KC-135 and C-130J set for data-driven maintenance programme


The KC-135 refuelling tanker and the C-130J airlifter will be the next two aircraft to become part of the US Air Force’s predictive maintenance programme, an effort by the service to meet maintenance needs before aircraft break down, according to Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) logistics director.

The programme is also meant to improve aircraft mission capability and availability. According to the latest available data, from fiscal year 2017, the KC-135 fleet had, on average, a 74% ‘mission capable’ rate and the C-130J fleet had a 77% mission capable rate.

As for the rest of the mobility fleet, by that same data, the C-5M fleet stood at 60%, the C-130H fleet was at 73% and the C-17 fleet was at 84% mission capable.

The concept, known as condition-based maintenance, has already been rolled out for the C-5 fleet within AMC and for the B-1 fleet within Global Strike Command. The programme uses algorithms based on reams of data to create models that predict when a part might break, rather than waiting for it to fail. It is a standard practice in the commercial aviation industry that is now making its way into the Air Force.

The KC-135 fleet will join the programme in the spring of 2019 and the C-130J fleet will follow in the summer. Other aircraft in AMC’s fleet, such as the C-17 and KC-10, will eventually join the programme.

The Air Force is modelling its effort on the procedures of Delta Air Lines’ TechOps division and the service is at the beginning, or ‘crawl stage’, of the process.

Delta Air Lines took eight years to achieve the results it wanted, something the Air Force is working toward.

Another benefit is that the service will be able to track maintenance needs by individual aircraft, rather than by a general fleetwide standard. This could reduce time in depots and increase mission capable rates, which is a top priority of senior Pentagon leaders.