Boeing KC-46A first flight

Sept. 30, 2015: Boeing Friday launched the first flight of the USAF KC-46A aerial refueling tanker. The event was seven months late and all the program margin has been eaten up by the delays, but this was a milestone nonetheless.

The flight continued for four hours.

An additional video may be found here. Boeing’s press release is here. Boeing’s video with narration and test pilot reaction is here.

24 Comments on “Boeing KC-46A first flight

    • Who cares? Can’t we ever stop with the A vs B nonsense? This is an AMERICAN company, which made AMERICAN planes for the AMERICAN military. Why bring up a FRENCH/GERMAN/SPANISH/U.K. aircraft made for the AUSTRALIAN military?

      • Right!
        I think the same!
        Why should Italy/Holland/Norway/Denmark and many other contries even think about buing American F-35’s, they should only buy the best European crap they can find.

        Makes everything MUCH easier!

      • No B vs A at all, we should just keep in mind that there is (and should be) also an other capable company. So each side will have to do their best and stay honest. All operators will benefit from that competition.

        • Still not a good answer as to why you put up a video/article on the KC-30. Not relevant at all to the KC-46A first flight. IOW, nonsensical and trying to start an Airbus/Boeing slapfight.

          Shall we post vids/articles about the F-35, F-16, F-18, Gripen, or Rafale whenever the Eurofighter does something? Just to show that (your words) “there is (and should be) also an other capable company. So each side will have to do their best and stay honest. All operators will benefit from that competition.” ??

          Perhaps when a KC-30 article is posted, someone can post a video showing the HISTORY of KC-135 and KC-10 tankers refueling everything for the last 60 years, just to remind people that Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas had “been there, done that….in combat, no less”?

      • These are all NATO nations/aircraft. I think it is sad that billions of taxpayers hard earned money is wasted designing and developing two quite similar tankers. There are many threats against the western world and our freedom. Why don’t unite our capabilities and strengths and use the resources where they are actually needed?

        The best thing is that all NATO members contributes. The KC-30 was designed in Europe, mostly using American made components and of course American made engines. The KC-30 was even going to be manufactured in Alabama, but I recon even that wasn’t enough for common sense to prevail.

        • “The best thing is that all NATO members contributes. ”

          Yeah all nations contribute but it’s hardly an equitable affair. The US contribution dwarfs everyone else’s, be it combat or logistics.
          In this case the US will be purchasing 179 tankers compared to just over 40 for the rest of NATO. Why should the US buy a less than ideal craft for their needs?
          Considering the vastly unequal nature of the partnership it should be the European countries buying the 46, not the other way around if commonality is such a concern.

  1. Well, seems that it will be done. Perhaps with some delays, but finally it will be there.
    Hope that it could be safe. At the end of the day, Boeing will make a big profit ith this program. But on the long run…

    • Good looking plane (the 767 was always a good looking bird) but especially in that battleship grey scheme.

      We’ll see if Boeing can step on their own cranks again with another delay or miscue. Perhaps they can take the company who mislabelled a product to the woodshed….

  2. Will see about profits in the long run, what is needed in the short run execution of the program.

    I will note that the C17 was a very troubled program and at the time I thought it should be cancelled (which I do not for the 767). the got through it finally and its proven to be a fine product. In the long run canceling it would have been a mistake, probably never gotten another program even off the ground.

    And repeating myself, a tanker is not cutting edge technology, its just day in day out engineering. Not easy but certainly not a stealth fighter or bomber.

    Screwing up the wiring is just plain sad. Oh, we need engines too?

    Once the bugs are worked out and there will be some, it will do fine.

    Mostly it says what a sad state of affairs there is at Boeing. All those years of tanker experience they talked about was nonsense, anyone that did the KC135 is retired. The more recent 767 experience should have been relevant but I they probably moved the job, cancelled the positions and got rid of that skill set.

    the only experience was in the minds of the executives and they aren’t the ones that make things work.

  3. Curious – Does the tanker have or use thrust reversers? And was looking for a refueling port marking above cockpit- but view was not that good. I assume thats where it would be ?

    • No thrust reversers, it would seem a good idea over the lifetime but they do without. Less maint but more wear and tear on brakes but they don’t fly that much so….

  4. Hopefully things will smooth out from now on & the USAF gets the badly needed efficient tanker transport. Every puts the dramatic procurement drama behind them. Somehow Boeing will make a profit, congress will make sure the boys defending everything out there get the right stuff.

  5. Listen up, Everyone: It’s time to dial it all back on the Airbus-Boeing stuff.


    • Scott:

      I hope this is ok, its meant as a joke but I just came up with it

      If its not Boeing then the fuels not flowing

      • No comments? Darn, I thought it was quite witty. Yes its a takeoff from Boeing passenger aircraft but still not bad.

        Ok, I will go back to working on my air compressor.

  6. Pretty good for a 40 year old aircraft that will be in the air for another 40 years.

    I’m happy when aircraft meet program milestones, late or not. So congratulations to Boeing and the USAF.

    • Whats 40 years old about it. Its brand new . Its the planes that are being replaced that are over 50 years old, thats the difference. Its like the Fedex order for 50 of those ’40 year old aircraft’, things like freight or fuel dont care about when the design had its first flight.
      The operations profiles are different from your passenger jets, and where resale value plays a big part. ( or even many LCC operators have a ‘5-7 year itch’) When the USAF is done with its KC46s they are either to the boneyard or the scrap heap. And with an average annual flying hours of under 400, hourly running costs arent a primary concern

      • The average 400 flying hours is only for KC-135 and not for KC-10. The KC-10 replacement is far more eminent due to the far higher utilisation of this type.

        That was also the reason for the KC-X to be more a cargo or troop carrier in order to get far more hours per year.

        With few flying hours fuel consume is secondary against upfront price.

        Spare parts might be a huge factor for the KC-46/767-2C. There are no other 2C operators

        • I believe there will be some other 2C operators in the future. After all, that’s where Boeing was thinking of making some profit, even if it has to be as a freighter type of the 2C.

          • I can see no advantages a 767-200 based aircraft could offer against the current 767-300F.

  7. I think the parts problem will be taken care of in two ways.

    1. 787 type cockpit is being installed in the 2C. Ergo all those parts will be current, granted not the bulk of the aircraft parts but important ones.

    2. FedEx will have a fleet of 100 which means enough use that mfgs will continue to make those parts (and a lot of other 767s will continue to fly)

    3. If they can keep the KC135 going when its been out of production for so long they have strategies to deal with it.

    How useful the extra cargo capacity of an MRT330 would be is an open question.

    Essentially th3 AF asked congress to replace the KC135, they then got big eyes and wanted the bigger aircraft. If they wanted the bigger aircraft all along then they should have asked for it. Biggest issue with military procurement is that constant missions creep and then you have a huge cost overrun. Congress is tired of it.

    If anyone thinks the AF is not rife with that sort of thing look at the F-22 that cannot communicate with other fighters. What is supposed to be a force multiplier was never deigned to have common with excising aircraft?
    That’s plain stupid and the AF is capable of great stupidity sadly.

    I have yet to see studies that say they could effectively use it based on how the US fuelers work and are based around the world (i.e. it can fuel in Alaska if its in Africa delivery cargo)

    If the KC10 is used more its because its not based in far off spots and small enough fleet that its not missed if that’s actually true. Its also a fuel hungry maint intensive aircraft which is why FedEx is dumping theirs. Probably cheaper to haul cargo with the CRF.

    And lastly all those reti3d KC135s will be snapped up by other countries that want a tankers but can’t afford the expensive iron (only to be sold to those in line with US policy)..

    It will be interesting to see how that goes.

    • You need to compare the KC-10 against the other USAF asset to haul cargo the C-17. The K-10 burns less fuel and costs less per flying hour.

      No one will use retired KC-135. Foe me The decission of South Korea and Singapore was based on one factor:
      – both national carriers operate the A330.
      So both already have spare parts and trained pilots. Where are the pilots and spare parts for a KC-135?

  8. Once again the interesting question to me isn’t what was done let alone what should have happened or why, but what may or should happen next. Tanker and transport programs will be a big USAF issue over the next ten years due to incredible utilizations over the past ten and the drawn out acquisition process for kcx and curtailment of c17 buys. Yes, these needs will unglamourously compete vs. lrsb and jsf/f22/f15 modernization/supplemental buy needs. Textrons scorpion program may or may not show lead contractors how to make a product and develop a requirement/spec if it is affordable moving forward.

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