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Life Cycle Logistics

CBO Report on Aircraft Maintenance and Availability

CBO Report on Aircraft Maintenance and Availability

Bill Kobren

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) yesterday issued a new report of interest to the life cycle logistics, program and product support manager, and sustaining engineering communities entitled “The Effects of Large-Scale Maintenance Actions on the Availability of the Air Force’s Aircraft”.

According to the CBO, “CBO examines the availability of six Air Force aircraft fleets after large-scale maintenance performed since the mid-1990s. In most of the cases, aircraft were more available after the maintenance action than would be expected without it.”

The report goes on to state that “the Department of Defense often confronts decisions about whether to repair a piece of equipment (such as a ship, vehicle, or aircraft) to extend its service life or whether to replace it with a new piece of equipment. One important consideration is whether large-scale maintenance—such as an engine replacement or structural upgrade—would make the equipment more available for training or combat. As equipment ages, more parts tend to break, so the equipment tends to become less avail-able. Large-scale maintenance might sometimes slow or reverse that decline. This report examines the availability of six Air Force aircraft fleets after large-scale maintenance that has occurred since the mid-1990s. Although most aircraft periodically undergo heavy maintenance during their lifetime, the Congressional Budget Office focused on modifications that changed the aircrafts’ Mission Design Series designation. Those types of changes usually focus on improving an aircraft’s performance and reliability so as to keep it in the force for an extended time.”

The report’s authors observed that “…typically, modification programs that result in a change in MDS also include changes to improve reliability because the upgraded aircraft are expected to remain in the force for an extended time. Reliability may be a secondary consideration, though, so an aircraft’s modification may improve its capability without affecting its availability.” In most of the cases that CBO examined, aircraft were more available after the maintenance action than would be expected without it.” The bottom line: “In most of the cases that CBO examined, aircraft were more available after the maintenance action than would be expected without it.”

As an added bonus, encourage readers to also take a look an earlier – but very much related -- CBO report entitled “Operating Costs of Aging Air Force Aircraft” which not surprisingly concluded “…as aircraft age, they generally become more expensive to operate. The rate at which those operating costs grow is important for setting operating budgets and for deciding when to replace aging systems. The faster costs grow as a system ages, the more funding will be needed to maintain existing aircraft and the sooner it becomes cost effective to replace aging systems with new aircraft.”