USAF to keep close watch on Boeing KC-46 safety protocol

March 14, 2019 at 4:48 PM

Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper told reporters today it could take a year of tracking Boeing's KC-46 production line and safety protocol before he's confident the company is consistently following the necessary procedures to avoid continued foreign object debris issues.

"I think it's going to take more than a year of measuring and tracking . . . and maybe longer than that before we believe the culture of quality has come back," Roper told reporters following a March 14 House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee hearing.

The Air Force announced March 11 it had approved Boeing's corrective action plan, which includes 13 steps that must be taken in order to prevent future FOD incidents. The service last month put tanker delivery acceptance on hold after eight tools were found in Air Force tankers after leaving the production line.

The service resumed acceptance on Monday but is requiring Boeing to make a series of "sweeps" for each tanker before it leaves the line.

"We are not happy with this at all," Roper said Thursday. "We do not want to be accepting tankers this way. Having teams sweep an aircraft five times is unacceptable. But I am satisfied that once the sweeping has been done, that there's no foreign object debris on the aircraft and it can leave safely."

He added that he expects Boeing will be able to "remediate" the FOD problem.

Roper said the service's handling of the tanker safety issues hasn't been impacted by the separate issue of safety concern's on Boeing's 737 MAX jetliner after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the aircraft be grounded.

"The issue for us is a known issue," he said. "I know nothing about the 737 MAX issue. I read it in the papers just like you do."