A B-1B Lancer just made history. The aircraft swept through programmed depot maintenance in record-breaking time – just 129 flow days. It was produced one day sooner than the unit’s goal and 24 days sooner than the fiscal 2012 goal.
Officials credit the achievement to teamwork, years of continuous process improvement and an emphasis on material supportability and mechanic support.
“Simply put, you are the best! I am so proud of our team for breaking records the ‘right way’ with character and integrity. This is the first B-1 produced in 129 days with only 39 days in post dock, 24 days early, and a first flight test acceptance,” said Col. Brad Tannehill, 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group commander. “I have great faith that our team will continue to achieve the impossible; we are aiming beyond what we are capable of, and are developing a complete disregard for where our abilities end. It’s not about how good we are. It is about how good we want to be. We want to be the best in the world, world class. To be the BEST we must continue to Believe, Encourage, Share and Trust our teammates. We are still not close to reaching our full potential, the ‘Art of the Possible.'”
Charles “Chuck” Alley, 565th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron acting director for B-1 Maintenance, said the unit will continue to use eight-step problem-solving methods, root cause analysis and a recent enterprise value stream analysis to further cut flow days.
“We ultimately want to get the mechanics on the floor turning the wrenches with exactly what they need to be able to do their job safely, efficiently and with the highest degree of quality possible,” he said.
Their efforts have paid off.
When a B-1 arrives at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., for PDM it is processed through five stages, or gates – pre-dock, access and inspection, defect repair and initial hydraulic power, hydraulic power operational check and post dock, where the jet receives a functional check flight. While the squadron’s goal for an aircraft is to move through post-dock in 40 calendar days, in early 2012 Tinker averaged 56 days and three functional check flights. Now, it’s at 48 days and two functional check flights. But, this particular aircraft moved through in only 39 days and required only one functional check flight.
Prior to the 129-day aircraft, the last five B-1s had been produced in 145 days, Alley said.
“It was the first-time ever we broke the 40-day post-dock requirement,” Alley said. “This achievement speaks highly of the end product that went through the process from input through the dock gates and arrived out to the post-dock arena. It’s a phenomenal improvement over fiscal 2010, which produced an aircraft in 208 flow days.”
Within those gates, there are countless people who touch or are affiliated with the aircraft including personnel from the aircraft maintenance group and system program office, the 76th Commodities Maintenance Group, 76th Propulsion Maintenance Group, Defense Logistics Agency and 10th Flight Test Squadron pilots.
Craig Baumann, a mechanic in B-1 Avionics with the 565 AMXS B-1 Flight, has worked on these aircraft since 1997.
“This airframe is an animal. Every one of them is made out of the same blueprint, but they’re all different and the field flies them until they’re pretty worn out,” Baumann said. “But, we give them good jets back; that’s why we’re in this business.”
After achieving the turnaround time of 129 days, Baumann said it is possible to do it again.