The first KC-767 tanker will soon roll off the assembly line. The first of four for the Italian Air Force, it will be hailed by Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher as proof that Boeing can give the US Air Force what it wants. Four additional 767 tankers will be built for Japan. Boeing also hopes to sell two or three to the UAE.
Another article notes that if the USAF decides on the 787 platform (ex-7E7) for its new tankers
“It’s pretty far out. First time they could get a tanker on that is probably 2010-11-12, somewhere out there. That’s the problem there, because right now, with the sales we’ve got, the production line is chock-a-block full early on with commercial customers.”
And there are concerns that the 787, designed to maximize efficiency, won’t make a good tanker anyway.
While Boeing remains a natural to build new tankers, the recent problems have created problems with the politicians who decide what goes to who. And John McCain, the leading critic of the previous 767 lease plan/rip-off, hasn’t let up.
Boeing’s biggest problem on Capitol Hill is that it has generated a lot of anger from McCain, who is to take over the Armed Services subcommittee that controls Air Force procurement.
McCain has complained that executives in Boeing’s Washington, D.C., offices stalled his tanker-deal investigation for two years, and he has said that during a meeting with Stonecipher last February, he’d reached agreement that executives such as Rudy deLeon, Boeing’s top lobbyist in D.C., would be disciplined. Boeing never followed through, and the result is deLeon remains unwelcome in McCain’s office.
To smooth things over with Congress, Boeing is counting on old friends of McCain, such as former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein; former Sen. Warren Rudman of Vermont, who conducted an internal investigation of company ethics for Boeing last year; and the retired head of Boeing’s D.C. office, Stan Ebner.
Stonecipher, through a spokesman, declined to discuss the frosty situation.
Meanwhile, EADS continues to push for its Airbus A330-based tanker.