Apr 20, 2017
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, Patuxent River, Md. – Getting aircraft out of maintenance and back on the flight schedule quickly is a key component to readiness. An enterprise focused team from Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) is working to make the process faster.
While most aviation maintenance takes place in hangars as planned maintenance events, some aircraft need emergent, unscheduled repairs in the field known commonly as In-Service Repair (ISR). COMFRC ISR field teams typically complete more than 3,700 ISRs annually which are performed shipboard, stateside, overseas and in austere environments around the world. For its efforts to improve speed of ISRs and return aircraft to the flight schedule, the COMFRC Deployed Support Team (DST) was recognized during the 17th annual Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Commander’s Awards held at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, March 22. The COMFRC DST won first place in the Business Innovation category.
Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, NAVAIR commander, praised and challenged the awardees during the event.
“You are being recognized for getting solutions to the fleet more quickly, for improving readiness, for technical and business innovation, for not being complacent, for leaning forward,” he said.
The path to ISR improvement began like many good ideas typically do, with a search for better answers to readiness issues impacting the fleet. Before the award period, a Marine Corps air group commander stated in a Summer 2015 conference call of aviation leaders the backlog of ISRs negatively impacted his readiness levels. At that time, the COMFRC Material and Maintenance (N42) team couldn’t easily validate the commander’s claims.
“Before, we had no automation (to track ISRs),” said Capt. Jeff Pronesti, COMFRC N42 Military Director. “We had archaic spreadsheets and message traffic.”
The ISR data was in various formats and didn’t provide a clear picture of the amount of work COMFRC had to resource and manage. It wasn’t until the end of the repair process when the data was consolidated that the Deployed Support Team had visibility of how many ISRs were impacting Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA), a metric for measuring readiness. The higher the RBA metric, the more aircraft commanders have available for missions.
The team turned to automation to help manage the data, using an existing platform called the Joint Deficiency Reporting System (JDRS). It also developed SNAPSHOT, an access database tool, which allows for metric generation and global visibility of all active ISRs across the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE).
“We added a couple of modules to JDRS to help us generate decision quality data,” Pronesti said. “The changes to JDRS and the creation of SNAPSHOT significantly enhanced our ability to drill down into the data enabling us to align resources to meet specific location or type/model/series (TMS) issues.”
The DST’s aggressive NAE-wide efforts to modernize and integrate aircraft ISR response time, processes and information systems led to a 43 percent reduction in F/A-18A-D ISR aircraft in 16 months. This reduction returned 65 aircraft back to the fleet, reducing the number of out-of-reporting aircraft and decreasing the RBA gap. This significant reduction was accomplished in spite of the average ISR repair phase and associated work content growing by 69.3 percent due to the complexity of repairs.
Additionally, during fiscal year 2016, COMFRC reduced ISR cycle times across all TMS aircraft as follows: initial response cycle time by 36 percent; aircraft evaluation cycle time by 66 percent; and record closure cycle time by 57 percent.
The team is continuing to refine its processes and data collection.
“Our goal is to become even more proactive and ultimately, predictive,” Pronesti said. “We want to be able to anticipate spikes in ISRs based on world events, deployment schedules and various other operational commitments so we can be better resourced. Additionally, we also want to provide feedback to programs offices and Fleet Support Teams to update technical manuals. That way some repairs can be accomplished by squadron personnel on the flight line.”
Other NAVAIR Commander’s Award winners from the COMFRC enterprise include:
Improving Fleet Readiness category:
Second Place: F/A-18 Fleet Support Team, led by Thomas Jarvis, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest
This team was challenged to design and implement an end-of-life sustainment plan for the F/A-18 Hornet fleet to mitigate a major RBA shortage in A through D models. In response, the team developed a new sustainment program that consolidated depot-level maintenance, modification and inspection requirements and schedules; increased the number of in-reporting aircraft over existing inventory and readiness forecasts; and mitigated the impact to depot level capacity. The team’s efforts will result in a cost avoidance of $249 million to $400 million over the next five years. RBA rates will dramatically improve while maintaining airworthiness and reducing depot-level impact. Other TMS aircraft will be able to adopt the same formula for end-of-life planning.
Honorable Mention: F/A-18 Chemical Milling Implementation Team, led by John E. Benfer, Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE)
This team at FRCSE was driven by the goal of creating F/A-18 parts and routinely shattered timelines and policy associated with standing up a new capability. Chemical milling improved FRCSE’s existing business by creating a new manufacturing technique to reduce delays associated with designing and analyzing expensive repairs for aircraft components. This team leveraged resources without the need for a budget and repeatedly delivered innovative and adept solutions to resolve problems at the lowest level. Risk was managed by incorporating a multiphase training approach that focused on chemical milling knowledge, skill and process control proficiency. As a result, more than 200 components were produced via chemical milling with a 50 percent decrease in turnaround time, as compared to conventional manufacturing practices.
For more information about the recent NAVAIR Commander’s Awards, see http://www.navair.navy.mil/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.NAVAIRNewsStory&id=6509
COMFRC Public Affairs