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Robins Air Force Base Leader Says Aircraft Production on Right Path

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- Although some of the numbers might not look good at first glance, aircraft maintainers at Robins have turned the corner in meeting on-time delivery goals, according to the leader of the maintenance area.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, only the C-5 area exceeded the Air Force goal of having 95 percent of aircraft finished on time. The C-5 section finished seven aircraft on time, and all were on time, said Brig. Gen. Walt Lindsley, commander of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex.

The F-15, C-130 and C-17 areas were all well short of the goal, but each improved from the previous year. More important to Lindsley, each improved dramatically toward the end of the year.

In fiscal year 2014, less than 2 percent of F-15s were finished on time, but this past year that was 36 percent. Most of the on-time deliveries came toward the end of the year after mechanics cleared the backlog of late planes. Now the F-15s, as well as other areas, are consistently producing on time, Lindsley said.

He believes that each area can meet the 95 percent goal with the changes that have been put in place to improve production during the current fiscal year.

In the past year, the C-130 area produced 66 jets, compared with 63 the previous year. That was a 39-percent on-time rate in the past year, compared with 34 percent the previous year.

The C-17 area produced 71 aircraft for an 85 percent on-time rate. That's the same number of aircraft the section produced the previous year, when it had a 77-percent on-time rate.

Lindsley said the C-17 improvement was significant because the area was struggling in the first part of the year, but a string of 48 C-17s were produced on time starting in April.

So while the F-15, C-130 and C-17 sections are still lagging behind the goal, each was performing well in the latter part of year.

"They all improved their performances simultaneously and that is kind of unheard of," Lindsley said. "Usually in an aircraft production area, you might have one squadron coming up, but to have three do it simultaneously is really an interesting phenomenon."

Lindsley said a total of 217 planes were produced in the past fiscal year. That is just two shy of what had been scheduled for the year, and it's the most planes produced in five years.

In the past four fiscal years, beginning in 2011, the total number of planes produced was 179, 204, 185 and 201, respectively. And four years ago, Lindsley points out, the base had about 1,000 more employees in the maintenance area than it does now.

"That's just tells you how productive they were (in the past year)," he said. "The processes have improved. The teamwork between the workforce and management is much improved."

Andrew Nadekow, an aircraft mechanic in the F-15 area, said a key change there is how inspections are done on aircraft. The planes are inspected more closely early in the overhaul process so that parts can be ordered sooner. Previously, mechanics might be well into an overhaul and have to wait on parts when unexpected problems were discovered.

He said morale is much improved now that planes are getting finished on time.

"It makes me feel like we are doing better," Nadekow said. "It's encouraging to keep working harder and doing better."

When a plane is overhauled, engines and parts are sent across the complex to be inspected and overhauled, and then reassembled. Lindsley said there has been better communication among each unit involved and improved coordination to keep planes on track.

"It is a very synchronized, very complicated production system which is full of processes," Lindsley said. "All of those processes have to be executed properly."

Allowing more overtime has also been a part of the improvement, Lindsley said. Mechanics typically had about 10 percent of their hours as overtime, but that had been cut back to about five percent due to budget cuts. In this past year, Lindsley said, it went back to 10 percent.

The complex performs overhaul maintenance and modifications on the F-15, C-5, C-17 and C-130 aircraft, as well as maintenance on software and components of many other types of aircraft.

The lagging on-time delivery rates have been a concern to advocates for Robins because it makes it tougher to compete for new missions and defend the base in the event of a new Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

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