More bad news for US aviation giant Boeing: the US Air Force said Tuesday it had halted for a second time the acceptance of new KC-46 tankers due to ongoing quality issues. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson revealed the March 23 decision -- another setback in the already delayed air tanker program -- during a budget hearing in Congress.
"The Air Force again halted acceptance of new KC-46 tanker aircraft as we continue to work with Boeing to ensure that every aircraft delivered meets the highest quality and safety standards," Wilson told the panel. She said that Air Force inspectors had discovered "foreign object debris" in the new planes that should not have been there as well as other areas "where Boeing did not meet quality standards." The problems were "unrelated to design or engineering specifications," she noted.
But it was the second time this year Boeing faced the same criticism. The Air Force took its first KC-46 in January, more than one year late.
Currently they have seven KC-46 aircraft in service. The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s over the course of the program. Based on the airframe of the Boeing 767, the aerial refueller is to replace the Air Force's aging line of KC-10 and KC-135 tankers, many of which were manufactured during the Cold War.
The Air Force chose Boeing to build the tanker over Airbus in 2011 after a furious battle between the two companies over the massive contract.
Boeing is already facing trouble over its 737 MAX aircraft used by several civil airlines across the world following two deadly accidents involving Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air.
Recently, a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operated by Southwest Airlines made an emergency landing after experiencing an engine problem as it was being ferried from Florida to California, the US Federal Aviation Agency said. "The aircraft returned and landed safely in Orlando," the FAA said in a statement, adding that no passengers were on board the aircraft, which was being transferred to Victorville, California for storage.