No Time to Waste

The Air Force is considering implementing a high-velocity maintenance arrangement for the B-1B bomber to improve the aircraft’s availability rates. “We are missing sorties required by ops because of aircraft in maintenance,” said Sam Malone, deputy director of the 427th Aircraft Sustainment Group at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center on Tinker Air Force Base. Last year, Malone said the 66-aircraft B-1B fleet experienced the “unacceptable” trend where only 28 aircraft were available at any given time. HVM applies practices used by the commercial airline industry to speed maintenance turnaround times and reduce inefficiencies. Under it, each B-1B would go to depot for heavy maintenance four times in five years, with two light HVM cycles scheduled in-between. During the maintenance, the number of man-hours worked on each platform would be boosted through better organization of workers, tools, and parts. A team of high-ranking Air Force officials visited Tinker in mid April to assess the idea. If they approve it, an HVM test case could commence as early as next year, leading to full implementation across the B-1B fleet as soon as October 2010. In 2007, the Air Force introduced the HVM concept with the C-130 fleet. (Tinker report by Howdy Stout)