Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Boeing's KC-46 Tanker Testing On Target

Oklahoma Bound KC-46 tanker looking good on the flying test block. During an inflight ferrying to Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma City today, the tanker function is tested with step one. Deploying its center drogue line (s). Mission accomplished.

 Tinker AFB KC-46 for Service

As simple as this sounds it is more of the indication of how you test an extremely complex function. Becoming a flying gas station at 200 miles per hour with multiple customers pulling up to the pump is dangerous. Even though this benchmark has already been achieved by the Old(er) KC-135 types, but in this case the drogue boom is rigged to handle the kitchen sink of war birds from helicopters to the F-35 spectrum of technology.

Altus AFB Training Center For KC-46 Crews

It marks a significant test envelop for refueling and can now go forward by subjecting systems to more complex conditions which will excite the crews and observers. Finding out how the KC-46 maintains refueling stability under various conditions of multi speed envelopes, weather and war conditions. It will also test systems with a fully loaded combat configured aircraft before the first fighter craft can come up to KC-46 and fuel.

Today’s News, suggests bumps in the road for the tanker are in the manageable arena. Those testing glitches may hide in the lab, but what goes on-board the KC-46 during this point forward, has been cleansed with a fully operation stamp awaiting the KC-46 airborne run for full validation.

However, this is not to say teething woes do not circle the KC-46 program. Those woes are pinned up on the ground where they will remain until development assurances allows it on board the tanker.

The KC-46 test passed a milestone flying to Oklahoma. Tinker AFB arrival, signals the program has shifted its step from theory room to the practice stag. The AF is really good at this function. Boeing is pushing hard but also is ready for this step. Program confidence has entered the manageable phase with its loaded concept going through incremental testing. Glitches are no longer the News, but testing’s expectation for finding its limits is the News. Expect some problems. That is what real time testing is for finding those limits. 

The problems are now contained in a smaller circle on the diagram chart. Any potential catastrophic problems remain on Boeing's program neck. Any nominal problem is in the flying phase. The recent problems before this flight to Tinker, were a squeezing into a time frame of Boeing’s gasping trek to the finish line. They wrote off cost in a last gasp, they experienced fuel line contamination losing another month or two in time. It’s now go time at Tinker. It’s all systems on-the-go, and let’s improve its results. It’s a no longer in the fix it stage, but it’s in “The improve it” stage during its flying phase.