AFA ORLANDO: Two KC-46 tankers due to be delivered to the Air Force were grounded after government inspectors found tools and other debris left behind on the planes at Boeing’s plant in Seattle.
The Defense Contract Management Agency and the Air Force required Boeing to make 13 changes to procedures to ensure the FOD will be mitigated and effectively controlled in the future, Will Roper, the Air Force’s top acquisition official, told reporters here at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium.
The effective grounding was first reported by the Seattle Times today. The paper quoted a company memo:
“’We have USAF pilots here for flight training and they will not fly due to the FOD (foreign object debris) issues and the current confidence they have in our product that has been discovered throughout the aircraft,’” factory management wrote in a Feb. 21 memo to employees on the 767 assembly line.
“This is a big deal,” the memo emphasized.
Roper made it clear that the Air Force takes this seriously and will keep its eye on Boeing.
“If we’re not confident with these two airplanes and the thoroughness with which they have been inspected, then we will keep them on the ground,” he said. “But the early feedback I’ve gotten is that there’s been a very thorough scrub, and the planes have been flown by DCMA, so I expect that we will not have any hindrance in these two. But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to feel comfortable that the 13 process improvements have been put in place.”
However, the Air Force official added that, “If we have this issue again — it’s already serious — but it will be a much more serious endeavor.”
Boeing has faced a string of serious technical challenges, more than $3 billion in cost overruns and a year-and-half of schedule lapses building what was supposed to be a low-risk tanker derived from a commercial airplane.
Boeing also must redesign and build the plane’s crucial Remote Vision System, a set up of sensors and cameras which allows the boom operator to connect the tanker to the plane that needs gas. If it doesn’t do so successfully, the Air Force plans to withhold $28 million per plane until a fix is found, tested and installed.
Boeing spokesman Chick Ramey offered this statement: ”Safety and quality are the highest priority at Boeing. We are working together with the USAF/DCMA and expect to resume flight operations to support training flights today.”