Boeing has built nearly 1,100 767s over the past 35 years. While other designs like the 757 have come and gone (many would say prematurely), the 767 continues to roll off the production line at the company’s sprawling Everett, Washington plant. Bolstered largely by the USAF’s KC-X contract a uniquely configured 767 tanker – the KC-46As Pegasus – will be built with a proposed 179 airframes to be delivered over the decade following its introduction into service in 2018. Well, at least that’s the plan.
The USAF has finally cleared the KC-46 for production. it took a decade to select the type against its Airbus A330-based rival, and its development has been a fiscal black hole for Boeing to say the least. Its turbulent past aside, if everything goes well, the USAF’s massive order will keep the 767 production line alive for many years to come.
Here’s that incredible process in action:
With the KC-46, Boeing’s proud tradition of building jet tankers (including the oft-forgotten KC-747) will continue on for the foreseeable future. The KC-46A will have a lot to live up to. Its predecessor, the KC-135 Stratotanker, just celebrated its 60th birthday – and there are airframes flying with the USAF that are nearly that old.
America got incredible bang for their buck with those jets, and we can only hope that the KC-46 – even with all its teething issues – will be plowing the skies with fighters in tow 60 years from now.
Make sure to check out this past feature to learn what being a boom operator aboard a KC-135 is all about, I promise it is not a dull read!
Contact the author Tyler@thedrive.com