Aerospace Maintenance Professionals Focus on Improving Readiness

Illustration by Sandrick Galmard

 

More than 300 aviation maintenance professionals gathered May 13-15 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to discuss ways to improve fleet readiness and keep more aircraft and components available for tasking.

Discussions covered readiness and modernization initiatives, training improvements, facilities and equipment upgrades, ways to build more quality into parts to minimize maintenance and replacement, and building closer relationships between logistics and supply commands.

“When most people think of Naval Aviation, they think of aviators and naval flight officers,” said Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, as he kicked off the symposium. “We, the aerospace maintenance professionals, are the ones who keep the aircraft flying. We fix for the fight, day in and day out.”

With reduced flight hours attributed in part to tight budgets, he said maintenance personnel are not getting the opportunity to work on aircraft as often as they should to perfect their skills. The recent budget approved by Congress will allow more flight hours for pilots and crews. Maintenance professionals will, in addition, be able to work on aircraft more often to increase their experience with the aircraft, components and parts.

Rear Adm. Mark Whitney, director of Fleet Maintenance, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, challenged leaders to be innovative and creative in finding solutions to improve readiness.

“The challenge for leadership is to make status quo more dangerous than the challenge of trying something new,” he said.

One innovative idea offers virtual training at the Fleet Readiness Centers to allow artisans to experience the look and feel of painting aircraft without the expense or potential damage.

Attendees agreed that a vital part of an effective maintenance program is a well-functioning supply system.

Guest speakers Air Force Brig. Gen. Linda Hurry, dual-hatted as commander, Defense Supply Center Richmond and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA)Aviation, Richmond; and Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support, spoke about their commitment to ensuring their teams work closer together so parts and supplies are available when and where needed.

“Adm. Heinz and I are joined at the hip and the key to our success is to make sure we are linked and synched, and we understand collectively what your requirements are,” Hurry said. “Our goal, at least from a DLA perspective, is that we will try new things [to improve support]. If it’s not illegal, immoral or too terribly fattening, we’re going to try it.”

The symposium also included panel discussions and mentoring sessions with retired flag officers and senior aviation maintenance leaders.

Gary Younger is a public affairs specialist supporting Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.


Aerospace Maintenance Community Celebrates 50 Years of Service

Although the Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer (AMDO) community has only been around for five decades, its history has been intertwined with Naval Aviation for more than a century.

Shortly after pilot Eugene Ely launched his Curtis Pusher off the deck of USS Birmingham (CL-62) more than a century ago, the Navy recognized the value of bringing aircraft to the fight.

“Keeping that aircraft flight-worthy and ready to launch became an instant requirement,” said Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers and senior AMDO, as he opened the 2018 Aerospace Maintenance Professional Symposium (AMPS) in Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 13-15. “Once the Navy embraced the idea of launching aircraft from ships, there was no turning back.”

From the wood and fabric open-cockpit fighters to the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II, Naval Aviation has progressed, and with it, aviation maintenance has kept pace.

Before World War II, the senior aviation chief maintenance mate ran every aspect of the squadron maintenance program, which was largely self-developed and passed down from chief to chief. He answered to the commanding officer and managed his own supply bins. Success or failure depended on his maintenance program, since squadrons were more or less self-supporting.

During and after World War II, aviation maintenance management became more centralized as planners understood more about maintenance and its impact on aviation. Regulations, instructions and manuals were produced to provide more guidance to maintainers. The standardized Naval Aviation Maintenance Program (NAMP) was instituted in 1961 and detailed the responsibilities of the organizational- and intermediate-levels of maintenance.

Before the standup of aviation maintenance as a career field, consistency of aviation maintenance varied from squadron to squadron. In the 1950s and 60s, various CNO-directed studies identified a need for an officer corps dedicated to providing full-time, professional aircraft maintenance. These studies came from a growing concern that new generations of sophisticated and expensive weapon systems being introduced to the fleet would pose reliability and maintainability problems to Naval Aviation’s operational readiness and safety.

In July 1968, several professional maintenance officers, including Capt. Howard Goben and Cmdr. Virgil Lemmon, lobbied the Secretary of the Navy to establish the AMDO community with designator 152X. In December 1968, the “original 100” AMDOs, five of whom attended AMPS, were selected from the ranks of naval aviators, general aviation, aviation limited duty and aeronautical engineering duty officers, to become the nucleus of the AMDO community. The first 100 officers included 47 lieutenants, 43 lieutenant commanders, nine commanders and one captain, and the AMDO community now boasts more than 400 active members and continues to grow.

In 1969, transfer boards began transitioning qualified, fleet-experienced officers into the AMDO community, and entry-level AMDOs began entering from the U.S. Naval Academy, Aviation Officer Candidate School, Officer Candidate School, Reserve Officers Training Corps and unrestricted line communities.

AMDO Community Achievements

Since its inception, the mission of the AMDO community has been to help guide the development, establishment and implementation of maintenance and material management policies and procedures to support naval aircraft, airborne weapons, attendant systems and related support equipment.

Ask any AMDO why their community is important, and you’ll hear how it drives Naval Aviation’s readiness to fight now and in the future.

Over time, AMDOs have matured the NAMP from its initial body of unintegrated policies and processes in the late 1950s, to its first formal release in 1961, to development of today’s Naval Aviation maintenance standard operating procedures.

In 1966, CNO Adm. David McDonald approved a new aircraft maintenance and material management manual creating “three levels of maintenance,” and this new “3M” system was implemented. The seeds were planted for an Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) aboard all aircraft carriers, and AMDOs played a critical role in helping CNO establish them in 1967. That same year, six Navy and Marine Corps Overhaul and Repair Departments were re-designated as separate commands called Naval Air Rework Facilities or NARFs—precursors to today’s Fleet Readiness Centers (FRC).

Five of the original 100 AMDOs receive Professional Aviation Maintenance Officer (PAMO) pins during the 2018 Aerospace Maintenance Professional Symposium in Virginia Beach, Va., May 13-15. Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski, commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, left, and Capt. Keith Nixon, commander, FRC Mid-Atlantic, right, celebrate aviation maintenance pioneers by making them honorary PAMOs. From left are retired Lt. Cmdr. Jack Jeffords, Capt. Tom O’Connor, Capt. Don Taggart, Capt. Vern Listol and Capt. Mack Prose. (U.S. Navy photo)

The current FRC structure—which includes four depot maintenance sites, four intermediate maintenance sites and a headquarters command—was a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendation that realigned and merged depot and intermediate maintenance activities.

On Nov. 13, 2008, AMDOs marked a historic moment when the Professional Aviation Maintenance Officer warfare pin was approved, and again on Dec. 9, 2009, when the first AMDO, Rear Adm. Mike Bachmann, was pinned.

For more on the AMDO history, visit www.amdo.org.