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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Rotor & Wing: Rotorcraft Report: Bell Team to Aid U.S. Army Effort to Speed Maintenance

MILITARY | MAINTENANCE

Bell Helicopter will help the U.S. Army’s Aviation Applied Technology Directorate develop new technologies to support reforming aircraft maintenance practices.

Army leaders have been pushing for the last couple of years to move aircraft maintenance away from hard-time limits to standards common in commercial aviation under which components are removed and repaired based on their actual conditions. Hard-time limits, dictated by conservative engineering practices, often result in sound components being removed from aircraft in costly and time-consuming procedures. That drives up maintenance costs and takes otherwise airworthy aircraft out of service.

But a move to so-called condition-based maintenance requires a thorough understanding of what the conditions of critical components are. The new contract, which includes a 50/50 cost-sharing agreement between Bell and the Army, is aimed at developing the sensors that would permit acquiring that knowledge. In the effort, Bell is leading a team that includes Honeywell International and Goodrich Corp. as well as a variety of "internationally recognized universities, small businesses, and consultants," the company said. That team aims to develop and demonstrate an integrated set of diagnostic, prognostic, and system-health assessment technologies to support Army Operations Support and Sustainment Technology (OSST) objectives and enable transition to a condition-based maintenance philosophy.

"Bell understands Army Aviation’s desire to move towards a predictive and proactive maintenance environment and is committed to getting these technologies to the warfighter as quickly as possible," said Mike Blake, Bell’s executive vice president of customer solutions. "The infusion of these technologies will reduce the cost of operation while making the aircraft safer for our soldiers."

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