LE BOURGET, France — Boeing placed “fierce focus” to ensure issues that halted production of the KC-46 tanker twice don’t happen again, now exceeding Air Force requirements for aircraft inspection prior to delivery, said the head of the company’s defense business.

“We had missteps. We owned those,” said Leanne Caret, CEO of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, during a briefing at the Paris Air Show Monday.

As previously reported, the Air Force agreed this spring to start accepting KC-46 tankers from Boeing again after the discovery of foreign debris halted production for the second time. Moving forward, all tankers will be subject to stringent inspections of all sealed compartments of the plane for foreign object debris, or FOD.

Those inspections are taking place and aircraft are being delivered, Caret confirmed, with a multi-tier inspection process happening in partnership with the Air Force both for new deliveries and aircraft already in the fleet.

“Fair to say we’re going above and beyond what [the Air Force] required,” said Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer and executive vice president of enterprise performance. “We’re doing what we feel is best, and learning from it… We have to set the bar higher than our customer has and deliver on those expectations we set for ourselves.”

The Air Force has said that the FOD found posed no safety of flight risk and was well within what the Defense Contracts Management Agency finds on many aircraft programs.

“But it’s not acceptable to have it on a new aircraft that we bought,” said Will Roper, the Air Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, in April on the sidelines of Space Symposium. He added that Boeing would do the inspections “on their nickel,” though Caret declined to comment on any changes to the contract or the amount of funding withheld to pay for the added layer of scrutiny.

“The debris and tools that were left on KC-46 upon its delivery were unacceptable. We took swift decisive actions,” Caret said. “We’re using this opportunity as our rallying cry – to ensure we enhance our process, [and] more specifically for first time quality across every aspect of the business across the company.”

“Our customers deserve better,” she added. “I personally apologized to our customers. This will not happen again.”

The KC-46 Pegasus makes its air show debut at Le Bourget.

Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.

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