Everett Boeing workers begin to build tanker

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. began production Wednesday of the first U.S. Air Force KC-46A tanker, loading the aircraft’s wing spar into a jig at the Paine Field factory.

The step comes just weeks before Air Force officials are expected to sign off on the tanker’s final design, the next major milestone as Boeing gears up to deliver the first KC-46A aerial-refueling tanker in 2016.

“The Air Force is really excited and pleased that our No. 1 modernization priority has begun fabrication and entered the factory at Everett,” Maj. Gen. John Thompson, U.S. Air Force program executive officer for tankers, said in a statement.

Over the next 14 years, Boeing is to deliver 179 tankers to the Air Force, having won the contract in 2011. The KC-46 is based on the commercial 767-200 Extended Range jet, also assembled in Everett.

On Wednesday, Boeing workers slid the wing spar, the main structural component of the wing, into a jig on the 767 production line. The spar is 82 feet, 5 inches long. Company employees also are preparing the line for assembly of the KC-46 tanker’s aft and forward body structures.

Boeing plans to roll this first KC-46 out of the factory in January. Employees at Boeing Field will install military systems on the aircraft next June, with the first flight of the completed airplane set for early 2015.

“We’re proud to support the U.S. Air Force with a production line that emphasizes quality, efficiency and safety,” Scott Campbell, general manager of the 767 Program, said in a statement.

Boeing will provide 18 tankers to the Air Force by 2017 under a fixed-cost contract. The company would deliver 179 by 2027 if the Air Force exercises all options, a step that will largely be based on how well Boeing performs during the initial stage of the contract.

The Air Force sought for nearly a decade, beginning in 2001, to replace its fleet of KC-135 tankers, which are 50 years old on average. Boeing beat out EADS, the European parent of Airbus, in 2011 for the contract, which is worth as much as $35 billion.

An Airbus executive recently suggested Boeing is struggling with weight problems with the tanker, an issue that could give EADS another chance at supplying the Air Force with tankers. Boeing said the tanker remains on track.

For Boeing, the tanker contract means decades of work, keeping alive an ailing 767 line. The commercial 767 had just 59 orders remaining in May.

The tanker contract also positions Boeing for additional sales internationally. The company anticipates selling 100 to 200 tankers outside the U.S, a Boeing executive told Reuters earlier this month.

More in Herald Business Journal

Amazon lists 20 finalists for HQ2, and no, we aren’t on it

Los Angeles was the only West Coast city listed. They seem to like the nation’s capital.

Exotic animals find compassionate care in Bothell (video)

At the Center for Bird and Exotic Animal Medicine, vets treat snakes, hedgehogs and even kangaroos.

Don’t take economic forecasts to the bank — or the casino

Air travel delays could spur a rebirth of passenger rail service.

Emirates orders 20 more Airbus A380 jumbos, saving program

The Dubai carrier also has options to buy 16 more. The program seems safe until 2029.

How do you retrieve an errant Boeing 737 from a muddy slope?

Turkish authorities used cranes to lift a plane that skidded off a runway.

Amanda Strong (left) tries on an Angel of the Winds Arena hat as she and Courtney Brown hand out gift bags after the renaming ceremony Dec. 13 in Everett. The new name replaces the Xfinity name. (Andy Bronson / Her file)
Angel of the Winds to break ground on $60M casino expansion

“We think we’re on the cusp of becoming a major resort.”

House passes bill aimed at lowering gender wage gap

The bill would hinder employers from retaliating against female workers who ask about others’ pay.

Planemaker joins forces with auto-industry supplier Adient

The new venture poses a threat to Zodiac Aerospace and Rockwell Collins

In this Dec. 20, 2017, photo, a clerk reaches to a shelf to pick an item for a customer order at the Amazon Prime warehouse, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon’s potential HQ2 sites leaves many cities disappointed

Associated Press Amazon’s move to whittle its list for a second headquarters… Continue reading

Most Read