First flight ‘real’ KC-46 Pegasus

In reality the KC-46A has yet to fly, we reported on 28 December 2014 as a Boeing 767-200 destined to become the very first KC-46, took off from Boeing Field. That reality came true on Friday 25 September 2015, as the first fully configured KC-46A Pegasus lifted off from Boeing Field near Seattle.

The flight in December marked the first flight of the Boeing 767-200 that was to become the KC-46. The aircraft back then was missing its air-to-air (AAR) refueling boom, plus other equipment needed for AAR. Since, the missing stuff was added to the aircraft, the first of nearly 180 KC-46s destined to replace large numbers of Boeing KC-135 tankers in the US Air Force and Air National Guard.

A T-38 Talon and F-16 supported today’s flight, which lasted four hours.  During the flight, Boeing test pilots performed operational checks on engines, flight controls and environmental systems and took the tanker to a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet prior to landing.

Followig flight will involve testing of the AAR boom and wing aerial refueling pods (WARPs). Before the end of the year, the KC-46 will begin conducting aerial refueling flights with a number of US Air Force aircraft.

Troubled The KC-46 program has a troubled history, however. If the US wasn’t overly protective of its own economy, the KC-135 would already be retired to the Arizona desert, with Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft taking their place. Initially, in 2003 Boeing indeed won the bid for the KC-X program, but fraud was involved and prison sentences were given to those involved. The contract was cancelled, and a new bid opened. In February 2008, the Pentagon awarded the contract to Northrop Grumman and Airbus Defense & Space, who had entered the A330 MRTT – aka KC-45 – together. Following a Boeing protest, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the selection and in the end recommended a new bid. In February 2011, Boeing finally had its way and was awarded the KC-X contract. Meanwhile, the A330 MRTT has been providing useful service with several air forces worldwide, such as the Royal Air Force – as found during an exclusive visit. © 2015 editor Elmer van Hest Featured image (top): The Boeing KC-46 inflight. (Image © Boeing)