Feature Story

Tanker production takes off

C-46A Tanker production workers standby to load the wing spar as it's lowered into position

Boeing

KC-46A Tanker production workers standby to load the wing spar as it's lowered into position.

Pride is in the air in Everett, Wa., where Boeing's new aerial refueling KC-46A Tanker officially began production June 26, with the loading of the first wing spar. That was followed a month later with the assembly of the first forward fuselage and cockpit at Spirit AeroSystems July 26 in Wichita, Kan.

The 82-foot long wing spar is the main structural component of the wing, providing critical support. An Automated Spar Assembly Tool, or ASAT machine is what helps assemble the wing spar.

The newest ASAT machine, the ASAT 6, comes 25 years after the first generation of the ASAT machine, and packs quite a few improvements. The ASAT 6 drills, rivets and bolts faster than previous versions, while also picking up 90 percent of debris.

Arthur Peterson, a Boeing electronics technician for more than 30 years, says the ASAT 6 is a great machine to work on. “I’ve seen a lot of machines come and go. This is a marvelous piece of technology.”

The ASAT 6 drills, rivets and bolts as it moves along the wing spar

Boeing

The ASAT 6 drills, rivets and bolts as it moves along the wing spar.

With the help of the ASAT 6, Boeing is on track to deliver 18 KC-46A Tankers to the U.S. Air Force by 2017, and those working on the KC-46 Tanker program couldn’t be more excited.

“People are extremely excited about building the first new era of aerial refueling aircraft for the United States Air Force. They are extremely proud,” said Scott Campbell, 767 Program Vice President and General Manager.

Boeing’s KC-46 Tanker program and the U.S. Air Force recently conducted the program’s critical design review, which, once finalized by the U.S. Air Force, will signal the beginning of the manufacturing phase.