Giving your wings a lift in the "Aviation Renaissance".
Monday, December 15, 2014
The 767 KC-46 Tanker Is Rushing To The Christmas Tree
Okay, its the tanker under the tree official Christmas Report. Straight from the "Island of Misfits" $1.5 Billion
Boeing Dollars later it supposed to fly out of the hole it dug.
"Music interlude with Carolers"
·Re-wired bundles of Joy, re-wired bundles
·Black Friday Black Electrical Tape
Blow-out the bundle Sale
·Four Frames Awaiting
·Two Frames without stuffing
·One getting Ready to fly
·Five Golden Radar Arrays
interview revealed several more points. Panic in the Boeing Elf shop as team members
run to and frow with magnify glasses, tweezers and screw drivers driver in
shop steward yells through the Bull-horn, ”Everybody, don’t run with screw
driver in hand, walk!”
the Wall a big, big, clock ticks off the days. Right now it’s on twelve whole
days from first flight or December 27, 2014. “Don’t install the toilet seat, we
only have 12 whole days. Leave the toilet paper out”, scream the engineers. The
Christmas pandemonium is my own happy Christmas thought as really, the Boeing
elves are working late and long, getting it right for flight. So what’s the
Boeing is working feverishly to get the 767-based platform for the Air Force’s new KC-46 refueling tanker into the air by year end, six months later than planned. Estimated costs have ballooned to $1.5 billion above the contract ceiling.
Boeing engineers and mechanics are scrambling to meet an already stretched-out schedule and get the 767-based platform for the Air Force’s new KC-46 refueling tanker into the air by year end, with an internal target date of Dec. 27.
That’s six months later than projected at the beginning of this year.
And the cost of the effort is mounting steeply for Boeing, which is responsible for cost overruns above a contract ceiling of $4.9 billion in this initial development phase.
The goverment’s latest projection for the cost of tanker development has ballooned to $1.5 billion above that contract ceiling, Brig. General Duke Richardson, who heads the Air Force tanker program, said Monday.
The Air Force’s previous estimate had been for a $1 billion overrun.
Richardson said in an interview that the new estimate is based on Boeing’s performance on the work completed thus far, and factors in manufacturing delays due to wiring issues this year as well as potential risks ahead, including possible surprises once flight tests begin.
Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey declined to comment on the Air Force’s cost figure. He said the tanker team is “aggressively working our plans to mitigate risk and lower costs.”
He noted that because it’s a fixed-price contract, “there won’t be any additional costs to the U.S. government.”
Two Boeing insiders with knowledge of the program said the tanker team in Everett is working feverishly to resolve remaining systems problems and is under orders to prep the first plane “with the minimum capability to make it fly.”
Richardson indicated the Air Force’s priorities are much the same.
“At this point we need Boeing to get Number One in the air,” he said.
The flight from Paine Field is the first public milestone for the program, which is set to earn Boeing $51 billion for delivering a total of 179 tankers to the Air Force.
The plane’s take-off will mark the beginning of flight tests that will eventually involve four test aircraft.
The first plane is not outfitted with the military systems that would make it a tanker, such as the air-to-air refueling boom.
It’s just the basic airplane platform, designated a 767-2C model. This is a modified commercial 767 with a 787-style cockpit, a strengthened airframe, four extra fuel tanks in the cargo bay, and the plumbing and wiring to support the tanker mission.
The runup to first flight hasn’t gone smoothly.
After the airframes for all four test aircraft were completed this year, Boeing had to repeatedly remove and reinstall complex wiring systems in the first airplane.
Richardson said the wiring had to be redesigned because the various redundant wire bundles that independently control critical systems were not sufficiently separated.
Once that was corrected, he said, Boeing had to further adjust the design so that the the wires would still physically fit into the various bends and crevices in the airframe.
The painstaking unwiring and then rewiring of the first airplane delayed this initial flight by months, and added an extra $425 million in unplanned expenses to the cost overrun that Boeing must swallow.
Because of the delays, Boeing has committed to submit a detailed revised schedule to the Air Force in February.
Even if the cost overrun is as high as the government forecasts, Boeing could potentially make up for the loss in the later stages of the program.
Boeing vice chairman and chief operating officer Dennis Muilenburg said earlier this month that the company anticipates follow-on orders from both the Air Force and from international customers such as South Korea.
He said Boeing expects to build in total “probably closer to 400 to 500 aircraft.”
Among the fairly routine issues being tackled this week is a problem in starting the engines using the Auxiliary Power Unit in the tail of the airplane.
A person with knowledge of the details said a fix is ready.
However, some lower priority matters that don’t affect the safety of flight will be left until later.
Richardson said that some 23 functional testswill be left undone until after first flight.
That’s because crucial parts of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification process cannot proceed until flight tests begin.
“Reducing the risk on the airworthiness certification paperwork is more important than finishing some of the jobs that could have been done,” said Richardson.
Despite the delays to first flight, Boeing continues to insist that it remains on track to fulfill its contract requirement of having 18 operational tankers built and ready to deploy by late 2017.
Richardson declared himself “pretty confident” that the 767-2C will fly by month-end.
The first airplane fully equipped as a KC-46 tanker will be the second airplane to roll off the line, which is scheduled to fly in April.
Richardson said that second plane has more wiring that the base airplane, and the wiring on airplane Number Two is now 78 percent complete.
He said he feels “very good” about the wiring fix on the first plane and that he’ll feel “really, really good” once the wiring on the second is completed.
Two of the four test planes will be baseline 767-2Cs that will focus on achieving FAA certification.
The other two will be fully equipped KC-46 tankers and will be used to test the military systems and to certify that the tanker is ready to refuel a variety of receiver airplanes.
The KC-46 design includes an advanced refueling boom that is hooked up to a jet fighter by an operator who sits at a station behind the cockpit.
Using a 3D video-display monitor, the boom operator remotely navigates the telescopic tip of this refueling tube toward the receiving fighter’s fuel receptacle.
Integration of the complex software systems that control this military hardware is a major challenge.
One potential risk ahead, according to Richardson, is the possibility of finding problems in controling the boom in flight once the KC-46 flight tests start.
Next summer, after the FAA completes initial flight test inspections, Boeing will have to demonstrate the ability to pass fuel in flight to a variety of fighter aircraft.
Only if that’s successful will the Pentagon in September give the go-ahead for Boeing to begin building the first production tankers.
At this stage, any further delays or unexpected problems could push that target date out.
“Most of the margin ... is gone” said Richardson.
To keep on track for 18 tankers ready to deploy in 2017, Boeing must hand over the first tanker for the Air Force to test and evaluate in the fall of 2016.
Yet despite the program glitches this year, Muilenburg said Boeing management is “feeling very good about where that program is at now.”
“We’ve got some of those technical issues behind us,” Muilenburg said in New York. “We’ll now focus on executing the flight test program under development, and then getting the program into production.”