C-5 MSG-3 brings cargo fleet better inspection process to keep aircraft flying

  • Published
  • By Holly Birchfield
  • 78 ABW/PA
Support for the C-5 is set to change in fiscal 2010.

To provide the best maintenance for the C-5 fleet and help achieve aircraft availability goals through fiscal 2040, the Air Mobility Command is transitioning aircraft sustainment efforts to the Air Transportation Association's Maintenance Steering Group-3, Scheduled Maintenance Development convention.

Col. James Dendis, commander of the 730th Aircraft Sustainment Group, said Robins is adopting a method used in the commercial airline industry to support the C-5 fleet.

"MSG-3 is a program that implements reliability-centered maintenance in the commercial airline fleet," he said. "We are trying to use that philosophy to maintain our C-5 and adopt a commercial practice to maintain the C-5 fleet. In doing so, we look to improve aircraft availability, improve the maintenance practices in the field and reduce some of their field maintenance burden and basically have an overall maintenance program for the C-5 fleet."

Scott Vandersall, chief engineer for C-5 aircraft in the 730th ASG, said the new approach to inspection of the C-5 is much more encompassing.

"The MSG-3 is a much more comprehensive inspection program than we have today," he said. "Today's version essentially has the different inspection intervals, but they're independent of each other. They don't build on each other. You have a separate set of inspections that you would do at each of those intervals."

Mr. Vandersall said in the past, if an inspection were missed, it may not be done again for some time, leaving uncertainty in findings.

"The MSG-3 is what is called a hierarchical inspection program where everything builds on each other," he said. "So, when you go from a lower level inspection, you'll do the inspection and then when you go to a much higher level, like an isochronal inspection, you'll do the same type of inspection, with the intent that you're looking at the same area in a much more comprehensive manner."

Technical data and work cards will be a big change as the MSG-3 comes aboard. Today, work cards simply offer verbage. Work cards under MSG-3 will have pictures that provide specifics on where to inspect, what measurement values are good or bad, where to lubricate and a lot more information for the mechanic. Timing is everything, and that is definitely true with MSG-3.

"You'll hear this a lot for MSG-3, the phrase, 'It's the right time to find. It's the right time to fix,'" he said. "The way today's inspection programs are, if they find a little crack out there, they're going to fix it even if the structure is not considered primary. However, if that particular part should fail, then it's going to put that airplane down for three weeks just to fix that crack and you didn't really need to fix that particular crack at that time."

Colonel Dendis said the MSG-3 approach cuts repair and maintenance time down.

"On the MSG-3, you'll only accomplish what you can in the time you have to do the inspection," he said.

The colonel said field units are going to primarily do reliability-based inspections, and leave the heavier, structural-type inspections that could increase repair time to program depot maintenance.

Other support will come from the 542nd Combat Sustainment Wing's commodities support workers, the Defense Logistics Agency, and others, Colonel Dendis said. He said the C-5 is the first organic aircraft in the Air Force inventory to change from the current inspection program to the MSG-3 type inspection program.

The previous inspection method was a part-focused inspection, whereas the MSG-3 is a systems-based approach.

"Instead of waiting for it to fail, you basically monitor what the systems are telling you in terms of what's going wrong," Colonel Dendis said.

Mr. Vandersall said Robins hopes to gain reliability on the conservative side of 20 percent improvement. Robins hopes that will mean seven less aircraft down for repair each day once MSG-3 is implemented.

The C-5 fleet is set to retire in fiscal 2040. The cost avoidance for extending maintenance intervals for PDM and other inspections through fiscal 2040 is about $1.38 billion.