John A. Tirpak of Air Force Magazine writes:
The Wednesday crash of a T-38 Talon jet trainer out of Columbus AFB, Miss., was unrelated to the crash of a T-38 at Laughlin AFB, Texas, last November, Air Education and Training Command chief Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast said Thursday. Speaking with defense reporters in Washington, Kwast said, “I can reassure you,” based on “initial indications” that “this is not a trend from Laughlin.” The Laughlin crash, in which one pilot was killed and another injured, was the result of a “dual gearbox failure,” Kwast explained, an “extraordinarily rare” problem. “In fact,” he said, “the engineers, when the plane was first built in the ‘50s, thought that it would never happen. But they never thought we would be flying it in 2018, either.”
Kwast also said: “I just wanted you to know that, having had so many years of experience with the T-38, we know this aircraft very well … initial indications are people do not have to worry this is a trend or they are linked. They are not.”
Lt. Gen. Kwast knows that the older a complex system gets, the more likely the unexpected will occur. Keeping an eye out for the unexpected is every operator and maintainer’s job. Over and above this understanding, is the knowledge that if the T-38 is to continue to age gracefully, we must know when unexpected failures are actually signals of emerging new failure modes. Are dual gearbox failures, or similar failures, more likely now that one has occurred?
What is in the category of “similar failures”? Are other metal fatigue issues in play? Is there some pattern associated with maintenance of gearboxes?
These kinds of questions can only be answered by determining root cause and generalizing the failure mode via analysis to other subsystems. No big data mining algorithm can do that, only top notch sustainment experts.
In another Air Force Magazine article, Gideon Grudo reports:
Lt. Gen. Lee Levy, commander of the Air Force Sustainment Center, is looking for trends in aircraft maintenance issues for a report he aims to submit to Air Force Materiel Command in the next two months. The report is one of several steps the Air Force is taking in reaction to piling mishaps resulting in over a dozen airmen deaths in 2018 alone. So far, Levy told reporters Wednesday, his teams haven’t uncovered anything they “didn’t already know.”
On the one hand, Lt. Gen. Levy’s direction is “spot on”. It is certainly called for. However, from a sustainers’ point of view, if we have not already been approaching our data in this way, we would be miles behind in keeping up with emerging failure modes.
Both Lieutenant Generals, after long careers keeping complex weapon systems meeting their missions, have a good idea of what they want their sustainers to think about and do each and every day to stay ahead of emerging failure modes. The Complex Systems Sustainment Management Model gives them a paradigm, approach, and pattern to spread their ideas to their people.