Boeing has won a 10 year, $1.1 billion US Air Force (USAF) contract to continue providing programmed depot maintenance (PDM) for the USAF's KC-135 Stratotanker fleet. An aerial refuelling tanker aircraft, the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker has been in service since 1957.
The KC-135 was derived from Boeing's 'proof of concept' demonstrator - the Boeing 367-80 (more commonly called the 'Dash-80') - the basis for the original Boeing 707 jetliner. In fact, Boeing first called the tanker the 717. The company will service more than 200 KC-135 aircraft at facilities in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Boeing beat the Birmingham, Alabama-based Pemco Aviation Group to bag the contract. It is currently competing against rival Northrop Grumman for a $40 billion deal to replace 179 aerial refuelling tankers. The Air Force is expected to make its decision by the end of the year.
Since its first KC-135 PDM contract in October 1998, Boeing has completed scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on more than 160 aircraft. Conducted every five years, scheduled PDM services include depot-level inspections, repairs, and maintenance, modifications, re-painting and supply chain services. Unscheduled maintenance comprises about half of the work performed on each aircraft.
Using lean manufacturing and employee involvement initiatives, Boeing has reduced the number of days the aircraft are out of service for maintenance by 19 per cent and cut costs by 15 per cent per aircraft.
Boeing's Texas-based centre can house 23 wide-body aircraft at a time in its 1.6 million square foot facility, which has the world's largest freestanding high-bay aircraft hangar. In addition, there are 3.5 million square feet of aircraft ramp space, run-up areas, parking pads and an 11,500-foot runway.
Flight-control repairs are performed by Sabreliner in Missouri and completed by North American Aviation Services (NAAS) in San Antonio, both prime subcontractors for the programme.
The Boeing KC-135 PDM programme management office is near Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City. Approximately 300 Boeing employees work at San Antonio, 80 in Oklahoma and 75 in Missouri. The company expects to hire about 200 additional employees in San Antonio as more aircraft arrive for maintenance.