48th Maintenance Group aerospace propulsion technicians test an F-15 aircraft engine at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Feb. 5, 2020. Technicians test and verify every engine to ensure each one is combat performance ready for the fighter squadrons at the Liberty Wing. (Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Madeline Herzog)
By Jason Kaneshiro
DCMA Eastern Region Public Affairs
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in DCMA’s 2021 INSIGHT Magazine, which highlights the agency’s warfighter-support story and its global acquisition professionals who use insight and expertise to enhance that story each day. The online version of the magazine can be found here.
The watchful eyes of Defense Contract Management Agency Aircraft Propulsion Operations – Pratt & Whitney employees have prevented millions of dollars-worth of parts from being thrown out as scrap.
An agency technical review of jet engine components that were presented as scrap found that the material could be returned to service, saving the government $6 million.
Ronald Buonanducci, quality assurance specialist, is the quality team lead for the F100 Overhaul and Support Equipment program that identified the serviceable scrap.
“We perform product inspections, quality system audits and quality acceptance for all F100 PW-220 and -229 engines across multiple contracts from foreign customers to the Air Force,” Buonanducci said.
The Pratt & Whitney F100 PW-220 and -229 engines are used in fighter aircraft, including the F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The F100 overhaul contract covers a wide spectrum of overhaul activities for parts and modules. Activities include process reviews, first article inspections, and product examination for acceptance, material review and scrap.
“Basically, we participate in the refurbishment of military propulsion systems for military customers to return the engine and aircraft to fully mission capable status and ensure that all contractual requirements are met,” Buonanducci said. “This ultimately supports this nation with reliable assets to the warfighter in the defense of America and its allies.”
DCMA assumed responsibility of the F100 overhaul program in 2014. Since then, Buonanducci’s team identified and implemented improvements to the contracts, quality systems and material review.
“This material review included the scrap program,” Buonanducci said. “We sought out opportunities to save material previously identified as scrap by the contractor and their vendors that were performing the inspection and overhaul of F100 parts.”
During that initial process, several high-cost components were presented to DCMA as scrap by the vendor. Buonanducci’s team requested and received photos and information about those components from the vendor, said Egils Vigants, DCMA APO P&W quality assurance director.
“We asked the supplier for measurements and analysis of the parts, then took that to the Air Force engineering source authority and asked them to take a look at it,” Vigants said.
The team asked the authority if the material could be altered in such a way that it would become acceptable again if certain limits detailed in the technical order for those components were expanded or changed.
“The ESA agreed that it could do so, and they issued a waiver to accept the parts rather than dispose of them as scrap,” Vigants said.
DCMA worked with ESA and the contractors to develop a process to properly designate and disposition material that was in accordance with Defense Federal Acquisitions Regulations and DCMA product instructions.
“We robustly engaged with the Air Force ESA to explore the established technical order limits in terms of changing the allowances to increase part life,” Vigants said.
He generated a memorandum of agreement with the contractor regarding the handling of the scrap material. The MOA served as a solution to the lack of language in the initial contract on how to deal with scrap material.
“We worked within the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation (to generate the memorandum) and the administrative contract officer, Mike Maddock, signed it in September 2019,” Vigants said. “The agreement with the Air Force engineering support activity on how overhaul and repair would be conducted was signed in January 2020.”
The $6 million figure was calculated based on the value of specific parts that were presented as scrap material and the elimination of the additional repairs, administrative costs associated with the documentation required for scrapping activities, and the labor hours spent in the demilitarization process.
Beyond the dollar amount saved is the fact customers have an asset returned to them quickly and with the knowledge that DCMA and ESA have reviewed and approve the parts for continued usage, Buonanducci said.
“The program office and ESA recognized the essential support we provided on a daily basis,” he said. “We consistently strive for improved delivery and efficiency cost saving without compromising the integrity of the product.”
The DCMA quality team includes quality assurance personnel, industrial specialists and the administrative contracting officer.
Supervising that work was entrusted to Douglas Fontaine, quality assurance supervisor, who also ensured the team had the skills and knowledge to evaluate scrap dispositions provided by the contractor.
“I accomplished this by working with my team lead, Ron Buonanducci,” Fontaine said. “Ron has a wealth of knowledge and is able to transmit that knowledge to his fellow [quality assurance specialists] through on-the-job training.”
Fontaine joined DCMA eight years ago as a student trainee under the agency’s Keystone Program while finishing his undergraduate degree in business management.
“I believe the Keystone Program experience greatly contributed to the success of this program because it taught me the basics of quality assurance and gave me lots of hands-on learning on the Pratt & Whitney shop floor,” Fontaine said. “With the experiences I’ve gained over the years, I’m able to guide and collaborate with my QA team.”
All the heavy lifting is done by his QA team, said Fontaine. Those efforts led to the success of the overhaul program. Additionally, the team’s knowledge of military engines, parts and equipment is outstanding, which leads Fontaine to rely heavily on their expertise.
Buonanducci echoed the sentiment.
“It was the DCMA team’s knowledge of the parts and its function, that allowed them to realize that deviations and interpretations of the parts would enable the components to return to service,” he said.
Many of DCMA’s F100 overhaul team members, including Buonanducci, were aircraft maintainers in the military and have years’ of hands-on experience with components.
“DCMA harnesses the collective knowledge of flight line, overhaul and production experience that is unmatched,” Buonanducci said. “An experienced DCMA team can prove a huge value to the customer. The opportunities are there to save millions with minimal effort.”
Buonanducci said he also has a deeply personal stake in ensuring the continued success of the F100 overhaul program that stems from an incident he lived through during a six-month deployment to Iraq as a DCMA civilian.
“I was performing an inspection on a power unit when you could hear the sound of an incoming mortar round,” Buonanducci said.
One by one, the mortars kept coming and each impact got closer and closer to his position.
“The sound of the next one was clearly inbound,” Buonanducci recalled. “When I tried to brace myself for what I though was my time to get it, I heard the sound of an incoming F-16. It was unmistakable and I will never forget it.”
The F-16 pilot dropped a 500-pound bomb over the attacker’s position, stopping the attack.
“I saw that aircraft as it flew by and I thought how proud I was of the individuals that built that engine and our DCMA people that inspected it,” Buonanducci said. “If that aircraft was late on takeoff or delayed in any way because of any technical issue, I would not be here today.”
Buonanducci now has two daughters currently serving in the military.
“This drives me and my counterparts every day,” Buonanducci said. “After years in the U.S. military and working on the engine program, you may take the uniform off, but your heart is always with your brothers- and sisters-in-arms.”
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