For those that are curious, this is what I’ve been working on lately. I happened to be leaving work on Tuesday when N46IFT took off. I pulled the car over and she floated off towards Mount St. Helens as my eyes quickly looked over her body, stem to stern. Even in the distance I could still identify the distinct features that made her a tanker, especially my part — the Wing Aerial Refueling Pods that graced her tips.
On Tuesday’s flight, the [KC-46] prototype for the first time carried a refueling boom, a rigid tube extended back from the plane’s underside that’s used to pass fuel to an aircraft flying behind and below the tanker. The prototype was also fitted with wing-refueling pods, which are used to refuel aircraft with different in-flight fuel-docking systems that fly behind and to the side of the tanker.
Surowiecki’s article does a nice job of synthesizing many of the practical (and emotional) complexities Boeing currently faces. A good introduction article if you have no idea what the heck is going on.