Military engines: on-hand and hands-on support
Air forces and navies need their aircraft to be ready to fly 24/7, for reasons of national security. Snecma powers every combat aircraft currently in service with its M88 (Rafale), M53 (Mirage 2000) and Atar (Super-Étendard) engines, and actively contributes to the maintenance in operational conditions of those aircraft. It does so at its MRO1 facility in Châtellerault, as well as via the technical representatives it has posted to every air base catering to Rafale aircraft, and at its large design departments in the Paris region. "In early 2015, we also set up a maintenance-in-service facility in Bordeaux" says Pierre Anglès, who runs the facility and heads up military-engine maintenance in service in France. He adds, "This new facility is a key component in our system to support the armed forces because it puts us nearer the government organizations tasked with maintaining aircraft and managing operations (AIA, SIMMAD, CFA2), which are now based outside Bordeaux. Our goal is to respond extremely fast under every circumstance, and to gain a better understanding of the events that occur on our engines."
Boosting efficiency and responding faster
This facility has around 20 employees in its four units. The technical support teams are in direct contact with the AIA in Bordeaux. They help to analyze problems with the engines, and suggest ways of dealing with those problems based on available technical literature. If the problem is more complex, they produce a detailed report for the teams in the Paris region. "We have five engineers at the AIA's offices to deal with and/or forward information about the problem in real time," Pierre Anglès continues. "Their feedback is constantly updating our knowledge of engine wear in use, and thus helping us to fine-tune spare-part requirements."
The unit in charge of planning and scheduling also liaises with our partner AIA, and its job is to compile a full picture of all present and future maintenance operations, at the air bases, in Châtellerault, and at AIA facilities. "That way, we are certain we can meet our customer's aircraft availability requirements," says Pierre Anglès. The unit in charge of quality makes sure the delivered spare parts are fit to fly, and the "market" unit monitors agreement performance.
Rate per Flight Hour (RPFH) agreements, a winning deal
Since 2010, the maintenance agreement on the Rafale's M88 engine has been covering the supply of spare parts according to the number of hours each aircraft flies. The agreement works as follows: the Air Force estimates the number of hours each engine will fly, and Snecma uses that information to forecast spare-parts requirements and to supply them accordingly. The government, in other words, no longer needs worry about placing orders. "Our goal, in due course, is to head towards a RPFH agreement for full engine availability, i.e. keeping planes on the tarmac ready to fly," Pierre Anglès says. "That way, the French Air Force will be able to focus on its primary objective, and Snecma will be able to take its role as engine supplier to the next level."
In the meantime, Snecma will be teaming up with AIA to offer SIMMAD a RPFH agreement covering M88 module availability at air bases, starting in 2016. This best practice may well spread to Rafale customers on international markets.
1. Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul
2. (AIA) Short for "Atelier Industriel de l'Aéronautique de Bordeaux" (Bordeaux aviation workshop), the French Ministry of Defense branch that handles military engine maintenance.
(SIMMAD) Short for "Structure intégrée de maintien en condition opérationnelle des matériels aéronautiques de la défense" (Integrated structure in charge of maintenance of the Defense's aeronautical equipment). Runs calls for bids for maintenance services on French aircraft from public- or private-sector providers. It is based at Air Base 106 in Bordeaux-Mérignac airport.
(CFA) Short for "Commandement des Forces Aériennes" (Air Force Command). Prepares air forces to complete their missions.