A Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits on the tarmac at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on May 7. The composite aircraft was in the Washington area as part of a worldwide publicity tour. (Marcus Weisgerber / Staff)
The composite body Boeing 787 is expected to revolutionize commercial air travel over the next decade, but don’t expect an aerial tanker version anytime soon.
Jim Albaugh, the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, downplayed the notion of creating a KC-787 refueler during the commercial plane’s first visit to the Washington area.
“I’m not certain this airplane lends itself … to being a derivative because this is an airplane we took a lot of weight out of,” Albaugh said during a May 7 briefing at Ronald Regan Washington National Airport in Virginia. “We didn’t overdesign this airplane like the 707 is over designed or the 767.”
The twin-engine 787, called the Dreamliner, is supposed to get 20 percent better fuel economy over aircraft in its mid-sized class, primarily due to its composite structure and energy efficient engines. The company has orders for hundreds of passenger versions of the aircraft, which entered commercial service with All Nippon Airways in January.
“Right now, we’re pretty full up over the next nine years, building airplanes to deliver to domestic customers and international customers,” Albaugh said.
“I’m not ruling it out, but right now our focus is on commercial airlines,” he said.
Adding a boom and wing-tip refueling pods would add weight to the aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force currently flies tankers based on the legacy Boeing 707 jetliner and it has just started buying new aerial refueling aircraft based on the larger 767.