Author: Thomas Biamonte
Company: Lockheed Martin
Army maintainers may not have the best available troubleshooting information at their fingertips. Evidence shows that Army maintainers have been improvising to get valuable troubleshooting information needed to meet the demands of high flight hours and frequent maintenance activity.
In the two-level maintenance environment, the Apache Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM) and the flight line tool kits are used to troubleshoot to the line replaceable unit (LRU). What does the maintainer do if they have followed the steps in the IETM and the problem still exists? Typically, they reach out to their local Field Service Representative (FSR) or peers hoping they have experienced a similar troubleshooting issue with resolution steps. Private Facebook groups have been established to capture lessons learned, however no moderator exists. Over the years on the Apache Modernized Target Acquisition Designation Sight/Pilot Night Vision Sensor (M-TADS/PNVS) program, the sustainment team created maintainability guides with public release approval. Historically, these were printed and shipped out to the unit as posters, making it difficult to transport them to the maintenance sites around the world. In addition, Lockheed Martin FSRs are regionally based so there is often a time delay before information from the FSR gets back to the maintainer.
Lockheed Martin started to develop an Apache flight line maintenance app (iOS followed by Android) with valuable troubleshooting information and FSR contact information to help Army maintainers make the best maintenance decision. This tool would be a supplement to the official IETM used for maintenance. In the Performance Based Logistics (PBL) fixed price contract environment, each LRU returned from the flight line costs the Army and Lockheed Martin to evaluate and repair in addition to the impact on aircraft availability. Some Apache units see a 20% maintenance induced and no evidence of failure (NEOF) return rate. These are the types of returns that can be avoided with improved troubleshooting information.
Security would be ensured through end-to-end encryption between the smartphone and the server with mail.mil account verification. The public released maintainability guides would be digitized for the maintainer to access while on the flight line. Help videos, lessons learned forum (with approved Army/contractor moderators), and real time field maintenance alerts could be integrated into the app. The app could reduce inventory mistakes by using the camera to capture the UID, found on most LRUs, and convert it to a part and serial number. Different versions of the app could be created to support different countries in their native language.
Opportunities to apply this technology to other military products could be beneficial for the sustainment business of the military.