Cleaning Out Our Closets and Simplifying Flight Program Ops
It seems like we’re always looking for ways to simplify our lives. Sometimes that means getting rid of things we don’t use anymore, like music CDs because we use online music apps. We might find a simpler way of doing business, like automatic electronic bill payment. Or, we merge services with family members to save money, like combining movie streaming accounts so we share one monthly fee.
Doing an inventory of our resources and assessing the way we use them is even more important here at the FAA because we are entrusted to make the best use of taxpayer dollars.
I am so pleased to share the example our Flight Program Operations service unit is setting. As many of you will recall, about two years ago we decided to merge the programs in the FAA that fly airplanes, and we’re nearly complete with the consolidation. Before this, four disparate programs each had their own fleet of aircraft for their missions of research and development, flight inspection, aviation safety training and transportation. Together, they had 46 aircraft, composed of eight types and 12 makes and models that were almost never tapped for any mission other than for the office they were linked to.
Having all of these resources managed in a central office under the leadership of the Flight Program Executive allows us to find ways to save resources and enhance services. For example, when we were testing a remote tower model in Leesburg, Va., we were able to identify aircraft and personnel from three of those missions to contribute to the demonstrations. And when we were doing hurricane response, we normally would have sent aircraft meant to transport just passengers, but in addition to Hangar 6 aircraft, we realized the benefit of also sending flight inspection aircraft with more cargo space for relief supplies, as well as King Air C90 aircraft to operate the island shuttle. Neither of those scenarios would have happened if we didn’t have one central point of contact who could assess the capabilities of our entire fleet for the occasion.
Using grants from the Center of Excellence on Technical Training and Human Performance, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University researchers are assessing our fleet to determine if some aircraft can be equipped for dual or multiple use. We think they’ll find some of our planes can be outfitted for occasional passenger transportation if needed and also be used for regular flight inspections of our navigational aids, charts and air traffic procedures. Their acquisition strategy will also include a recommendation about whether we can consolidate the fleet by retiring some of our older aircraft, which are as much as 60 years old with high maintenance costs and lack a simulator for pilot training.
We also asked the University of Akron to assess flight inspection asset allocation, staffing, scheduling and whether there is room for efficiencies here as well.
The changes we expect to make will increase safety and save money because pilots will train on fewer types of planes, and our maintenance crew will have fewer total planes to support.
I think this is a great example of how we all can look at our resources and consider ways to simplify and cut costs – and we don’t even need an app to do it!