Aerospace Firm Rolls Out Its New Aerial Tanker This Week
Boeing this week rolls out its
KC-767 at the Wichita plant -- the first new aerial refueling
tanker design the company has built in some 50 years. This model
goes to the Italian Air Force. But in the midst of an ongoing
scandal investigation by the Pentagon, it's still up in the air
whether the Boeing tanker will fly for the US Air Force.
The Italian job is scheduled for flight-testing between now and
the time it's actually delivered to Rome -- next year. Before it
actually goes into service, the KC-767 will be modified in Italy.
It's one of four such aircraft slated for delivery to that
But Boeing will celebrate the delivery in a big way, hoping to
be noticed in Washington, where the KC-767 is competing against a
version of the Airbus A330 for a $23.5 billion Pentagon contract.
It was a contract that Boeing had won, but then lost because the
USAF employee in charge of tanker negotiations cheated on the
Chicago company's behalf. Darleen Druyun later accepted a
high-paying job with Boeing. But that didn't last long. She and
Boeing CFO Michael Sears were fired, after the Pentagon launched an
investigation into the scandal. Boeing CEO Phil Condit abruptly
resigned in the wake of the ordeal. Druyun is already serving a
prison sentence for her part in the scandal. Friday, Sears was
handed a four-month prison term for his part.
The Air Force is now investigating
the propriety of several other Boeing contracts, trying to
determine whether they were also tainted by Druyun's actions.
The Wichita Eagle reports Boeing has already written off the
loss of the tanker contract. The company has just 25 outstanding
orders for 767s and says it will shut down its production line if
the tanker contract doesn't come through. Once the line is shut
down, 750 Wichita workers will either be transferred to other
production lines or get pink slips. And if that happens, analysts
say there's very little chance that the line will be restarted.