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A fresh quality issue with the center fuel tank of the 767 freighter and KC-46 tanker is bedeviling Boeing, illustrating the ongoing fragility inside its supply chain and adding to the list of production obstacles standing in the way of reaching a regular jetliner delivery tempo.

The supplier, which changed ownership from Triumph Group to Daher last year, disclosed to Boeing that cleaning and paint adhesion testing had not been followed before the center wing tank structure was shipped to Boeing for final assembly of the 767 variants, according to two people familiar with the issue.

While not considered an immediate safety concern, improperly painted and primed fuel tank structure can flake off and clog fuel filters and gum up the system that feeds the aircraft’s engines. 

Related: Supply chain fragility drives fourth 737 Max line decision

The Air Force continues to evaluate what steps are required to address this in the fleet of KC-46 aircraft. “The investigation is on-going, with the USAF monitoring the issue and paying close attention” to any signs of contamination, not only with the tankers, but also in U.S. and allied aircraft that have received fuel from the affected KC-46s, said a spokesperson for the service in a statement to The Air Current.

Resolving the issue, which has not been previously reported, on nearly a dozen and a half 767 freighters and KC-46 tankers currently in Boeing’s inventory has “massively impacted” the delivery schedule for those aircraft, according to one of the people familiar with the center wing tank issue. The company has not delivered any 767 freighters or KC-46 tankers in 2023. 

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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