New maintenance program to save Fairchild, Air Force millions
Story by SSgt Dustin Mullen on 09/06/2019
Air Mobility Command recently adopted a new maintenance mindset, switching from reactive to proactive part replacement through Condition Based Maintenance plus, or CBM .
Fairchild AFB is beginning to implement this program, which includes replacing aircraft parts when they reach an estimated life expectancy instead of waiting for the part to break.
CBM has been applied at several AMC bases and airframes already, however, Fairchild has the largest KC-135 Stratotanker fleet impacted. Overall, the project is expected to save the Air Force millions of dollars across its aging fleet.
“This will be a constantly-evolving program to reduce unscheduled maintenance breaks,” said Master Sgt. Vernon Stone, 92nd Maintenance Squadron hydraulics section chief.
CBM uses two pathways to ensure success: predictive algorithms and Enhanced Reliability Center Maintenance, or eRCM.
Predictive algorithms use the KC-135’s on-board diagnostic data to detect life expectancy. eRCM uses maintenance dates and hours flown from the past 16 years to forecast component life, enabling squadrons to efficiently schedule maintenance.
With the two paths combined into CBM , Fairchild will be able to increase the overall readiness of their KC-135 fleet and sustain the rapid global mobility mission.
Stone said he is excited to see the program help Team Fairchild and has already seen situations where CBM would have saved man-hours, money and headaches.
“We [recently] had to send out two mission recovery teams due to [parts breaking],” Stone said. “If those items had been swapped before the flights, I would have had those teams available to work on home station aircraft and not away from their families. To me, that proved the power of this change.”
This program will allow AMC and Fairchild to execute rapid global mobility more efficiently and effectively by increasing aircraft fleet readiness and reliability while providing more stability to maintenance Airmen by projecting work and limiting untimely or last-minute breaks.
“The Air Force’s current maintenance mentality is fly to failure,’ which makes our maintenance practices reactive in nature,” Stone said. “The goal of CBM is to take it from a reactive mentality to proactive, preventative maintenance.”
If the program would have been in place with the KC-135 fleet from April 2016 to March 2019, the Air Force could have saved roughly $9.5 million and nearly 12,000 man-hours, according to Air Mobility Command’s CBM training presentation.
“If we know the parts are going to break, we can schedule the parts to be replaced before they fail and get the job done on our time,” Stone said. “We have picked an initial batch of parts that have caused more-than-normal break rates. We have already found roughly 54 different items to replace, spanning a 44 aircraft fleet.”
CBM will benefit both squadrons under the 92nd MXG. For the 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, leadership is excited for the increased effectiveness of maintenance practices.
“Applying and integrating CBM methods, technologies and knowledge-based capabilities will improve the reliability and maintenance effectiveness in supporting the maintenance decision-making processes for the [KC-135],” said Senior Master Sgt. William Puentes, 92nd AMXS assistant superintendent.
The Air Force is making strides to modernize and innovate across all operations. CBM is one of many innovations that will keep the United States Air Force unmatched and unbeatable, ready to respond in a moment’s notice anywhere in the world.
“The long-term intent is to help us identify parts that are going to fail, before they fail, so we can increase our aircraft availability,” said Col. Michael O’Connor, 92nd Maintenance Group commander. “It’s going to enable our technicians to change things out before they become a hard-broke item. [CBM ] will provide better fidelity on meeting operations group requirements because we’ll be able to get in front of high predictable fail items and offer more aircraft availability on a day-to-day basis.”