The US Air Force (USAF) has reportedly rejected the delivery of the new Boeing KC-46 tanker and refuelling aircraft for the second time in a month, after foreign object debris was found in some compartments.
At a House Armed Services Committee hearing, secretary Heather Wilson told lawmakers that the service stopped accepting deliveries after USAF inspectors found debris left behind by Boeing workers inside the aircraft.
Boeing delivered the first two KC-46 tankers to the USAF in January behind schedule. The company was originally supposed to deliver the aircraft at least two years ago.
The company is ramping up inspections in the wake of the latest incident.
A Boeing spokesperson told Air Force Technology: “Resolving this issue is a company and programme priority — Boeing is committed to delivering foreign object damage (FOD)-free aircraft to the Air Force. Although we’ve made improvements to date, we can do better.
“We are currently conducting additional company and customer inspections of the jets and have implemented preventative action plans. We have also incorporated additional training, more rigorous clean-as-you-go practices and FOD awareness days across the company to stress the importance and urgency of this issue. Safety and quality are our highest priority.”
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USAF spokesperson Ann Stefanek told Bloomberg that the service made the decision to stop the acceptance of the KC-46 tankers on 23 March.
In February, deliveries were halted after the USAF highlighted the same issue.
The USAF previousl resumed acceptance of the tankers after Boeing made some improvements to the inspection process.
Wilson appeared before the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee and stated that the matter pertains to a ‘manufacturing discipline’ issue on the assembly line.
USAF spokesperson captain Hope Cronin was quoted by Reuters as saying: “Our inspectors identified additional foreign object debris and areas where Boeing did not meet quality standards.”
The USAF plans to procure a total of 179 KC-46s. In September last year, Boeing received a $2.9bn contract to supply 18 KC-46A tanker aircraft, spares, support equipment, spare engines and wing air refuelling pod kits. This was the fourth production lot.