The US Air Force (USAF) has cleared two airmen to coordinate with Boeing on future flight testing activities of the KC-46A Pegasus aerial refuelling aircraft.
The Air Force Test Center team will now work with Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials to put the aircraft through a series of evaluations, which will ensure the aircraft meets performance requirements and achieves both FAA and military certification.
Under the ‘test once’ architecture, the aircraft will evaluate systems once for both certifications.
Air Force Life Cycle Management Center tankers programme executive officer brigadier general Duke Richardson said: "Our EMD test programme depends on an integrated effort between the Boeing and Air Force test teams.
"Strong teamwork has been a hallmark for this group, so I’m excited to see them execute flights as one joint crew."
KC-46 system programme manager colonel Christopher Coombs said: "These are exciting times because each flight progresses through its demonstration toward meeting the warfighter requirements."
Currently, Boeing has two aircraft, including one a 767-2C freighter and one a militarised KC-46A Pegasus tanker fully prepared to undergo flight tests.
The KC-46 will fly as a fully equipped tanker through both certification processes, while the 767-2C will enter trials prior to receiving an upgrade to the KC-46A configuration and the addition of aerial refueling systems.
Boeing received a contract in February 2011 to supply 179 KC-46A refueling tankers to the air force.
Developed from the Boeing 767-200ER, the KC-46 is a military aerial refuelling and strategic transport aircraft, designed to replace the USAF’s ageing fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, which served as its primary refuelling aircraft for more than 50 years.
The KC-46A tanker completed its first test flight in September, and will start conducting aerial refueling flights with a number of USAF aircraft before the end of the year.
The trials, along with the mission systems demonstrations and a recently completed ground cargo handling test, are expected to support the planned Milestone C decision in 2016.
Image: USAF captain Julio Alvarez and lieutenant colonel James Quashnock stand in front of the 767-2C freighter that first flew to Boeing Field in late 2014. Photo: courtesy photo.