Boeing Frontiers
November 2003
Volume 02, Issue 07
Top Stories Inside Quick Takes Site Tools
Integrated Defense Systems


New system aims to boost C-17 fleet availability, cut costs


KEEP 'EM FLYINGIn the world of aircraft maintenance, the old maxim "if it's not broken, don't fix it" is about to go the way of the horse and cart, thanks to advances in system prognostics and autonomic logistics. Helping spearhead the move towards an active approach to aircraft maintenance is a major C-17 Globemaster III support program initiative called Integrated Fleet Management.

The initiative is designed to bolster C-17 maintainability and availability while lowering operating and support costs. The C-17 IFM program is part of the overall Integrated Defense Systems strategy to understand the enduring needs of customers and provide value-added solutions that meet their requirements and increase the effectiveness of military systems.

Sustaining the C-17 fleet is a big responsibility for Boeing. "Our job as TSSR (Total Support System Responsibility) is not only to maximize C-17 fleet availability, but also to reduce its operations and support costs," said Gus Urzua, C-17 Flexible Sustainment Program manager.

"IFM is a long-term strategy, involving all support areas, where we continuously monitor aircraft health and apply reliability trending and operational constraint analysis to make realtime optimized maintenance decisions before the aircraft lands," said Ken Sanger, IFM program sponsor and director of C-17 Sustaining Engineering.

IFM Project Manager Aaron Ghumman is leading the efforts of a combined C-17/Phantom Works team that has configured a prototype system, involving the first two pieces of the IFM system: the health monitor, known as the Advanced Wireless Open Data System controller and the Ground Based Reasoner. Originally developed to support production aircraft check flights, the AWODS system can retrieve raw data from up to nine separate data buses on the C-17. The data is transmitted to the ground via satellite for immediate evaluation. AWODS also has the capacity to record up to 19 hours of continuous flight data for post-flight retrieval. The GBR was developed through a collaborative effort between the C-17 Avionics group, led by Ralph Perez, and a Phantom Works Integrated Vehicle Health Management group led by Kirby Keller.

The GBR uses the AWODS data to pinpoint faults, as well as identify false or "nuisance" indications. In its current configuration, the GBR provides enhanced fault analysis for the aircraft's air delivery system, electronic flight control system and hydraulic system controller. Ultimately, a prognostic capability will be developed to enable the maintainer to know when a subsystem or component is about to fail.

An evaluation of the IFM prototype system is in progress. The U.S. Air Force is a participant in the evaluation and provided two training C-17s to assess the AWODS/GBR system. "The focus of the evaluation is to actively capture fault data and analyze it using the GBR," said David Mai, C-17 Reliability and Maintainability manager.

The current AWODS/GBR system is the first step toward the realization of the IFM vision, including integrated diagnostics, prognostics, autonomic logistics for optimized maintenance, and just-in-time parts supply. Based on Boeing estimates, IFM has the potential of increasing C-17 fleet availability by 10 or more aircraft by 2010 and saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

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