Boeing’s new aerial refueling tanker program is back in the air.
The program’s first test plane, EMD1, flew for 4.5 hours Thursday out of Boeing Field International in Seattle.
Prior to that, the airplane had flown only once — on Dec. 28.
After today’s flight, Boeing plans to attach a refueling boom to EMD1 to do functionality, stability and other tests, Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey said.
EMD1 is an interim model, a 767-2C, and not the final version, the KC-46A Pegasus, which will be delivered to the U.S. Air Force.
Boeing is doing ground testing on the second test aircraft. That plane, called EMD2, will be the first finished KC-46 airplane.
That first KC-46 tanker is slated to take its first flight sometime this summer, but Boeing isn’t giving any more details than that.
Design and production issues have delayed the program’s test flight schedule by more than six months. Boeing says it can still do all necessary tests and still meet its contract deadline to deliver 18 combat-ready tankers to the Air Force by August 2017. Those planes will include the program’s four test planes. EMD3 and EMD4 are still in production.
Boeing has fixed more than one third of the software problems, Ramey said. “We have a plan in place to address those issues.”
The aerospace giant has a design and development contract with the Air Force to deliver the initial batch of 18 aircraft. The Air Force has to make a decision this fall on whether to commence full production. In all, the Pentagon is expected to order 179 tankers as the first phase in overhauling its aging aerial refueling tanker fleet.
South Korea’s military is considering ordering a handful of tankers from either Boeing or Airbus. It could announce its decision in June, the Puget Sound Business Journal reported this week.
Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dcatchpole.