Impressive Entry into Paris Air Show for The USAF’s New Boeing Tanker.
It’s important to make a grand entrance in Paris Air Show, and the USAF’s new Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tanker did just that when it surprised spotters and photographers with an impressive landing at France’s Le Bourget Airport for the upcoming 53rd Paris Air Show from June 17-23.
We’re not sure who the pilot was who stuck this impressive landing on the 8,743-foot runway 03/21 (approached as runway 21), but whoever it is, she or he is a real “stick n’ rudder” pilot. The aircraft approaches runway 21 from the left, hooks a low and tight turn off the base leg, and makes a last-second play for the threshold to make a nice touchdown pretty close to the centerline.
A quick check back on our own student pilot handbook says, “The base leg is the transitional part of the traffic pattern between the downwind leg and the final approach leg. Depending on the wind condition, the pilot should establish the base leg at a sufficient distance from the approach end of the landing runway to permit a gradual descent to the intended touchdown point.” (“Airplane Flying Handbook”, FAA-H-8083-3B, Chapter 7)
The Boeing KC-46 Pegasus is debuting in Paris as questions remain about the type’s refueling systems including the boom and its new remote video viewing system. The KC-46 Pegasus does not use a rear-facing window for the refueling boom operator like the Air Force’s current KC-10 and legacy KC-135 tankers, but rather a video screen station where the boom operator views aircraft flying below and behind the KC-46 as they take on fuel from its extendable refueling boom.
A KC-46 Pegasus connects with an F-35A during testing over California on January 22, 2019. (Photo: Ethan Wagner/USAF Official)
The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) said that some redesigns may be necessary to make improvements in the new Boeing refueling systems in order to protect new low-observable “stealth” coatings on aircraft such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Contrasting this setback to the KC-46 program, the Air Force Times reported late last week that, “The good news is that the cost of delivering all 179 KC-46 tankers is now expected to come in at $43 billion, or nearly $9 billion cheaper than originally estimated in 2011.” And that, “The KC-46 is ultimately expected to meet all 21 of its performance goals.”
The week-long Paris Air Show is one of the most significant airshows in the world and is known for its commercial and sales component. The first four days of the show are for aviation industry insiders, both civilian and military, while the final three days are open to the general public. This year 140 aircraft will perform 45 flying displays from the companies and countries in attendance. Over 2,300 total exhibitors, including flying, static and ground industry exhibition participants from 48 countries will display at the Paris Air Show this week.