Aviation

McConnell won’t be getting its first KC-46 tanker this month

McConnell stands ready to accept the KC-46A Pegasus

McConnell Air Force Base held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, 2017, to signify completing the preparation for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus.
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McConnell Air Force Base held a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, 2017, to signify completing the preparation for the arrival of the KC-46A Pegasus.

Boeing Co. won’t deliver its first KC-46 aerial refueling tanker by month’s end as it had agreed, according to U.S. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, the latest in a procession of missed deadlines since the company won the contract in 2011.

Air Force officials met with the planemaker Wednesday “to try to lay down the path forward for delivery and to make sure the deficiencies that have been identified are taken care of in a way that brings that aircraft in as promised,” Wilson told editors and reporters in a roundtable at Bloomberg headquarters in New York.

The first tanker is expected be delivered to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.

The Air Force and Boeing had anticipated delivery October 27 of the first of the tankers, supposedly settling a disagreement over timing for the much-delayed $44.3 billion program. That first of 179 tankers was originally supposed to be delivered in April to June of 2016.

While the tanker still has unresolved deficiencies with its system for midair refueling, the latest delivery date “slippage really was directly attributable” to the need to wait for certification by the Federal Aviation Administration in September that the aircraft’s refueling and mission avionics system met agency standards, Wilson said. It was “a little later than they expected,” she said of Boeing.

“I’m not angry about it,” Wilson said of the latest delay. “We have some deficiencies that we are working through with Boeing to make sure those are corrected” and that the aircraft “we get flies, tanks, defends itself and does what it’s supposed to do.”

Boeing said in a Sept. 4 press release that the FAA certification was “one of the last major hurdles in advance of first delivery.”

Todd Blecher, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said in a statement that Wednesday’s meeting “is part of our productive dialogue with the Air Force and will help lead us to delivering this essential new air refueling capability during the fourth quarter.”

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