A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report found that while the Navy Department uses two separate databases to track aircraft availability the newer one is better at predicting actual flying hours.

The Navy uses both the older Decision Knowledge Programming for Logistics Analysis and Technical Evaluation system (DECKPLATE) and Aviation Maintenance Supply Readiness Report system (AMSRR). DECKPLATE is an older system while AMSRR was introduced in the mid-2010s.

Lt. Scott "Gameday" Gallagher lands an F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to "Blue Blasters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, for the 1,000th trap on USS Gerald R. Ford's (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations on March 19, 2020 in the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo: U.S. Navy)
Lt. Scott “Gameday” Gallagher lands an F/A-18F Super Hornet, attached to “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, for the 1,000th trap on USS Gerald R. Ford‘s (CVN 78) flight deck during flight operations on March 19, 2020 in the Atlantic Ocean. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

In the report released July 17, CBO analyzed monthly aircraft-level data from 2017 to 2021 for the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and found the two systems used different methods to measure availability, AMSRR had higher availability rates than DECKPLATE, AMSRR’s rates were better at predicting flying hours for the aircraft, and DECKPLATE included more data errors.

According to the CBO’s analysis, AMSRR is more forward-looking, which allows operational commanders to project whether their aircraft can fly that day, while DECKPLATE focuses on being retrospective and measures how many hours an aircraft was available after the fact.

AMSRR’s average of Super Hornet availability rates was also higher than DECKPLATE, while the difference between the two rates widened in each year of the analysis, CBO said.

“During that period, AMSRR’s availability rates were higher than DECKPLATE’s in 66 percent of the aircraft-month observations for individual Super Hornets.”

The report theorized when AMSRR showed a higher rate it may have meant the aircraft needed a few hours of daily maintenance but was otherwise still available. However, when AMSRR showed a lower rate than DECKPLATE, CBO said that could have been when the Super Hornet was available but commanders did not think it would be able to fly.

CBO said while both databases have errors in data integrity, DECKPLATE had many more errors. It noted AMSRR’s availability rates better predict the actual flying hours of Super Hornets due to the bigger errors in DECKPLATE.

“Although DECKPLATE’s availability rates are supposed to reflect the actual hours aircraft were available, CBO found what appear to be data errors in DECKPLATE. As a result, AMSRR’s availability rates more closely correlated with the actual hours that Super Hornets were flown,” the report said.

However, it argued that if apparent errors in the data were removed from DECKPLATE, its correlation between availability and actual flying hours would be similar or better than AMSRR. 

“DoN told CBO that the department is working to improve the quality of its aircraft availability data. If the data in DECKPLATE were more accurate, that system’s measurements of availability might match actual flying hours just as well as, or even better than, AMSRR’s measurements do,” the report said.

Other differences include that AMSRR was more likely to show availability rates at zero or 100 percent, but DECKPLATE had many more monthly observations with rates between 10 and 60 percent. DECKPLATE reported very few 100 percent availability or an aircraft for a month, “perhaps because aircraft were often receiving routine maintenance overnight.”

CBO noted AMSRR’s different approach was more likely to report 100 percent availability because it is based on aircraft expected to fly that date compared to DECKPLATE reporting the number of hours each day an aircraft was available.

CBO said it used this analysis to look into how the availability rates measured using the two systems  compared to the amount of time Super Hornets actually flew. 

A Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. (Photo: Boeing)

The office theorized an aircraft’s monthly availability rates would be positively correlated with flying hours so they would move in the same direction. The analysis concluded AMSRRs availability rates were more highly correlated with the flying hours than DECKPLATE, mostly due to the errors in the latter database.

Ultimately CBO found that from 2017 to 2021 annual flying hours per aircraft decreased even though AMSRR’s annual availability rates for Super Hornets rose from 2018 to 2021 while DECKPLATE had no major trends.

The report said this “occurred because total flying hours for Super Hornets became more evenly distributed across the fleet during that period.”

Over this period, fewer Super Hornets did not fly at all and fewer flew for large numbers of hours. This meant total flying time decreased but the percentage of aircraft flying increased, reflected in AMSRR showing an increase in availability rates.