Air Platforms

US Air Force resumes KC-46A acceptance

13 March 2019

The US Air Force resumed accepting KC-46A deliveries on 11 March after an 11-day pause owing to foreign object debris concerns. Source: IHS Markit/Pat Host

Key Points

  • The US Air Force resumed accepting KC-46A aircraft after a brief pause owing to foreign object debris issues
  • A key USAF official said close inspections of Boeing processes could continue for at least another year

The US Air Force (USAF) on 11 March resumed accepting deliveries of the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling tanker after an 11-day pause owing to foreign object debris (FOD) concerns.

Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics (AT&L) said on 13 March that he made a visit to Boeing's Everett, Washington, KC-46A production facility with Air Mobility Command (AMC) chief General Maryanne Miller on 11 March to deal with two things: verify Boeing's new process for containing FOD on aircraft being produced and determine the root cause.

Roper said he is satisfied with Boeing's new strategy for containing FOD as the company is sweeping aircraft multiple times and that the company's rigour is at a satisfactory level. Although he added that sweeping an aircraft three, four, or five times is not a usual way of making aircraft, it makes him confident the KC-46As coming off the line will be acceptable to the USAF.

"There's no excuse to have FOD. It's having processes, which Boeing has," Roper said at the McAleese and Associates conference. "Their processes are up to snuff, it's following them."

The USAF put many stipulations on Boeing, including allowing the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) broader inspections, looking at things before they are sealed up, and tracking all FOD inspections over time to ensure issues are detected earlier on the line. Roper predicted the USAF would continue this close inspection for at least a year, maybe more, until the FOD culture and process discipline improve. He did not comment further on determining the root cause of the FOD issues.

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