Boeing and the U.S. Air Force celebrated aviation history and a much anticipated milestone September 25th when the KC-46A Pegasus Tanker aircraft took off on its inaugural flight from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Test pilots conducted a four-hour flight, during which they performed a series of system checks before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle.
Ronald Johnston, Boeing Test & Evaluation chief test pilot for the KC-46, said the airplane performed flawlessly. During the flight, Johnston and the flight conducted an operational checkout of engines, flight controls and environmental systems and took the tanker to a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet (56,327 kilometers) before landing.
Boeing will conduct a post-flight inspection and calibrate instrumentation before the next series of flights, during which the tanker boom and wing aerial refueling pod systems will be deployed. Before the end of the year, plans call for the KC-46 to conduct aerial refueling flights with a number of U.S. Air Force aircraft. Those flights, along with a recently completed ground cargo-handling test, will support the planned Milestone C decision in 2016.
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. It also can carry passengers, cargo and patients. Overall, Boeing plans to build 179 KC-46 aircraft for the Air Force.