U.S. Procurement Flaws
In the June 2013 issue (see “Looking for Evidence of Lessons Learned,” page 54), Andrew Drwiega talks about the flaws in the U.S. procurement process for helicopter programs. An enormous amount of money and effort goes into research and development in responding to these Request for Proposals (RFPs).
Mr. Drwiega did a good job of pointing out the frustrations put forth and dealt with by the respondents to these proposals. The frustration, to me, lies in the people making the decisions. Most are career military that rise through the ranks and as such, are deemed qualified to handle acquisition decisions.
The private sector, which supplies the actual product, is and does get frustrated every time a change in specification is made and time delays become the order of the day. Mr. Drwiega used the recent AAS program as an example of how the military procurement process can/will frustrate itself and the provider. Having watched the whole process, I was almost certain the U.S. Army would select the MD540F, yet after all this effort, the Army’s acquisition adviser went before the Senate Armed Service Committee to say that none of the entries offered could meet the Army requirements.
It seems the Army has taken a course of making this mission impossible. Army procurement should not be this difficult. It’s a waste of time and effort by everyone for this to have occurred. It is high time the Armed Services Committee took ownership of this issue and purchase a commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) product that saves everyone time and money.
The current procurement process is frustrating the Army and industry at a time when it should be more objective and less subjective.
Andre Leonard, Billings, Montana
Ladders and Safety Standards
These comments refer to the article on page 40 of the July 2013 edition of R&W titled “Essential Ground Equipment: A Quick Guide,” by pilot Dale Smith. I can only assume that it has been quite some time since the author walked through a professional maintenance hangar (and is perhaps why many organizations actively discourage pilots from doing so). His comment “...when it comes to helicopter maintenance, a good ladder can be worth its weight in fuel” reveals a surprising lack of awareness of modern safety standards in hangars.
Let us be perfectly clear, maintenance stands are used for performing maintenance while ladders (which are often carried in the aircraft) are used for servicing. Anyone who does not know the difference between “maintenance” and “servicing” should ask a professional. Yes, I know that some hangars permit the use of ladders for maintenance, but this is only for the simplest tasks where no, or very little, physical effort is exerted – generally for visual checks only.
This lack of safety awareness is then exacerbated when, still talking about using ladders for maintenance, the author quotes the general manager of the Bristow Academy as saying: “It’s most common with the light and medium helicopters, particularly when working on the main rotor heads or performing a task that requires some exertion such us torquing a mast nut or blade bolt.” When I read this, I had visions of mechanics doing backward somersaults off the top of a ladder when the socket slipped off the nut being torqued.
Frankly, any maintenance manager, supervisor or safety officer who permits ladders to be used for maintenance should have his nuts torqued too.
A&P Mechanic, Singapore
Cost of Flying
Comment submitted online to “European Researchers Test Diesel Alternative to Turboshaft,” by Thierry Dubois from the Paris Air Show: If this helicopter engine goes ahead and becomes successful, it will bring down the cost of flying to a level which will be attainable for all to use. As for me, the cost of training is such a high factor with prices of £475.00 ($700-plus) per hour. It can only help us struggling with less time spent in the sky.
Keith William Clark
R&W’s Question of the Month
In your experience, who offers the best courses for flight training, classroom instruction, maintenance and online training? What about for specialized training such as NVG, ab initio, long line, offshore or HEMS training?
Let us know, and look for your and others’ responses in a future issue. You’ll find contact information below.