News | Nov. 5, 2021

Collaboration improves Marine One fleet readiness operations

By Natalie Skelton, DLA Aviation Public Affairs

While every aircraft serving the U.S. armed forces is critical to mission success, few roles are as important to both morale and mission as Marine One. Because of this, the Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Cherry Point, North Carolina team takes its duty seriously keeping the Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron One [HMX-1] ready for service.

In collaboration with Fleet Readiness Center East, Cherry Point, North Carolina, DLA Aviation at Cherry Point has been procuring necessary items and making improvements in procurement of aviation consumable parts and organic materials for maintenance of the HMX-1 “Nighthawks” fleet, which includes several “Green Top” MV-22B aircraft used for presidential support. The effort was executed over several months, from February through August.

Josh Waller, deputy commander of DLA Aviation at Cherry Point, explained each partner’s role: Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania supplied repairable components; DLA Aviation and DLA Distribution Cherry Point supported through material planning, management and storage, delivery of forecasted hazardous material (DLA Aviation manages the FRC East customers’ requirements at Cherry Point); and integrated prime vendor support. DLA Aviation in Richmond, Virginia provided weapons system support, contract management, strategic acquisition, vendor engagement and value engineering.

This collaboration resulted in a 20% improvement in aircraft repair turnaround time.

“It was definitely a team effort involving collaboration and support from numerous stakeholders across the naval aviation enterprise. Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland and Fleet Readiness Center East, Cherry Point, North Carolina, brought logistics, engineering, facilities and maintenance expertise,” Waller said.

“Each aircraft, engine or component supported by Fleet Readiness Center East and DLA presents its own unique challenges, as no two are alike based on past history, usage and environment,” he said. “This maintenance event challenged FRC East and DLA, as Marine Helicopter Squadron One aircraft required aggressive turnaround times of 150 days. FRC East with DLA support beat this time by 28 days to complete the first depot-level maintenance of a presidential V-22 aircraft in 122 days.”

This collaboration between DLA, FRC East Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Logistics and Engineering Directorates led to peak material availability for repair parts and hazardous material requirements, Waller said.

In addition to providing aviation consumable material such as traditional hardware and fittings, DLA Aviation at Cherry Point acts as the technical point of contact, bridging the DLA Distribution at New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, managed HAZMAT contract with the service provider and the customer.

Waller said in the past few years FRC East has made great strides in innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness through collaboration with Commander Fleet Readiness Centers, Patuxent River, Maryland, DLA and NAVSUP WSS.

FRC East and DLA meet daily to collaborate, starting with Tier 1—the shop floor—and culminating each day at Tier 5, which includes the FRC East commanding officer. Each tier event is an opportunity to discuss any current or potential issues that could delay production.

“These short meetings are meant to foster communication among various stakeholders as they work together solving problems at the lowest level possible. Any problem that cannot be solved within 24 hours is raised to the next tier level,” said Waller.

“One specific challenge during the effort occurred when a critical DLA-managed repair part experienced a product quality deficiency related to part dimensional specifications,” he said.

The part supported by a DLA Captains of Industry agreement posed significant risk to the aircraft’s aggressive turnaround time requirement.  DLA, FRC East, and industry partners collaborated expeditiously to create a temporary engineering instruction and find available alternative stock meeting the requirements.  Nearly 500 parts were procured, enabling uninterrupted repair processes.

Waller said the lessons learned in collaborating on the HMX-1 aircraft are applicable to future, similar projects.

“Part of the reason we love what we do is that every event is slightly different, and we learn with every one of them. Taking those lessons and applying them to processes and procedures makes us more effective and more efficient every day in support of our customers,” he said.

Naval sustainment system expansion planning prior to actual arrival of the aircraft has positive impacts on planned maintenance interval inductions, including increased collaboration, communication, and ability to procure long lead time parts. Waller said long-range aircraft preplanning prior to induction is a relatively new process that has proved to be extremely valuable and was patterned after past success with components production.

“The positive impacts drove the process to be adopted and implemented for all future planned aircraft maintenance interval inductions, and there’s no doubt we’ll continuously improve planning and prevent delays, paving the way for even shorter repair turnaround times in the future,” Waller said.