officials say they plan to emulate the certification process used for its commercial aircraft as much as possible to speed acceptance of the refueling tanker being designed for the U.S. Air Force.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the Air Force’s KC-46A program executive officer, and auditors at the U.S.(GAO) have noted concern over the pace of certification and testing work required to meet the contractual delivery date of 18 aircraft in 2017. GAO officials note that 50 testing and certification flight hours per aircraft per month are needed to meet the schedule.
Bogdan says the question is: “Can they transfer some efficiency to military testing” from the commercial side.
Boeing says it has proposed relying heavily on the use of its flight test facilities for the certification process, bypassing the often bureaucratic process of getting access to military airfields where possible. “By operating primarily from contractor facilities, we are confident we will be able to conduct flight test of the aircraft at closer to historical Boeing Commercial flight test rates,” says Jerry Drelling, a Boeing spokesman.
He adds that the schedule includes five months of margin and “provides an adequate amount of time to address any concerns that may arise during testing.”
The company also is responding to worries that its decision to close its Wichita facility could disrupt the KC-46A development process.
“The fact that they chose to close Wichita was not part of the original plan. And so – quite frankly — we are going to hold them accountable to make sure that the risks don’t manifest themselves,” Bogdan says.
At issue are shifting three key work areas from Wichita to Washington state: the boom assembly, the finishing center (where military modifications are handled) and the supplemental type certification.
Boeing says that the boom assembly work will be transferred to Puget Sound, Wash., by October, with the finishing center work to follow by the end of 2013. “Any risk associated with the move would be mitigated by early next summer, at the latest,” Drelling says.
The Air Force estimates the KC-46A program will cost $51.7 billion, including development and procurement of 179 refuelers.