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News | Feb. 16, 2017

Former commander returns, gives Air Force customer perspective at SLC

By Bonnie Koenig DLA Aviation Public Affairs

Defense Logistics Agency Aviation leadership and strategic partners came together for the annual Senior Leadership Conference Feb. 7-9 on Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia.

Former DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Johnson who is the current commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, returned to Richmond to speak with senior leaders from an Air Force customers’ perspective.

DLA Aviation Commander Air Force Brig. Gen. Allan Day hosted the event and this year’s theme “dial it up a notch,” referring to asking leadership and strategic partners to initiate ways to improve performance.

Johnson commands the largest maintenance operation in the U.S. Air Force. He said they have had successes not because of his leadership but because of the great people who work there and the great support from DLA Aviation. He said some of the challenges being faced are manpower, training from a maintenance perspective, modernization and nuclear sustainment.

Johnson began by sharing a time-lapsed video showing the 150-day depot maintenance process on the KC-135 Stratotanker, a military aerial refueling aircraft, conducted at Oklahoma City.

“It’s important to understand some of the time challenges we face in meeting our maintenance goals,” said Johnson. “It’s all about the math.”

Johnson said there are 400, KC-135s in the fleet and they are all on a five-year maintenance cycle, which equates to maintaining 80 aircraft a year. There are 52 weeks in a year, which equates to having a KC-135 back online and fully operational every 4.7 days.

As the time-lapsed video played, Johnson described the steps and the timeframes for each maintenance step. The maintenance crews work around the clock in three shifts. The first step is to take the tail wing off to get the plane in the building. The engines are taken-off and sent to the propulsion maintenance group and the avionics are removed and sent to Warner Robins, Georgia for repair. The landing gear is removed and sent to Ogden, Utah for repair.

Johnson added it takes two days to prepare the plane for paint removal and three more days to paint the plane. There is a 15-day inspection process for diagnostics and a 53-day maintenance schedule.

“At any time there are 28-32 aircraft going through the maintenance process,” said Johnson. “That’s almost 10 percent of the entire fleet.”  At the end of the 53-day maintenance cycle, the aircraft goes through final inspections to ensure all systems function properly. “It has to … because a pilot and crew has to fly the aircraft. That’s a no fail mission,” said Johnson.

He said the maintenance process that attendees watched on the video equates to a 118-days and that is the new target vs. the 150-day process. He added that they set a record year [2016] with aircraft production of 75, KC-135s; 25, B-1 Lancer Bombers; 17, B-52 Stratofortress Bombers; 3, E-3Aiborne Warning and Control Systems; and 2 Navy E-6 Mercury AWACs out of the factory.

He also showed a video on the B-52 to remind attendees of the mission of the aircraft and to refresh perspectives on why this platform is supported.

“There are only two-year groups for the B-52 – 1960 and 1961 and only 75 in the fleet. This aircraft will fly until 2040, but engineers say it will be structurally sound until 2060…that is 100 years,” he said. “In two years and three months the KC-46 will hit the platform [be operational] and we will be supporting new state of the art technology right alongside the B-52.”

He said the DLA enterprise is emphasizing support to the nuclear enterprise. “We will continue to invest in the nuclear deterrence, its big business and extremely important,” said Johnson. “We need to modernize space and cyber space. Everything we do in this logistics world is done on the unclassified network, so protecting information is important. We need to leverage with commercial industry to deal with data-centric and cyber infrastructure. We need to grow to 60 combat fighter squadrons.”

Johnson said for future sustainment, it’s important to implement continuous process improvements to help us with the manpower shortage.

Johnson said he was impressed that 91.95 percent of items requested from DLA Aviation were delivered within the timeframe established, but he still has only 53 days to repair an aircraft. “If 7 percent of our orders don’t meet the timeline that puts the 53-day target at risk,” he said.

He said there are still areas to work on such as better communication in sharing objectives and common goals, and even though the cost of doing business is slightly down, there are areas that need to be concentrated on to reduce costs.

Johnson added, none of these things matter if we don’t produce airplanes that our nation can use.

“You’re a group of unsung heros who make a difference every single day to the missions of the depots and the Air Force, and in delivering combat airpower for our military,” said Johnson.