Aviation history was made this past Friday, 25 September 2015, and U.S. Air Force officials were on hand in droves to witness the maiden flight of their new Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker.
While the Pegasus test bed flew last December and has subsequently accumulated 150 hours of flight test thus far, this was the first flight of a newly-manufactured KC-46A.
With aircrew led by Chief Test Pilot Ronald Johnston, the aircraft took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington and conducted a four-hour mission before recovering at Boeing Field in Seattle. During the flight, the crew conducted operational checks of the aircraft’s engines, flight controls, and environmental systems, all while reaching a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet.
“The KC-46A will provide critical refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities to the warfighter,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James.
Once a post-flight inspection is conducted, the aircraft will have its instrumentation re-calibrated and prepared for the next series of test sorties. The goal for those flights is to actually deploy the refueling boom and the wing aerial refueling pods to make sure those systems work as designed. According to Boeing officials, there are planned aerial refueling flights with a number of U.S. Air Force platforms.
Part of the excitement surrounding the Pegasus is the fact it is a “multi-role” aircraft. That designation comes because of the KC-46’s ability to conduct simultaneous boom and probe-and-drogue refueling with a variety of U.S. and allied platforms, supporting humanitarian operations, transporting cargo, and hauling passengers.
The U.S. Air Force is expected to received 179 of the new tankers, a much-needed shot in the arm for an aging aerial fueling fleet composed of Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender aircraft. As we’ve referred to before, the Air Force Reserved Command also has a list of potential bases for the new jet.
(Featured Photo courtesy of Boeing)