TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
The new executive director of the Air Force Sustainment Center recently visited with members of the Tinker Business Industrial Park about current and future AFSC initiatives.
One of the main topics Kevin Stamey discussed centered on the KC-46A Pegasus workload.
Though the KC-46 is a commercially driven platform, personnel at Tinker Air Force Base will maintain the Federal Aviation Administration tech certification on that airframe. Stamey said that’s an anomaly for the Air Force because it does not typically work on FAA-certified airframes.
“One of the things we did to enable that was work with the FAA to stand up a Military Repair Station that’s certified by what we call the Flight Standards Management Office,” he said. “We set up a Military Repair Station that can actually return that aircraft to service and it will still be type certified. That’s a good thing for the Air Force.”
Stamey said the first time the Air Force had to do a major structural repair on an FAA-certified aircraft and return that aircraft to service was accomplished a few months ago by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, which is part of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill AFB, Utah.
In February 2016, a hailstorm swept through Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, damaging 39 T-1A “Jayhawk” trainer aircraft. To facilitate repairs the hail-damaged aircraft, a multi-disciplinary repair team was formed in April 2017 to develop courses of action.
The team included personnel from the Air Education and Training Command at Randolph AFB, Texas, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex at Robins AFB, Georgia; the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker AFB; and AMARG. Without having the usual military technical orders, and for AMARG to perform the needed maintenance, the group required certification as a Military Repair Station in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Federal Aviation Regulations.
AMARG personnel received T-1 familiarization training in aircraft airframe, power-plant general (engine), electrics, avionics, and structural repair tasks at Laughlin AFB. In mid-July 2017, the AFSC’s Flight Standards Management Office audited AMARG’s accomplishments toward qualification for the Military Repair Station Program and associated Federal Aviation Administration regulatory requirements.
AMARG complied fully with the program and the auditors reporting zero non-compliant areas. This qualified AMARG as the first-ever AFSC, FAA-equivalent Military Repair Station.
With regard to the KC-46, the OC-ALC will have to be certified. When the first “C Check” is done, the FSMO will have to certify the OC-ALC and ensure they have all the standards in place to execute and oversee repairs like a commercial entity would.
“That’s a unique opportunity for us,” Stamey said.
Construction on the KC-46 campus on the southwest corner of the base is moving right along, Stamey said. Work where they’re laying the ramp, pad and utilities is about halfway finished.
“Over the next couple of years, we’ll start putting up the walls to the hangars and dock space,” Stamey said. “You’ll be able to see how big and how significant the workload is when you see the size of the complex out there.”
Another activity that’s about halfway finished is the stand up of the KC-46 software integration lab in Bldg. 9001. Stamey said the KC-46 has more software than some of the Air Force’s advanced fighters like the F-22. It not only carries gas, but has a lot of mission capabilities that are driven by software.
One of the challenges facing the AFSC is finding enough STEM talent to manage that software. Stamey said that it’s not just a Tinker, Oklahoma or Air Force problem, it’s a national crisis. He said leaders are going to have to think innovatively if they want to compete for software talent.
“If you look at economic statistics, our adversaries are producing engineers at a much faster rate,” he said. “I believe the way we make up that ground is by innovation.”
In fact, one of Stamey’s focus areas in his new job is setting up innovation, or idea, centers at Tinker. He hopes that one is inside the fence and one outside and will have basic capabilities with metal printers that have basic reverse engineering capability.
“Our desire is to still find somebody to partner with outside the fence to have an external innovation center where we can come and do some of those really tough challenges where we can have additive machines of all natures, not just some of them,” he said. “We believe strongly that additive manufacturing is a key technology, reverse engineering tool that we’re going to have at the idea center.”
The intent behind the idea centers is to be able work with corporate office partners, supply chain engineers and industry partners to solve a problem quickly. For instance, the entities would work together to reverse engineer a part, prototype it and walk out to an airplane to make sure it works. That is not an option today. Stamey said right now it would take multiple contracts and possibly up to 24 months, depending on how complicated the part is, to get the work done.
“As our weapons systems age and we have more and more vendors going out of business and not being able to produce those parts, that’s just not a sustainable model,” he said. “We will impact the readiness of the Air Force if we don’t find another way to solve that problem.”
Stamey said his plea to manufacturing counterparts is to learn together so everyone can climb the additive manufacturing curve much quicker.
“Rather than all learning in stovepipes, we can work together and share knowledge,” he said. “We will all collectively get better faster.”
(The Ogden Air Logistics Complex at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, contributed to this article.)