March 19, 2007 (by Josh Aycock) - Air Combat Command's award-winning acceptance team in Marietta, Ga., is setting the precedent on how the Air Force accepts airplanes.
's Raptor Acceptance Team is a geographically separated unit that works alongside the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, during production of the F-22A Raptor. The team's mission is to provide gaining units with "ready to fight" F-22s.
"The biggest benefit is that the gaining unit receives a pre-accepted aircraft," said Master Sgt. Timothy Silkwood, superintendent of the Raptor Acceptance Team. "Lockheed Martin can now see the aircraft from our perspective while the aircraft is being produced."
The team consists of 15 qualified specialists who inspect the aircraft as it's being built and accept it before delivery. By integrating into the manufacturer's quality inspection process, only the team can give the final "OK to close" on 257 inspection areas.
"The methodology and timing of the inspections is the cornerstone of our success," said Master Sgt. Gregory Everhart, weapons superintendent for the team.
In the past, a newly delivered aircraft was sent directly to a maintenance hangar where it was disassembled and thoroughly inspected before it was deemed mission ready, a task that lasted about 30 days.
The team identified more than 20,000 defects on the last 24 aircraft before they were delivered. Under the previous system, these repairs would have been made by the gaining unit, costing both money and time.
"Military aircraft do not come with a warranty," said Sergeant Everhart.
Without this process, new Raptors would be unusable for a minimum of 30 days. Additionally, the Air Force would incur the cost, $500,000, to coat and restore the aircraft to operational condition, Sergeant Silkwood said.
It's estimated the Air Force will save $119 million by pre-accepting the Raptor throughout the current contractual agreement.
Cost savings and innovative thinking earned the team the 2006 Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award. The Raptor Acceptance Team was one of five teams to earn such recognition.
"All of these teams are winners and deserve to bring trophies back to their respective units," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley, when he recognized the winners in September. "Undoubtedly, their innovations are helping our Air Force ensure global air, space and cyberspace dominance in the years ahead."
The CSTEA recognizes outstanding team performance and shares best practices within the Air Force. It promotes a systematic approach for enhancing mission capability, improving operational performance, and achieving sustained results while maximizing efficiency.
"Because of CSTEA, many great ideas are generated by our Airmen working together as teams to accomplish our mission while conserving precious resources," said Audrey Tudyk, CSTEA program manager.
According to Col. Ken Murphy, Fifth-Generation Fighter Division chief, the in-plant process template is being considered for use with the multi-service/multi-national F-35 program.
"These extraordinary benefits have laid the groundwork for our military's future on combat operational asset procurement," said Sergeant Everhart.