Air Force Poring Over Maintenance Data To Help Prevent Plane Mishaps

Spurred by a recent rash of fatal military aviation mishaps, the U.S. Air Force has ordered a review of its maintenance efforts to ensure it is not missing any harbingers of future accidents.

In a May 9 memorandum, Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the head of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, outlined a series of steps her command will take “to identify those conditions that, left on their current course, could materially contribute to an aircraft mishap.” 

Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, head of Air Force Materiel Command (Air Force photo)

Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, head of Air Force Materiel Command (Air Force photo)

The one-page memo, which is addressed to AFMC headquarters staff and center commanders and executive directors, calls for taking a fresh look at maintenance data to detect any unusual activity, such as a spike in unplanned depot repairs for aircraft or engines.

It also calls for scrutinizing additional sources of data that could contain warning signs. Such information could include engineering technical assistance reports, materiel deficiency reports, hazardous air traffic reports and cyber vulnerability reports.

The memo also directs the aircraft structural integrity program to take an “out-of-cycle” look “to flag the highest areas of concern and determine how we might accelerate risk reduction.”

For problems the Air Force has already identified, the memo seeks to speed up the implementation of solutions.

The results of the Pawlikowski-ordered review are due July 15.

The effort is meant to complement a “safety review” of aviation operations that all Air Force flying and maintenance units are expected to finish by May 21. During the safety review, airmen will be asked to identify issues that may cause a future mishap.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered the safety review after a WC-130H Hercules went down May 2 in Georgia, killing nine airmen (Defense Daily, May 8). The cause of that crash is under investigation.

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