KC-46A Pegasus banned from cargo and passengers by US Air Force

Like the F35, Boeing's KC-46 Pegasus multipurpose tanker aircraft program continues to experience delays, additional costs, and operational limitations. Thus, following the discovery of a set of unsecured containers in the hold of an aircraft during a joint exercise, the US Air Force decided to prohibit the transport of freight and passengers on board the aircraft, and to add a new 1st Category failure, therefore affecting flight safety, to the program.

In fact, the crew of the incriminated aircraft noticed, while the plane was in flight, that several locking systems for the containers on board the hold had suddenly unlocked without human intervention. In fact, the cargo was no longer secure, which can obviously threaten the lives of personnel present in the hold, but also create internal movements modifying the centering of the aircraft, and which could make it uncontrollable by the crew.

This is the fourth 1st category failure added to the program recently. The first 3 concern the camera used to direct the refueling pole which, under certain light conditions, presents a distorted vision which could lead to inappropriate and dangerous maneuvers on the part of the operator. The second concerns the difficulty in engaging and maintaining the connection between the refueling pole and the refueled device, repeatedly causing slight damage to the cell of the latter. The third failure relates to the current inability of the KC-46 to refuel A10 Thunderbolt IIs, due to insufficient pressure in the refueling boom.

Today 18 KC46s, out of the 179 planned, are in service with the US Air Force. The Boeing plane was preferred to the Airbus A330 MRTT following a legal and political campaign by the American aircraft manufacturer against the European aircraft, initially declared the winner of the competition organized by the US Air Force. For now, the American aircraft has been ordered by the US Air Force, as well as by Israel and Japan.

An Air Force A330 MRTT accompanied by a Rafale B of a mirage 2000 5 and a mirage 2000D Defense News | Tanker Aircraft | Military aircraft construction
The A330 MRTT is the new tanker aircraft of the Air Force which wants to order 18 examples

The A 330 MRTT has been ordered by 12 countries, with 60 firm orders recorded to date. The French Air Force and the Royal Air Force are the largest customers, with respectively 12 aircraft ordered out of 18 planned, and 14 aircraft out of 24 aircraft planned. European NATO countries should ultimately have more than 80 A330 MRTTs in their fleet. Particularly reliable and appreciated by crews, the A330 MRTT has flown an average of 2000 hours for the benefit of the coalition forces in the Iraq-Syrian theater each month since 2015. Spain, Indonesia and Turkey are also currently negotiating with Airbus to acquire the aircraft, which also remains positioned in India and Canada.

This new incident is obviously not good news for Boeing, which has already had to set aside $2 billion to finance the delays and penalties imposed by the US Air Force. The aircraft is entered in several competitions against the A330 MRTT, in India, Indonesia, and Canada.

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