The Boeing and U.S. Air Force team successfully completed the first flight of a KC-46A tanker aircraft on September 25, taking off from Paine Field at 1:24 p.m. (PST) and landing four hours later at Boeing Field in Seattle. This was the first flight of a KC-46A tanker-configured aircraft, following ongoing flights of the program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C. 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/10,668 meter prior to landing.
«This first tanker flight is a key milestone for the program and we’ll now begin free air stability tests and flight controls of the boom and Wing Aerial Refueling Pods (WARPs) before conducting aerial refueling tests where the KC-46 will make contact with other military aircraft down the road», said Colonel Christopher Coombs, U.S. Air Force KC-46 Pegasus System program manager.
«Today’s flight reinforces that we are moving in the right direction and are on track to begin planned Milestone C testing later this year», said Tim Peters, Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker vice president and program manager. «This is an aerospace industry first and the culmination of a lot of hard work by the team, including Boeing, our suppliers and the U.S. Air Force».
The Boeing team now will conduct a post-flight inspection and calibrate instrumentation prior to the next series of flights, during which the tanker boom and WARPs systems will be deployed. Before the end of the year, the KC-46 Pegasus will begin conducting aerial refueling flights with a number of U.S. Air Force aircraft. Those flights, along with the mission systems demonstrations and a recently completed ground cargo-handling test, will support the planned Milestone C decision in 2016.
As part of a contract awarded in 2011 to design and develop the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation tanker aircraft, Boeing is building four test aircraft – two are currently configured as 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The KC-46s will fly as fully equipped tankers through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and military certification process, while the 767-2Cs enter flight test prior to receiving their upgrade to the KC-46A Pegasus configuration and the addition of their aerial refueling systems.
The program’s first test aircraft (EMD-1), a 767-2C, has completed more than 150 flight test hours to date since making its first flight in December 2014.
The KC-46A is a multirole tanker Boeing is building for the U.S. Air Force that can refuel all allied and coalition military aircraft compatible with international aerial refueling procedures and can carry passengers, cargo and patients. Overall, Boeing plans to build 179 KC-46 Pegasus aircraft for the U.S. Air Force.
|Primary Function||Aerial refueling and airlift|
|Prime Contractor||The Boeing Company|
|Power Plant||2 × Pratt & Whitney 4062|
|Thrust||62,000 lbs/275.790 kN/28,123 kgf – Thrust per High-Bypass engine (sea-level standard day)|
|Wingspan||157 feet, 8 inches/48.1 m|
|Length||165 feet, 6 inches/50.5 m|
|Height||52 feet, 10 inches/15.9 m|
|Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW)||415,000 lbs/188,240 kg|
|Maximum Landing Weight||310,000 lbs/140,614 kg|
|Fuel Capacity||212,299 lbs/96,297 kg|
|Maximum Transfer Fuel Load||207,672 lbs/94,198 kg|
|Maximum Cargo Capacity||65,000 lbs/29,484 kg|
|Maximum Airspeed||360 KCAS (Knots Calibrated AirSpeed)/0.86 M/414 mph/667 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||43,100 feet/13,137 m|
|Maximum Distance||7,299 NM/8,400 miles/13,518 km|
|Pallet Positions||18 pallet positions|
|Air Crew||15 permanent seats for aircrew, including aeromedical evacuation aircrew|
|Passengers||58 total (normal operations); up to 114 total (contingency operations)|
|Aeromedical Evacuation||58 patients (24 litters/34 ambulatory) with the AE Patient Support Pallet configuration; 6 integral litters carried as part of normal aircraft configuration equipment|
The thrill has since passed since the first KC-46 Pegasus prototype departed Paine Field nearly a year ago. Now the first fully militarized KC-46A Pegasus, which will be conducting aerial refueling test with F-16,’s over the Puget Sound departs on its first test flight on September 25, 2015