KC-46 First Flight Faces Potential Delay

The KC-46 tanker program is “clicking well” as it enters its flight test program this year, the Air Force’s program manager told an industry conference in Washington, D.C., March 17, but “a lot of discovery can occur” when a program begins flying. Brig. Gen. Duke Richardson, the program executive officer for all USAF tanker programs, said the Air Force is still under a lot of schedule pressure to delivery 18 “ready for war” KC-46A aircraft by August 2017. “We’re not stumbling across things we’re not solving,” Richardson said, but testers are taking longer to solve problems so the program’s six months of schedule margin is all but gone. “We’ve eaten that all up now,” he said, adding the program is trying to put more schedule margin back in. Richardson said he wants to soften the planned first flight date in April, saying he prefers to say it will occur in the “second quarter” of 2015. He wants to make sure the first engineering, manufacturing, and development airframe, EMD-1, undergoes a successful “flutter test” and calibrate controls before the first KC-46A flight so he knows it can collect good data and information. Richardson said he’s looking for a “safe airplane, not the perfect airplane,” he said.