Dec. 28, 2014: Boeing launched the first flight of its KC-46A tanker program on Sunday.
The flight, with a 767-2C and not a tanker-configured KC-46A, was with what’s known as EMD 1. EMD stands for Engineering, Manufacturing and Development. EMD 1 is the first of four 767-2C aircraft that will make up the flight test fleet.
EMD 2 will be a KC-46A with tanker configuration, as will EMD 4. EMD 3 will be like EMD 1. EMD 2, 3 and 4 will enter the flight test program next year. EMD 2 is scheduled to enter the program in April.
EMD 1 will be used to allow test pilots to get a sense of the basic integrity of the aircraft, verify handling characteristics, Chick Ramey, Boeing spokesman for the tanker program, told Leeham News. The fuselage is the standard 767-200ER but it has wings from the larger 767-300ER and cockpit features from the 787. These combine to make the 767-2C what Boeing terms a “minor modification” model, which requires certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration. Certification is also a requirement from the US Air Force.
“This really kicks off the flight test program for the tanker program,” Ramey told us. “This will be used for validation and FAA certification.”
EMD 1 took off from Paine Field, Everett (WA), where the plane was assembled and after some flying, landed at Boeing Field in Seattle.
The developmental test program for all four EMD aircraft continues through mid-2016, when the first KC-46As will be delivered to the USAF. Eighteen tankers are supposed to be delivered to the Air Force through 2017. Testing and training by the Air Force follows before the tankers go into service. The Air Force is expected to order 179 KC-46As to replace Boeing KC-135s. A follow-on order of an undetermined is also expected in the coming years.