Seeing a KC-46 at Boeing Field is not necessarily such a surprise. However, seeing one parked up at the FBO was more unusual. I am not sure whether the aircraft had been accepted and was ready for delivery or had actually come across country for a visit. Either way, a USAF crew was about to fly it back across the country. The size of the taxiways meant that it had to cross the runway to taxi up to the departure end where it could line up and head off on its way east. Was it a delivery? Who knows?
From my new spot, you have a good view of the main civil ramp at Boeing as well as a slightly more distant view of the military ramp. The civil ramp was full of Max jets waiting to get delivered now that customers can start accepting the jets again. Not all agencies have cleared the Max so I guess Boeing was focusing on those that have and aiming to get as much cash as they could in before year end. You could also see the stored jets on part of the ramp as well as those in the parking lot across Marginal Way.
There were three 777X development airframes parked while the second jet was out on a test flight. I was hoping to get it returning but it was out over the Pacific off the Oregon coast and I rightly guessed that, despite the online forecast, it wouldn’t be back before sunset. The military ramp was a little quieter than I expected with a couple of KC-46s and some P-8s including the next one for the Royal Air Force. There were also two KC-46s up on the civilian flight test ramp. Plenty to see and it would have been better in morning light.
The Japanese (JASDF) were a customer for the tanker version of the Boeing 767 when Boeing was offering it in the early days. Japan and Italy were the only customers that I am aware of for that aircraft. Therefore, it was not a massive surprise that Japan ordered the KC-46 when Boeing developed it for the USAF. The first aircraft is now being completed and has been parked on the ramp up at Everett recently. Here it is undergoing some testing. Hopefully we shall get to see it flying soon.
Boeing seems to have addressed a lot of the problems with the KC-46 Pegasus program (but not all of them yet) and so the Air Force is taking delivery of jets at a regular rate. Since plenty have been built, there are enough to deliver. I was at Paine Field a while back when one of the jets was heading out on a test flight. I ended up being there for both the departure and the arrival since the flight was not that long. The good summer light that Seattle gets but we don’t like people to know about meant I got some reasonable shots of it.
Boeing is now delivering KC-46s to the Air Force at a rate that is a bit of an improvement. There are still plenty of issues with the project (with some only recently discovered) but at least jets are now making their way to the customer, even if they are not flying them too much! However, there are still a lot of the jets parked at Paine Field. The early morning sun provides some nice light on the line of aircraft. It is a rather cluttered view with plenty of airfield material in the shot but the light makes it a bit more appealing.
Boeing started delivering KC-46s to the USAF as I covered in this post. However, it didn’t take too long before the Air Force found various items of tooling in the aircraft that shouldn’t have been there and stopped taking delivery. Consequently, rather than delivering the backlog, it has continued to build. Paine Field had well over a dozen aircraft in various locations when we were there including three over by the Heritage Flight Foundation’s hangars. Here three were illuminated nicely by the sun as it rose across the field so a pano seemed in order.
I have shot KC-46s in bad conditions more often than would seem probable. I got one in conditions so dark it was like a night shoot. This time it was heavy rain. Of course that can mean vapor. The matte gray of fuselage actually looks better when it is wet. I had hoped the inlets would fog but that didn’t happen. However, the flat light helped the fuselage a bit which often gets too contrasts. Besides that it throws up a ton of spray behind it as it accelerates down the runway. Rotating in front of me meant I was rather happy with the result compared to what I expected.
Finally, the first Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tankers were delivered to the USAF. Not one but two tankers were delivered in the ceremony, a nice effort at a joke by Boeing having left everyone thinking it would only be one. Then again, when you have that many of them sitting around, I guess it should have been even more! The ceremony took place on one day and the delivery was the following morning.
The jets left from Paine Field just after sunrise. That is sunrise if you don’t have clouds on the horizon. The sun had barely squeaked above those when the two jets took off as Medusa 1 and 2. They were preceded by a McConnell AFB KC-135R – the aircraft that they will be replacing. It got airborne in very limited light and headed for Kansas. Then the two new jets lined up in turn and departed. No flybys or wing waggles. Just gear up, switch to departure frequency and off into the steadily brightening sky. Avoid the traffic inbound to SeaTac and off you go. Lots more should be following soon while efforts continue to fix the issues with the camera system and the underwing hose and drogue pods.
January 2019 brought a milestone for the USAF. They accepted their first KC-46 Pegasus. Admittedly they accepted it with a number of deferred issues that Boeing has been given a few years to resolve but that are Category 1 deficiencies. I guess this should mean we will see a lot of deliveries in the coming weeks and months.
The backlog of jets parked up is substantial. There are jets parked at Boeing Field on both the military ramp and the flight test ramp. There are more scattered around the Boeing ramp at Everett. More of them are in the conversion area at the south end of Paine Field. More still are parked up across the cross runway. It’s a lot of jets and, if you are an accountant, this is a level of Work In Progress that must make you squirm. We should see them start to head on their way before too long.
We made a trip to West Seattle with our guests while they were here. We were looking at the view of the city and also wondering what wildlife might show itself. I got a benefit in that departures from SeaTac and Boeing Field were coming to the north. I got a couple of nice airliner shots as they climbed out over us. They weren’t the only ones though. A KC-46 launched out of Boeing Field and climbed over us as it went off to its test area. I wasn’t paying attention, but my guests spotted something rocketing up behind it. An F/A-18C Hornet from the Strike Test unit was following it, presumably for some test work. It climbed rapidly but then leveled out, I assume to stay below the departure routes from SeaTac. Not a bad bonus for me while showing the sights to my guests.