WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
the past 30 years C-5 maintainers at Travis AFB, Calif., have borrowed
parts from what they called a "canned bird" while ones they've
ordered made their way through the Air Force supply system.
That practice, known as cannibalization, is now a
thing of the past at Travis thanks to members of Air Force Materiel
Command improving the supply chain and making C-5 parts more readily
In fact, Al Fatkin, Warner Robins Air Logistics
Center strategic airlift directorate deputy director, said many parts that
used to take weeks to get are either on the shelf or arrive in a matter of
days, making C-5 reliability rates higher than ever before. The
Georgia-based air logistics center is home to all C-5 programmed depot
Due to AFMC's efforts, operations officials at
Travis launched their last cannibalized jet into operational status more
than nine months ago, ending a practice common to C-5 units since the
fleet's initial bed down in 1969. In addition to the Travis success,
fleet-wide C-5 Mission Impaired Capability Awaiting Parts, or MICAP, hours
- the total time aircraft couldn't fly due to parts or maintenance issues
- have declined from 1.8 million in January 2001 to 300,000 as of November
2003, he said.
Additionally, the fleet cannibalization rate,
measured by the number of cannibalized items per 100 sorties across the
Air Force, has reduced from 55 in fiscal year 1998 to 22 in fiscal year
2003, he said.
"For more than 30 years, a dedicated C-5
cannibalization jet was universally accepted as a necessary evil,"
said Lt. Col. Dennis Daley, 60th Maintenance Group deputy commander at
Travis. "Most people would agree that during the 1990s when spares
availability reached some of its lowest points, the possibility of
operating a C-5 base without a cannibalization jet was impossible."
A cannibalized jet is a designated aircraft that
maintainers pull parts from to get operational aircraft airborne while
they're waiting on ordered parts to arrive.
Colonel Daley said that in 1999, Travis' annual C-5
fleet cannibalization rate was 59.7 canns per 100 sorties, compared to
today's 3.8. The achievement represents a major accomplishment not only
for Travis, but for dedicated Air Force logisticians stretching from
Corridor Two in the Pentagon to repair benches at Warner Robins Air
Logistics Center, Robins AFB, Ga., to the maintainers on the flight line.
Maintainers, and their logistic readiness squadron
counterparts, adopted an attitude change that fostered innovation and a
desire to help themselves instead of just relying on the system to provide
parts, Colonel Daley said.
Further, a series of funding, policy and programming
initiatives at Air Force headquarters, AFMC and the Defense Logistics
Agency provided the foundation for improved spares readiness.
In AFMC's role, Mr. Fatkin said command experts'
better understanding the supply chain for the C-5's 74,000 stocklisted
components led to reduced backorders and MICAP targets. For the 2,500
parts C-5 System Program Office experts manage, they've arranged long-term
repair and buy contracts for major components.
"We also developed overhaul kits to replace
worn components vice repair on demand for 27 flight control
components," Mr. Fatkin said. "And we've initiated an intense
effort to increase contractual coverage and supportability of low-demand
"A lot of people thought this problem was
unsolvable," said Lt. Gen. Richard Reynolds, AFMC vice commander.
"That in itself, I think, is a potential outcome of what I call
enterprise thinking -- that being the unsolvable may be solvable when we
get out of our stovepipes. This is a perfect example of people with a
common goal going across organizational boundaries, which sometimes means
across stovepipe boundaries, to get something done."
Colonel Daley said officials at Air Force
headquarters, DLA and AFMC developed a coordinated strategy to arrest the
readiness decline of the 1990s. Air Force officials successfully developed
one-time supplemental funding totaling $904 million in spares in fiscal
With funding and policy changes, spares availability
increased, he said. The C-5 fleetwide Total Not Mission Capable for Supply
rates improved 34 percent between 1996 and 2003.
With the improved spares posture, the stage was set
for a Travis attempt at eliminating their cannibalization jet. While the
higher headquarters initiatives got Travis to "third base,"
Travis' teamwork and an innovative attitude brought them "across home
"A close working relationship with Warner
Robins ALC further improved the response to potential show-stopper MICAP
conditions. And the excellent relationship between the active duty Travis
maintenance team and its reserve associate wing greatly improved local
repair capabilities," Colonel Daley said.
"There are probably other problems out there
that we can take an example from in how we approach this," General
Reynolds said. "This kind of innovation, this kind of application of
enterprise thinking is probably going to be more appropriate as our fleets
continue to age, as we find other systems, other MDS and other
capabilities that are challenged by aging. Let's take advantage of this
and capture the lessons learned and go ahead and apply them."
Colonel Daley said the cannibalization jet at Dover
AFB, Del., is next in the elimination crosshairs.