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MOS Analysts Dig Deep for Answers

By Capt. Brian Heemstra 2nd Maintenance Operations Flight commander

Like most Airmen, members of the 2nd Maintenance Operations Squadron analysis section, led by Master Sgt. Deb Inovejas, quietly go about their work. They come to work early, work hard all day, and often stay late. This cycle repeats itself daily.

Inovejas and her team typically work behind the scenes in relative obscurity. Their work often goes unnoticed, yet it is vitally important to the 2nd Bomb Wing mission. Her team compiles and analyzes hundreds of pieces of maintenance data on a daily basis all in an effort to answer one overriding question--is the 2 BW fleet ready for war when called?

Additionally, these analysts are often charged to perform special studies, each designed to determine the root cause of maintenance trends. They were recently tasked to determine why the 2BW fleet suffered significantly more engine shut downs in flight during fiscal year 2012 than fiscal year 2011 compared to the 307th Bomb Wing, here, and the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

The answer required significant, long and unglamorous hours of slogging through database entries, conducting interviews, coordinating with multiple base agencies, manipulating data, preparing and conducting briefings, and creating final products. However, this was just another day at the office, and they loved every minute of it. These special studies are the heart and soul of what every analyst is born to do.

Through their dogged efforts, Inovejas' team tracked the problem through multiple iterations. At first glance, the increased shutdowns seemed to be explained by high oil temperature and then by high oil pressure. The maintenance data, however, did not support either of those conclusions. Finally, after digging further, they found the root cause--the vast majority of engine shutdowns were caused by faulty cockpit indications.

The data supported that conclusion, but the analysts refused to accept the first-glance answer. Instead, they kept digging. Poring over the data eventually made a single fact stick out like a sore thumb. A large portion of the engine shut downs and pilot reported discrepancies were attributed to a single engine position on a single airplane. This engine position on this particular airplane was responsible for 16 percent of engine shutdowns and 14 percent of the pilot reported discrepancies in the past two years.

No matter how you slice it, this was a huge discovery. This was the statistical "smoking gun" analysts dream about.

This information was quickly passed to the 2nd Maintenace Squadron maintainers, who diligently checked the indication system for that aircraft. Tracing the system led them to a single clamp on a single wire bundle. The clamp was passed over many times before because there was no cause to investigate it. This time, the maintainers double checked the clamp and found it was too small for the wire bundle. The clamp pinched the wires and caused the faulty cockpit indications, which ultimately led directly to unnecessary engine shutdowns.

What had appeared at first to be a systemic fleet problem had now been tracked to a single, simple solution. Locating and fixing this problem, which until this point vexed aircrews and maintainers alike, will now undoubtedly reduce aircraft emergencies caused by faulty indications in the future. Our 2 BW aircrews are now safer and our maintenance resources can be used more effectively thanks to the gritty persistence displayed by Inovejas' analysts.

Of course, none of this was made possible through a single individual, or even a single work center. It took the village to make this one happen. Inovejas and her team could not have analyzed any data if the flight line maintainers had not carefully and accurately entered maintenance information from every sortie over the last two years.

Documentation work is dull at best and maddening at worst, but it is vital. If there were doubts before about its usefulness, those are certainly dismissed now.

The maintainers of the 2 MXS are equally deserving of recognition. They took the analysts' data at face value and scrutinized every component of the indication system on that particular engine. To their credit, it would have been easy to pass over that clamp yet again. Instead, they displayed the tenacity so common and essential to our 2 BW maintenance core.

The entire 2nd Maintenance Group can be proud of the work done to bring resolution to this issue. And the crews flying the mighty BUFF can be assured of the professionalism, training and persistence of the maintainers keeping their jets in the air.