By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Feb. 03, 2004) -- The Air Force's newly created Fleet Viability Board will begin assessment of the KC-135E/R Stratotanker in April.
The Air Force Fleet Viability Board stood up in August and was created in response to a directive from Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche to create an agency that could provide senior leaders with an unbiased assessment of the service's aircraft fleet longevity.
Despite recent controversy and discussion surrounding that tanker fleet, the assessment will remain impartial and fair, said the board's director, Col. Francis P. Crowley.
"The Fleet Viability Board looks to have total impartiality and objectivity in doing an assessment," Colonel Crowley said. "We don't seek to prove anybody's point. What we are looking for is the best answer for our national defense and for the American taxpayer."
Colonel Crowley also said that having operational control of the process at a high level – the Air Force’s Installations and Logistics Directorate at the Pentagon – and the personal integrity of each board member ensures honest and impartial assessment.
"Secretary Roche asked the Air Force deputy chief of staff, Installations and Logistics, and the Air Force Materiel Command to come up with a process, similar to the Navy's process for retiring ships, to be used on our aircraft," Colonel Crowley said.
Although different from the Navy’s process, which focuses on seaworthiness, the Air Force Fleet Viability Board was the result of this collaboration.
The board is still working on its first assessment of the C-5A Galaxy. That project began in October and will conclude in March. Because the C-5A assessment was the first, it was used as a learning tool to develop the assessment process. It will serve as a template for future assessments, Colonel Crowley said.
"The C-5A is a prototype assessment and all follow-on assessments will improve upon that assessment process," he said.
Until recently, board members did not know what their next assessment project would be, because there had not been an official list produced. Colonel Crowley said the board was involved in making suggestions about which aircraft should be assessed.
"(Board members) did make assessment recommendations to senior leaders," Colonel Crowley said. "To do that we went to various groups of people, including technical experts among various engineering specialties and asked which fleets they were most concerned with. We looked at structural service life remaining, any identified corrosion or stress fatigue issues, non-mission capable rates, maintenance man-hours per flying hours, modification costs per aircraft and how the aircraft ranked in various sorting of the data. This analysis resulted in the board recommending the KC-135E/R as a follow-on assessment to the C-5A.”
In January, the secretary of the Air Force signed off on the official assessment list. That list includes the KC-135E/R, the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the F-16 Block 10/15 and the B-52H Stratofortress. Colonel Crowley said the goal of the board is to assess three aircraft a year.