LOS ANGELES, March 8 (UPI) -- A new Boeing air tanker has accomplished its first in-flight fuel transfer to another plane.
In a recent flight over California, Boeing's KC-767 made contact with a Boeing B-52 strategic bomber using its refueling boom 73 times and off-loaded 10,000 pounds of fuel into the bomber.
The achievement announced Thursday was closely watched by representatives of the Italian Air Force, which has agreed to buy four KC-767s, and by Japan, which is also buying four planes.
"This is a critical step forward for our KC-767 Tanker," remarked Lt. Col. Roberto Poni, Italian Air Force Tanker program liaison. "We're looking forward to refueling a variety of receivers and testing the entire system."
The foreign sales are important to Boeing. However, the real jackpot is the U.S. KC-X competition in which Boeing is offering the KC-767 as a replacement for the Boeing KC-135 aircraft that first entered service in the 1950s.
Boeing touts its plane as one based on the proven Boeing 767 airliner upon which the KC-767 is based. It is also bullish on its fifth-generation refueling boom. The company said in a news release that the boom has improved aerodynamics, fewer moving parts and a capacity to offload about 900 gallons of fuel per minute.