Monday, July 20, 2015

Part III: Key Aerial Refueling Capabilities Should Be Demonstrated Prior to the Production Decision

Part III Winging IT: The GAO report is an auditor's delight. The decision point comes in October for all players scripted in this immense saga of the KC-46 Tanker program. Aviation Class take note; Read the GAO report before raising your hand and then write a 500 word essay on what it actually means for Boeing and its KC-46 problems. 

Winging It Findings and Recommendation:

The GAO Report Link April 2015 Your reading assignment "should be" completed before making comments.

Having read through it, I came to several conclusions, the GAO audit was cautiously crafting warnings, while sounding calm about the whole matter. Cost to the government are below expectations. Cost excessive conditions for Boeing, isn’t a GAO’s problem.

However, the Taxpayer and aviation junkies should know this, Boeing has its hands full on this project, since it’s a fixed cost on Boeing’s shoulders weighted down by the specter of cost over-run.

Secondly, all the issues not delved into explicitly by the GAO remains a dangerous tight rope for Boeing. Parts in the fueling area haven’t reached a state of completeness or otherwise known as engineering open problems are running in the background, as exampled with some fuel delivery systems, remaining on the design table renderings.

What does that mean to Boeing? Anything on the design table is costing Boeing until completed and is not ready for gaining a full Air Force Validation or a demonstration of its operational competency in front of the government compliance teams.

Let’s cut to the chase: The GAO cheat sheet

The program is also working to resolve other development challenges that pose additional schedule risk to the flight test pace needed to demonstrate aerial refueling capabilities, such as late delivery of parts, software defects, and assumptions related to flight test cycle times. These challenges could result in additional schedule delays. The following is a summary of these development challenges and any steps Boeing is taking to address them."

Findings points: By Government Accountability Auditors

Officials of GAO's Corporation Audits Division, 1949.

Ted Westfall is fourth from the left.

• Late delivery of parts for aircraft final assembly: Boeing’s suppliers are having difficulties delivering several key aerial refueling parts. For example, the telescope actuator, which extends and retracts the boom, needs to be redesigned in order to work properly. A redesigned telescope actuator is tentatively scheduled to be delivered in April 2015, enabling the boom that will be used to support the July/August 2015 demonstration flights to be delivered two weeks prior to its June 2015 need date. In another example, the supplier of the wing aerial refueling pod and center-line drogue system is experiencing delays in delivering these subsystems due to design and manufacturing issues with a number of parts. To stay within schedule targets, Boeing and the supplier have developed a plan to complete parts qualification testing and safety of flight testing in parallel. Program officials have said that one of the risks of this parallel approach is that discoveries during safety of flight testing could drive design changes that would then require qualification testing to be re-done. Boeing has sent engineers and other staff to help the aerial refueling suppliers overcome these challenges, and held regular management meetings to stay abreast of the latest developments.

9 GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs, GAO-14-340SP (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 31, 2014). Page 15 GAO-15-308 KC-46 Tanker Aircraft 

• Defects in delivered software: Boeing and the program office consider the resolution of software problems as one of the program’s top risks. According to program documentation, open problem reports may have peaked in December 2014, at roughly 780 priority problem reports. Boeing fixed 170 of these problems over the past few months. As of March 2015, however, a little over 600 problem reports were still not resolved, including several hundred that must be addressed prior to the KC-46 first flight, currently planned for June 2015. Many of these problems are related to the military subsystems and either adversely affect the accomplishment of an essential operational or test capability or increase the project’s technical, cost, or schedule risk—and no workaround solution is known. Additional problems may be identified as Boeing integrates the last two software modules related to aerial refueling. Boeing expects to fully integrate these software modules in April 2015, about 10 months later than originally planned.

• Flight test cycle time assumptions: The program may not be able to meet the established time frames, or cycle times for flight testing. Both Boeing and the program office regard maintaining the planned flight test rate of 65 hours per month for the 767-2C aircraft and 50 hours per month for the KC-46 aircraft’s military tests as one of the program’s greatest risks. DOD test organizations have shown that the planned military flight test rate is more aggressive than other programs have demonstrated historically.

10 10 According to the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s FY 2011 Annual Report, military testing experience with aircraft including the P-8, C-17, C-130J, C-27, and C-5 reflects fewer than 30 flight hours per aircraft per month on average.

·      The Director of Operational Test and Evaluation also reported that the test schedule does not include sufficient time to address deficiencies discovered during tests. Despite these concerns, Boeing predicts that it can achieve the flight test rates as it has local maintenance and engineering support and control over the flight test priorities as testing is being conducted at Boeing facilities. Deviations from its proposed flight test cycle times could pose risk to the program’s ability to capture the knowledge necessary to hold the low-rate production decision in October 2015. 

Page 16 GAO-15-308 KC-46 Tanker Aircraft Boeing provided an updated schedule to the program office in January 2015 that may address some of the risks we highlighted. 

·      As part of the updated test plan, the program office and Boeing also revised their approach to conducting operational test and receiver aircraft certification. The new approach re-phases some receiver aircraft certification and shifts test execution responsibility for 10 receiver aircraft from Boeing to the government. This approach may result in adding additional risk to the program should the Air Force fail to complete the testing on time. The new schedule and associated contract modifications are expected to be approved by early 2015. Program officials stated that they are reviewing the information to determine whether they need to further adjust milestone dates, including the low-rate production decision and the start of operational test. That analysis has not yet been completed.

Photo - GAO's European Office survey team, 1952

The GAO survey team that studied the feasibility of opening an office in Europe in 1952 Note: Ted Westfall is no longer fourth from Left and is missing from the European Junket. The stiffs were not included in photo.

...and you thought I would feature a KC-46 Tanker Picture. It’s always been about auditing and not aviation! 

The Marquis of Queensbury rules says these are friendly slaps of encouragement administered to Boeing. The real rubber meets the pavement event, arrives during October 2015, when it is determines if Boeing can actually start its slow build rate for the KC-46. If it does not gain approval in October 2015 for an initial build rate, it means it did not solve many of the critical problems found within the program during the interim time, as suggested with the GAO summary report.  

Part I: Boeing KC-46 Takes Write-off for stock holders, Fixes found during phase 1.

The news is when "another GAO interim report is due", as it comes before the decision to proceed is granted for Boeing. This is an important news event for the KC-46 program, which all aviation outlets should be tuned-into, as part of the running up to the "October’s Build Status" announcement.