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Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing and McConnell Air Force Base celebrate KC-46A milestone

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The U.S. Air Force praised the workers of Spirit AeroSystems on Friday morning. It arrived during the celebration of the 100th fuselage delivery of the KC-46A Pegasus.

“It’s important to tell you that the KC-46, the aircraft that you stand up and leave for your families every day to come and build, is amazing,” said Colonel Nate Vogel, commander of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base. . “We trust, and ultimately that means we trust you.”

Spirit workers, Boeing executives, local dignitaries and McConnell Airmen attended the morning celebration, with the 100th integrated forward fuselage serving as a backdrop.

McConnell obtained its first KC-46A in January 2019. The fleet has grown to 24 Pegasus refueling tankers and will expand to 36. The KC-46A can also carry cargo and serve as a communications hub.

“McConnell Air Force Base is known as MOB One, which means Main Operating Base One,” Vogel said. “This is a hallmark of pride, meaning we were first base with the KC-46, and the 22nd Air Refueling Wing has the most assigned, and we intend to lead the way.”

Spirit learned in 2011 that it would be a supplier for the Pegasus. He completed the first fuselage section of the KC-46A nearly 10 years ago in July 2013. Workmen in Wichita also build the fixed wing edge, pylon and nacelle for the Pegasus. From Wichita, parts go to the Boeing plant in Everett, Washington.

Tom Gentile, president and CEO of Spirit AeroSystems, said Spirit used to send the parts for the forward fuselage by rail to Boeing and that Boeing workers would finish assembling them.

“As of 2019, after nearly 20 years of effort, we have finally worked with Boeing to integrate that forward fuselage here and ship it as a fully integrated section of the Dreamlifter to Everett,” Gentile said.

The Dreamlifter, a modified Boeing 747, lands at McConnell to collect the fuselage. The 100th fuselage will be flown to Everett on Monday.

  • The 100th integrated forward fuselage for the KC-46A Pegasus serves as a backdrop during a Wichita Spirit AeroSystems celebration Feb. 17, 2023. (Photo KSN)
  • Spirit AeroSystems employees listen to speakers during the Wichita celebration of the delivery of the 100th KC-46A Pegasus fuselage on Feb. 17, 2023. (Photo KSN)
  • Spirit AeroSystems employees listen to speakers during the Wichita celebration of the delivery of the 100th KC-46A Pegasus fuselage on Feb. 17, 2023. (Photo KSN)

“There have been many improvements and investments since that first delivery in 2013,” Gentile said. “One of them is the building we are in. It didn’t exist in 2013. We call it the Northeast Manufacturing Center, and it’s the center of excellence for the 767 forward fuselage, which includes the KC-46 tanker and cargo that we deliver to cargo carriers around the world.”

The center is at 3800 South Oliver.

Gentile also talked about how Boeing honored Spirit workers with a plaque earlier this month. The plaque recognized two years of FOD free deliveries. He said FOD is foreign object debris.

“It’s anything that ends up in the forward fuselage that doesn’t belong to us. It could be chips, a tool, anything. Eliminating FOD is crucial.”

When the fuselage section arrives in Everett, Boeing says it adds the “military capability directly into the aircraft’s DNA to make the KC-46A the world’s most advanced multi-mission aerial refueling.”

“I have to say, Kansas is truly KC-46 country,” Kim Pastega, vice president and general manager of the Boeing 767 program, said at the ceremony on Friday.

He said the aircraft is certified by both the FAA and the US Air Force.

“You all know the level of safety quality and dedication to excellence required to maintain FAA certification from inception of production for each component through to market service and support,” Pastega said. “Achieving the certification level for a commercially-derived military aircraft requires commitment, teamwork and execution.”

He said Spirit AeroSystems is one of more than 650 American suppliers for the plane. The suppliers employ 37,000 workers in 43 states.

As Colonel Vogel added his Pegasus observations, he recounted the stories of everything he’s accomplished since McConnell got his first one.

“I’m proud to say that we’ve taken the airplanes you’ve created and turned them into combat capabilities at a lightning pace,” he said.

“The 22nd Air Refueling Wing has taken an airplane you helped build and turned it into a tanker that can do things, and I choose my words carefully, that no air force in the world has ever seen a tanker do before.” “, Vogel said. “This helps us win wars, helps ensure that some wars never start, and ultimately helps ensure that our way of life continues.”

He again expressed his appreciation of Spirit’s involvement in the construction of the tanker.

“Thank you for taking care of your product and protecting my aviator and my aviators,” Vogel said.

Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Pete Meitzner said Spirit’s work shows how far the area has progressed since Boeing announced it was leaving in 2011.

“I’m very proud of what Spirit and what our local economy does. I’m so proud that Spirit has picked up and continued to produce fuselages, and then go into the military side,” he said. “It’s a credit to the local leaders who just said we’re not going to close this place down.”

Wichita Council Member Brandon Johnson, District One, also praised Spirit.

“Colonel Vogel said they trust the KC-46, which means they trust the workers who build it. This is a big deal,” Johnson said. “Trusting the capabilities of our city, our employees and Spirit as a company means a lot. I think this is job security for the future as well.

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