(Boeing photo: KC-46A’s first flight, September 2015)
You can expect more military jets in the nearby skies soon. Boeing Field says two Navy F-18 aircraft will be based there for about nine months, starting this month, while Boeing is testing its new wide-body KC-46A tanker jet. From the Boeing Field website:
During the tests, the new tankers will refuel several models of military “receiver” aircraft during flights over western Washington. In addition to several of its KC-46A tanker jets, Boeing plans to base two Navy F-18 aircraft at Boeing Field during this time. Plans call for two F-18 takeoffs and landings per day (including evenings), a few times per week.
While the advisory on the airport website says, “Boeing is working to minimize the noise impact of this testing on the airport’s neighbors. The company will comply with all state, county, and city codes, and with Boeing Quiet Hour procedures as well as King County International Airport’s Fly Quiet Program,” a letter to the community from King County Transportation Department director Harold Taniguchi spins it a little differently. The letter, which appears to have been sent to community groups/advocates in the area (we are checking with KCDOT), was shared by local advocate Joe Szilagyi:
To our Friends and Neighbors around King County International Airport:
King County owns and operates the King County International Airport (KCIA), also known as Boeing Field. Commercial aviation activity at KCIA supports over 16,000 jobs and generates $3.5 billion in annual economic benefit to King County and its residents.
Recently, you may have heard in the news the Boeing Company will soon begin testing the new KC-46A Tanker military aircraft out of KCIA. The KC-46A is capable of refueling other aircraft in mid-air, requiring the testing of additional high-performance military jet aircraft, some of which will be landing and taking off from KCIA. The Boeing Company is still refining details on timing and scope of the test program for the KC-46A. However, they believe testing of support aircraft will commence as soon as January or even later this month.
As testing of the KC-46A Tanker begins, there may be increased noise impacts in the community from high-performance military aircraft related to the KC-46A testing. Although King County will continue to work with Boeing to reduce these impacts, the County has no authority over military aircraft operations. Under federal rules, all military aircraft are exempt from standard operating requirements related to sound and time of day limitations, potentially resulting in a significant increase in aircraft noise in the surrounding communities at any time of day or night.
King County has requested on multiple occasions that Boeing reach out to impacted communities well in advance of the upcoming test program. At the Airport’s November 9 Round Table meeting, Boeing’s outreach contact, Mr. Rich White offered to meet with any interested parties and community groups to discuss the Tanker Program and address potential concerns.
Questions regarding noise or high-performance aircraft related to the Boeing KC-46A Tanker testing program, as well as requests for you or your organization to learn more about the program, should be directed to Rich White (cc’d) at The Boeing Company:
Mr. Rich White
Manager, Local Government Relations
The Boeing Company
P.O. Box 3707, MC 21-76
Seattle, WA 98124
King County supports the success of the Boeing KC-46A Tanker program, and I believe that Boeing will successfully mitigate impacts from the testing program through a comprehensive community outreach program. I look forward to supporting and working with the community and Boeing on an outreach program that addresses the sensitive needs of impacted residents and businesses as part of this testing program.
Harold S. Taniguchi, Director
King County Department of Transportation
The Boeing tanker made its first test flight – out of Snohomish County’s Paine Field – in September, according to this Seattle Times report. According to the Everett Herald, Boeing developed this tanker for the U.S. Air Force but also has orders from Japan.