The U.S. Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus tanker completed its historic first flight on Sept. 25. That paves the way for additional testing, including aerial refueling, and to Boeing providing the Air Force with the first of the next-generation aircraft in 2016.
During the four-hour flight in the skies above Washington state, Boeing test pilots checked the engines, flight controls and environmental systems. During future flights the test team will deploy the aircraft’s refueling boom and wing aerial refueling pods before actually providing fuel in flight to Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.
The KC-46A, derived from Boeing’s 767 commercial airplane, is a multi-role tanker that will refuel U.S. and allied and coalition military aircraft along with being able to carry passengers, cargo and patients.
Boeing is building four test aircraft – two 767-2Cs and two KC-46A tankers. The 767-2Cs enter flight test as commercial freighters prior to receiving aerial refueling systems, while the KC-46As are fully-equipped tankers. The different configurations are used to meet FAA and military certification requirements. The program’s first test aircraft, a 767-2C, has completed more than 170 flight hours since its inaugural flight in December.
The KC-46A’s first flight coincided with another historic Air Force event. On Sept. 25, 1947, President Harry Truman appointed Gen. Carl Spaatz chief of staff of the new United States Air Force. Coincidentally, when he was a major in 1929, Spaatz commanded the historic aerial refueling demonstration, code name "Question Mark", involving a Fokker C-2 and two Douglas C-1 aircraft.
Check out this video of the U.S. Air Force’s new tanker on its first flight: