podcast on tanker

James Wallace from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer does a 15 minute podcast on the tanker issue with Innovation Analysis Group.

12 Comments on “Podcast on tanker

  1. Throughout this whole podcast James Wallace has been saying that USAF has misled Boeing, telling them they wanted a smaller tanker and more booms in the air. GOA has not said that Boeing has been mislead, nor did Boeing or Wallace produce any evidence of what the USAF ‘has been telling them’. It was a bit silly of James Wallace to constantly repeat it. The fact is Boeing misinterpreted the requirements and used media including JW to trumpet that smaller tanker is what USAF wants.

  2. Wallace was correct: the GAO found that the RFP did not provide extra credit, and the GAO further said this was “unambiguous.”

  3. Actually, the GAO used the words “the Air Force misled Boeing”. How much more unambiguous can they get?

  4. Boeing has consistently been saying that the USAF has discouraged them from bidding the 777 and instead been saying that the 762 is the right platform and exactly what is needed. For that they have offered no evidence but still it is being repeated by them and the media, implying they were mislead.
    Boeing kept repeating to themselves and to everybody that KC-767 is the right platform and kept believing it more and more. Instead they had other options. Scott, in one of his commentaries, suggested a bid of KC-767/777 (something they are considering now), which would indeed have been check-mate in this game, especially because the original RFP did not specify the max size of the platform.

    The procedural irregularities, which were identified during the selection process itself, I am not disputing.

  5. UKair,
    There is some history here that you may not be aware of. Several years ago, the USAF tried to lease 767 tankers from Boeing after being approached by Boeing. The USAF loved that aircraft and wanted it so badly they were willing to lease them rather than buy them. When McCain shot down the lease deal, the USAF tried to buy them. Again, wanting the 767 so bad that the USAF allowed Boeing to help write the requirements – much to the dismay of EADS. When that shady deal was uncovered, people on both sides went to jail. The fact of the matter is the USAF, I believe, really wants the Boeing 767 but can’t figure out a way to get it that doesn’t anger non-Boeing advocates.

  6. GasPasser,
    That was the best bit of amature comedy I have read in a while.
    Is it the 767 the USAF wanted so much that Boeing had to bribe the head of procurement with an offer of a job or rewrite the RFP to make sure 767 could actually stand any chance?

    Here is some history you may not be aware of:

    By Joseph L. Galloway

    Knight Ridder Newspapers

    WASHINGTON – The Air Force gave the Boeing Co. five months to rewrite the official specifications for 100 aerial refueling tankers so that the company’s 767 aircraft would win a $23.5 billion deal, according to e-mails and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.

    In the process, Boeing eliminated 19 of the 26 capabilities the Air Force originally wanted, and the Air Force acquiesced in order to keep the price down.

    The Air Force then gave Boeing competitor Airbus 12 days to bid on the project and awarded the contract to Boeing even though Airbus met more than 20 of the original 26 specifications and offered a price that was $10 billion less than Boeing’s.
    ———–

    Oh yes, the USAF was on to a winner with that 767! But, I know lets turn McCain into a baret wearing villain instead….

  7. UKair,
    I’m happy to have entertained you. I should have been a history teacher!

    I love it when my student uses a sorce to make their point that actually makes my point. I am very aware of that news piece, and many others, as I researched both the Boeing and EADS/NG history for the USAF Tanker program less than 24-hrs ago.

    If the USAF actually wanted the 330, or wanted a fair compitition the first last time around, do you really think they would have given Boeing the chance to write the RFP for them? No. They gave the chore to Being because they wanted the 767 as fast as they could get it.

    If you thought I was casting McCain as a villian, you were wrong. He did the right thing then. However, having 4 EADS lobbists on his staff is something that puts his own personal ethics into question.

    Whatever the outcome of this revised bid there will be a protest and the USAF will not see a new tanker for years. I predict that this thing will have to start over from square one and we won’t see new tankers for years. Ever since the attempt at leasing, the Tanker replacement program has been terribly botched. Most of the blame can be laid at the feet of the USAF I’m afraid. The USAF is it’s own villian.

    Did you know that the KC-10 is currently the longest range production aircraft in the world, surpassing even the 777-200LR, the longest-range commercial aircraft? Did you know that the KC-10 has a smaller footprint than the 330? That leads a lot of us who operate tankers in the USAF to feel that the 330 does not make a very good tanker. Its a space hog – its’ fuel capacity per square foot of ramp space required ratio is pretty poor. I hope the RAF is will be happy with their choice. I’d put my 50YO Boeing against your 50YO Airbus any day. Oh wait, no Airbus has ever lived that long. One more reason why many USAF pilots like Boeing.

  8. GasPasser,
    You have failed to understand the point I was making, while being busy counting the number of EADS lobbyists. I love it the way you have made references twice in that regard, while being totally oblivious to the number of people Boeing has in it pocket. And that leads me on to my original point and the quote I have provided. Boeing had the power to rip up any RFP and the USAF wish list was reduced to 7 capabilities from 23, while charging them $230 million a piece for 20 year old, refurbished junk. All that, thanks to the enormous political and lobbying power, along with job offers and everything else that the original deal came with. And thank God you are not a teacher but a gas passer, let’s hope it stays at that.

    ——-
    I’d put my 50YO Boeing against your 50YO Airbus any day. Oh wait, no Airbus has ever lived that long.
    ——-
    Ouch, that was way too clever.

  9. Careful: things are starting to get a little personal. This column won’t tolerate crossing over into that arena.

    Debate the opinions and facts all you want but avoid the personalities.

    BTW: the first A300B2 was delivered in 1974. It’s hard to be in service 50 years when the company is only 34 years old.

  10. It’s OK Scott. Being a lowly “Tanker Puke” and looked down by the guys flying pointy nose planes who puff out their chests and shoot down their watches with their other hand is something I’m well accustomed to. I agree with you regarding the purpose of the blog is to express OPINIONS and FACTS.
    Having operated the venerable Boeing tanker for 40% of its fifty year life, I have generated quite a fondness for Boeing. I hope that qualifies me to have an opinion on their products and their use in real world missions….both training and in combat.
    While some may think of us tanker pilots, or pilots in general as “knuckle draggers”, Boeings approach/philosophy is more to my liking than the Airbus’s. The Airbus engineers seem to think that they know better than pilots and “engineer the pilot out”, or protect the plane from the pilot doing something “stupid”. While operations are similar to an airliner during non-refueling operation, and combat, the tanker pilot is doing things not asked of many airliners. We’re not going to the edge of the envelope after the merge like my fighter bros, but we’re doing a bit more than TO, gear up, SID, airways to a STAR to approach, gear-down and landing. Being that Boeing has been in the tanker business for 50 years, and I’ve trusted my life and my crews in Boeing’s old machine. I’d ask for a new Boeing tanker any day.

    Sure the 767 may be a 20 YO design, but the USAF is not buying 20 YO aircraft. They will be brand new aircraft with that new aircraft smell. To me, that is a lower risk choice for the USAF. Boeing surely has all the bugs out of the 767 by now. The same cannot be said for the newly designed 330. How many tankers has Airbus built? Just a few if you count the one’s they are working on now. Boeing has built over 750 KC-135’s, and you can add the 65 or so KC-10’s that MD built now that MD is now Boeing. Boeing has proven it can keep an aircraft they designed and built flying for 50 years. They are half-way there with the 767 airframe. I think it could go to 50 as well. Given that EADS has not been around as long, I just don’t have the confidence in their aircraft achieving a 50-year lifespan. I’m glad to see that the RFP is looking for life cycle costs out to 40 years. The USAF will likely keep the new tanker flying at least that long. To me, Boeing is a lower risk choice than the NG/EADS plane. I’ve ridden in the back of Boeing and Airbus airliners. The Boeings feel solid, the Airbus feels cheap & flimsy. I seriously question if the 330 can last 40 years without very costly rebuilding.

    It is also my opinion that the 330 is too large (length and wingspan) to be an appropriate replacement for the KC-135. We all agree that the 330 holds more fuel than the 767 as bid. But I do not feel that USAF is getting enough out of the 330’s greater size. I’ll repeat it again. The 330 is larger than the KC-10, yet the KC-10 can carry over 100,000 pounds of fuel more than the -10. That KC-10 vs. KC-30 comparison leads me to rule out the KC-30 as a suitable tanker.

    Very few of the points I’ve made here are criteria in the USAF RFP, however, it does not diminish the opinion I have that the KC-767 is a better choice for the USAF than the KC-30.

  11. GasPasser (a name that could have all sorts of implications, BTW :-)), I would only point out Boeing itself hasn’t delivered a tanker (that’s operational) since 1966 and if you do count Douglas, since 1988. That’s one or two generations, depending on your viewpoint. The KC-767s for Japan and Italy aren’t sterling examples to point two and the poor performance on these are part of what got Boeing marked down in “past performance.”

    As we opined July 29, we agree that a 40-year life cycle analysis is appropriate.

    With respect to Airbus longevity, many years ago commercial bankers assumed a 35-year life for the A320 when financing them. This year Airbus is developing a program to triple this figure. One presumes this may be applied to the A330 as well.

    As a throttle jockey (said with great respect, BTW), isn’t it true that the A330 with a bigger wing (for more lift) has much better field performance than the KC-10?

    As for flying philosophy of Airbus vs. Boeing, we gotta say we’ve seen the A340-600 and A380 do some remarkable stuff as airshows (Berlin, Farnborough). We’ve never seen a Boeing commercial jet do any aerial maneuvers, so from a grounded civilian point of view, it certainly looks like Airbus can do some pretty good flying.

  12. GasPasser,
    With the classics such as “Airbus engineers seem to think that they know better than pilots”, “The Boeings feel solid, the Airbus feels cheap & flimsy”, “I seriously question if the 330 can last 40 years” (Lord knows based on what) and my personal favourite “Very few of the points I’ve made here are criteria in the USAF RFP, however … the KC-767 is a better choice”, leads me to one conclusion….. you are Richard Aboulafia in disguise with a suitable alias :o)) Don’t get upset Scott, a bit of humour!

    But seriously, if you wanted facts, here are a few:
    • KC-135: 732 were built; last delivery happened in 1965.
    • Last time Boeing went back to building a new tanker for Italy and Japan, they were 3 and 1 year late respectively. Has the Japanese one passed acceptance trials and in operation yet? Not sure.

    I am afraid it won’t get any easier with the proposed KC-767AT.
    Its s bit sad that you are clutching on to KC-10 and trying to portray it as a Boeing tanker. The last KC-10 was delivered in March 1981, long before Boeing merger with MD in 1997. You can’t say that Boeing had anything to do with it, especially when Boeing put up a 747 platform in the tender in 1975. Sure, Boeing is supporting it now but designed? Don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong, KC-10 is a very capable aircraft and a great looking one for that matter. So that really takes care of your major arguments. As far as Airbus not being experienced is concerned, there is always a first time for everything and quite understandably there is fear of the unknown. How can USAF be flying the ‘French’ Airbus tanker? And quotes like ‘… we should not expect our warfighter to learn French to operate the tanker’ by Todd Tiahrt, really puts things in perspective. Maybe he should have a word with Northwest and US Airways.
    Anyway, it is quite clear from what point of view you approach this subject, see the top of the post. In the end I agree with you on one thing, USAF will be made get 767 or lose its funding and will end up with an aircraft that will not make another sale. The future belongs to A330, it has done it to 767 in commercial market and will do it again in the military one.

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