Boeing marked a key transition Tuesday in its shift from design to production for one of its largest aircraft programs.
The company began building the first of a new generation of refueling booms for its new KC-46 aerial tanker for the Air Force. The boom is being manufactured at a new facility at Seattle’s Boeing Field.
That boom, designed to refuel any fixed-wing aircraft equipped with a fuel receptacle, is controlled electronically. The boom is based on a boom used in Boeing’s KC-10 tanker aircraft.
The first boom will enter testing next summer. The boom will be fitted to a modified 767 twin-engine passenger aircraft.
Boeing, in a decade-long contest, won the contract for 179 new generation aerial tankers in competition with European planemaker EADS. EADS planned to use an A-330 passenger aircraft as the basis for its tanker.
Production of the first KC-46 is scheduled to begin next summer at Boeing’s Everett factory.
The new planes, the first of which will be delivered in 2017, will replace the Air Force’s aging KC-135 tankers, some of which are 50 years old.