A new chapter in Boeing’s long history as the world’s leader in military air refueling is being written at the Everett, Wash., 767 factory, where the first of four KC-46 Engineering and Manufacturing Design (EMD) test aircraft for the U.S. Air Force is in the final stages of production.
As KC-46 and 767 program employees gathered recently to commemorate completion of several major assembly milestones, they received congratulations from their customer: the U.S. Air Force.
"This airplane is the future for us. And you are giving it birth," Gen. Mark Welsh III, the Air Force chief of staff, said to several hundred employees. "I would like to thank you for your talent, for your commitment and for your sacrifice getting it to this point. You guys rock, you just rock."
Boeing is extending a tanker legacy that started more than eight decades ago, when the first aerial refueler took flight.
"That was in 1929, and in 2014, we are in front of the sixth-generation tanker," said Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the Air Force program executive officer for tankers.
A derivative of the 767, the EMD test aircraft will be delivered to Boeing Defense, Space & Security’s finishing center in Seattle, where they will be completed as KC-46A tankers.
Maureen Dougherty, Boeing Defense, Space & Security vice president and KC-46 tanker program manager, said, "This team has come together and delivered on every single contractual milestone to date on or ahead of schedule."
“Working together as 'One Boeing' is just as critical now as the team prepares for more program milestones, including the first flight scheduled to take place later this year," she added.
The first flight of an EMD test aircraft without its aerial refueling systems is scheduled to take place at mid-year, followed by the first flight of a complete KC-46A tanker in early 2015. The first delivery of a production aircraft to the Air Force is planned for early 2016. Boeing expects to build 179 tankers by 2027 if all options under the contract with the Air Force are exercised.