AAR has received FAA Repair Station Certification for a local facility dedicated to maintaining the U.S. Department of Energyís National Nuclear Security Administration fleet of aircraft.
The step enables the NNSA, which serves a vital role in national security, to comply with its specific FAA requirements, and it allows AARís Albuquerque team to operate as a freestanding unit, not reliant on the Companyís other repair locations.
AAR has been providing logistics and aircraft support, including repair work, for NNSAís four-plane fleet since December 2011 under a five-year contract with the DOE estimated at $18.5 million. Last December the DOE received FAA certification for its NNSA operation. In order for the NNSA to be in compliance, AARís repair center needed to be FAA certified as well. AAR responded quickly, completing the typically lengthy process in just five months, gaining final approval on February 21.
We view the issuing of the certification as the cornerstone of our commitment to the NNSA operation, said AAR Aircraft Services Vice President of Operations David M. Jones, who heads the Albuquerque team. ìThe professionalism and teamwork of the group here in Albuquerque during the certification process was amazing. I assigned a lot of people here to roles above and beyond their normal duties ñ creating manuals, developing training programs — and they all came together to accomplish a common goal.
Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Its aircraft are used to provide safe and secure transport of nuclear weapons components, nuclear limited life components and federal agent task forces.
The NNSAís fleet consists of two Boeing 737-400 passenger/cargo (Combi), a DC-9 Combi, and a Learjet. They are housed at DOEís facility at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. AAR has a staff of 26 there, including 14 mechanics and inspectors, exclusively supporting the NNSA fleet.
One of the things we did in applying for FAA certification is we stressed writing the procedure manual to meet the unique mission requirements, Jones said. ìMost contracted repair centers, the customer brings the airplane in, you do the repair, the customer flies the plane out, and you donít see it until it comes back for the next repair cycle. In our case, we maintain the same aircraft day in and day out. We are responsible not just for overhauls, but also for the day-to-day maintenance — even during missions. Every mission that goes out, we send mechanics on board.