Boeing’s ongoing woes over the development of the KC-46 tanker continues after dangerous debris found in several aircraft prompted a week-long grounding of training flights and a reprimand from Washington, local media reports.
The pause in flight operations of the new refueler aircraft was ordered by the US Air Force (USAF) last week, after the service found the tankers regularly contained tools that had been left behind or foreign object debris (FOD), such as scraps of metal, in several parts of the plane. This could cause damage to the tanker’s equipment over time or cut electrical wiring.
Flights only resumed on Thursday after the USAF and Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) slapped Boeing with 13 improvements to be implemented at its assembly line along with a warning that they may stop accepting aircraft if standards don’t improve.
In an internal memo dated February 21 and seen by the Seattle Times, Boeing warned employees that the issue of FOD was damaging the USAF’s “current confidence” in their product.
“This is a big deal,” the company stressed, adding it would require a team effort to show the USAF that the company is “the number one aircraft builder.”
Boeing’s poor quality control isn’t the first issue to plague the KC-46 program, which is already $3 billion over budget. The company is under pressure to redesign a sensor and camera system that allows the boom operator to connect the tanker to the aircraft it is refueling. If it’s unsuccessful, Washington has threatened to withhold $28 million per plane until the issue is remedied.
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