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Final Boeing KC-46 Aircraft Completes Its First Test Flight

A 727-2C, part of the Boeing KC-46 test fleet, taking off for its first test flight
A Boeing 727-2C taking off for its first test flight

Another Successful Test Flight For the Boeing KC-46 Program

After landing a contract in February 2011 to develop the United States Air Force’s next generation tanker, Boeing had their first test flight for the final addition to the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus test fleet. The flight took place yesterday, April 25th, and the aircraft (a 767-2C “provisioned freighter” without the aerial refueling system installed) flew for 100 minutes, reaching a maximum altitude of 39,000 feet before safely landing at Boeing Field, south of Seattle.

Boeing built four test aircraft, two configured as  KC-46 tankers and two configured as 767-2Cs, though the two 767-2Cs will eventually become KC-46 tankers. This fourth test aircraft, known as EMD-3, is being used for both environmental control system testing, including both hot and cold day tests, and smoke penetration testing.

In a report to Congress earlier this month, the GAO (Government Accountability Office) expressed concern that Boeing faces a challenging road ahead to meet the August 2017 deadline to complete development, testing and delivery of 18 production tankers to the Air Force . Boeing has said that they will have no problem meeting the deadline, but that flight testing may continue through May of 2017 alongside production deliveries.

According to Boeing, EMD-1 (a 767-2C provisioned freighter), the first aircraft in the Boeing KC-46 fleet, began test flights on December 28, 2014, and has since logged 315 flight hours. EMD-2, the first a full KC-46A tanker, hit the skies on September 25, 2015 and has since logged 240 flight hours, including time refueling other aircraft. And EMD-4, the other full tanker, started flying March 2nd of this year and has since recorded 25 flight hours.

With countless hours of flight testing and development still to come, it appears Boeing has their work cut out for them. All told, Boeing plans on building and delivering 179 of these aircraft to the US Airforce.

Featured Image: Tim Stake, Boeing photo


Anders Clark was introduced to aviation a few short years ago, and has developed an interest in aviation history and what the future of aviation will bring. A writer and editor, Anders enjoys researching and sharing the stories of aviation.