Reliability and Maintainability A Common Ground for Cooperation 941192
Statement of the Problem:
Since the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 the U.S. Airlines have experienced many changes involved with the competitive free market system. For one they have been forced to change their thinking which now lets the balance sheets and bottom line dictate their routes, schedules and pricing. Another is they are forced to operate at lower budgets looking at ways of attracting customers while reducing costs. Both these changes have resulted in the airlines operating close to bankruptcy. With this in mind we see many of the Airlines operating an older fleet of aircraft and not replacing them with newer aircraft. The same is true for the Department of Defense who's mainstay bomber and transport fleet is on average 20 plus years old. So what can the DOD and the airlines do together under the auspices of Dual Use so as to reduce costs and improve their operations?
With the arrival of the new administration in Washington DC a new set of buzz words has been circulating around DOD agencies “Dual Use Technologies and Defense Conversion”. With this in mind the authors of this paper started talking with the airlines and commercial manufacturers to see what their Reliability and Maintainability (R&M) drivers are so as to incorporate these into future Dual Use programs. This was accomplished through attendance at the annual Boeing Commercial Aircraft Group R&M conference. For the past three years the airlines and Boeing have held this meeting to discuss R&M issues. It was interesting to see that besides a different language, the concepts and the concerns were the same as the Air Force had been attempting to address with their fleet. This is where the DOD and the commercial manufacturers and airlines can work together to address Dual Use technologies, Reliability improvements and Reductions in Maintainability requirements.
The concept of Dual Use is to develop systems for both military and commercial applications. One such example is Global Positioning System (GPS) which is used as a navigation aid in the DOD but can also be used for the commercial airlines. The overall goal here is to look at the concerns identified by the airlines and see if the DOD has developed or could develop a technology to solve these problems. Since the airlines and the DOD are both trying to reduce support costs many R&M issues can be jointly addressed under dual use.
To improve reliability we must first identify the systems we are having problems with. In order to do this the airlines must develop a standardized method for reporting failure and maintenance data back to the manufacturer. Some of the airlines do report data but each one does it differently and the manufacturer has a hard time identifying the problem. The second step to improving reliability is to make it an integral part of the design process with performance. Some of the ways to do this are through analysis of environmental parameters and material characterizations. This allows the design engineer to understand the environment in which the system will be operated and develop a more durable product.
To decrease the maintenance requirements we first need to understand the processes by which aircraft are repaired. From this we can develop maintenance tools which will aid the maintainers in performing their job more efficiently and effectively. One of the ways to do this for both the airlines and the DOD is to develop hand held automated diagnostics tools which can be used at the flight line. Another is eliminating the paper from this environment with automated data systems and recording systems. One of the tough areas here is how to do this with a 20 year old aircraft and will it be cost effective. The solution is to have this be a joint effort between both the DOD and the airline industry so as to develop a product both can use in their own environments.
In general both the DOD and the airline industry are looking at reduced budgets and leaner times. However, by working together and sharing resources improvements can be made in reliability and maintainability which will benefit both. The results will be an improved bottom line for the airlines and increased combat capability for the DOD.