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News | Dec. 17, 2021

DLA Aviation instrumental in returning the Air Force B-1B to its bomber fleet

By Leon Moore DLA Aviation Public Affairs Office

Over the past several years, there have been documented incidents of the Air Force’s B-1B bombers experiencing in-flight engine issues. The problems occurred when an unsafe part in the augmenter fuel filter housing on its F101 engines failed.

In April, Air Force Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, grounded the entire B-1B bomber fleet and ordered a safety stand-down due to AFFH issues.

To bring the fleet back to mission readiness and ensure safe flight of the aircraft, AFGSC tasked the 552nd Component Maintenance Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with inspecting and repairing all housings. But, as the parts were being turned in, an error in the DLA distribution standard system caused issues within the Air Force stock control and distribution system that wouldn’t allow the housings to be issued out to the squadron.

Air Force Maj. Michael Lewis is the operations officer at Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Oklahoma located on Tinker. He said the squadron turned to them for help in resolving the issue. The request for support came roughly a month after the Air Force mandated safety stand down.

On May 2, while most people were enjoying the last day of the weekend, Supervisory Inventory Management Specialist Jason Walker and Lead Inventory Management Specialist Lisa Jones sprang into action, immediately identifying the problem, manually assigning the fuel filter housings to requisitions submitted by the squadron and then working directly with DLA Distribution to force a release of the material for delivery.

In under six hours, the dynamic duo was able to clear the problem and move approximately 126 parts to the squadron. In addition, the DLA Distribution team ensured the quick release of assets as the DLA Aviation team cleared the backlog and ensured that as more fuel filter housings flowed in, each was manually processed to ensure it was stored to the correct account and issued without delay.

“The team members associated with this have been asked to work outside normal duties hours to ensure support to the warfighter on short notice,” Lewis said. “They have done so with no complaint and been completely engaged supporting our mission partners and the warfighter.”

As the squadron inspected and determined the part of the fuel filter housing that needed to be replaced, DLA Aviation was called on once more to procure enough filter heads to bring all B-1B engines back to mission-capable status.

Material Management Division Chief Carl Eggleston said looking at the history of the specific part required, a procurement normally had an administrative-lead time of 112 days and production-lead time of 182 days, simply meaning, the necessary parts would not be available for 10 months.

DLA Aviation procurement professionals in Richmond, Virginia, went to work, quickly awarding a contract for the required part on May 14. The contractor was then able to deliver the first filter head on June 9, less than 30 days from contract award.

“The coordination between DLA Aviation in Richmond and DLA Aviation and Distribution teams here at Tinker was a testament to the mission of DLA and ensuring that our warfighters have the material they need to be successful every day,” Eggleston said.

As the deliveries began to flow into Tinker, Eggleston said both DLA Aviation and DLA Distribution Oklahoma coordinated to ensure the parts would be issued out to the squadron on the same day they arrived. As each part cleared receiving and was ready to issue, DLA Aviation employees hand delivered the filter heads to maintainers so they could begin inspecting parts and repairing the housings.

From delivery to installation all within a single day, blew away the 24-hour standard for backordered parts. The last filter head arrived and was delivered July 20.

“The Herculean efforts of the entire DLA team allowed the B-1B fleet to go from safety stand down to flying missions again in three months.” Lewis said.

DLA Aviation at Oklahoma City Commander Air Force Col. Jason Kalin said his team’s response was nothing short of phenomenal when faced with a very complex and critical situation. 

“In what has become the norm, our team stepped in to resolve multiple issues that were preventing delivery of parts needed by the customer. I’m extremely proud of this team and their ability to go above and beyond in supporting the warfighter,” he said.