LE BOURGET, France — Boeing executives didn’t want the international debut of their KC-46 Pegasus to take place amid questions about why the U.S. Air Force is still finding debris inside the new aerial tankers.
But not far away from the gray KC-46 parked on the flight line here at the Paris Air Show — one of 11 that have been accepted by the service — Air Force acquisition head Will Roper was still talking about the need for extensive cultural changes on Boeing’s assembly lines.
“This is not something that you fix by sending out a memo,” Roper said Monday during a briefing here.
The KC-46A made a spectacular landing on June 15 at the Paris Air Show, but Boeing probably would have preferred a less noticeable entrance, given the aircraft’s continuing production troubles. (AIN video)
The much-delayed KC-46 program took an unsettling turn in January when Boeing finally began delivering the planes. Behind wall panels and under the floors, airmen found tools, trash, wire ties and nuts, Roper said. In February, the Air Force stopped accepting the planes from Boeing. They started taking them again in March, then stopped again when inspectors found more debris.
Now the Air Force is accepting “one and change” KC-46s per month as debris-plagued planes make their way down the assembly line — and officials anxiously wait to see whether new inspection processes work, he said.
In the meantime, Roper said, debris has been found inside dozens of tankers in various states of assembly at Boeing’s plant in Everett, Washington. (end of excerpt)
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