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Amarillo Plant One Osprey Ahead Of Schedule

Wednesday 24/05/2017 - Source: Shephard

Production officials with Bell Helicopter Textron here say lean manufacturing processes put in place in 2015 are proving out so well that an extra V-22 Osprey can be programmed for final assembly over and above initial planning requirements this year, bringing the total for 2017 production to 15.

Mike Scruggs, senior Bell VP for Program Build Teams explains that enough capacity has been squeezed from the time allotted for assembly operations- through continuous process improvements -to allow the company to start work ahead of time on the build schedule for next year - a total 17 aircraft Ospreys.

The lean production system here- a mix of meticulous schedule planning, integration of needed components and human-factors engineered 'touch' time - allowed an earlier disruption that caused a stoppage of the assembly line to be absorbed easily into the 2017

Discovery of a potential hydraulic 'hard-over' mode in the MV-22's flight control computer- caused by a flaw in software design -'brought us to a halt because we couldn't run hydraulic power on the aircraft in the assembly hall,'Scruggs said. (Repeat of the fault -first experienced during a ground run at Amarillo-would have resulted in an actuator 'firing' the proprotor swashplate into structure in the forward part of the engine nacelle- ed)

The problem- fixed within 14 days- turned out to be minor (a change in a software card inserted into the flight control computer). 'But it made a big difference to the flow of things. We were able to do work on the line only up to the point they needed to work with the hydraulics. Then we had a bottleneck and came to a complete stop.'

The issue of assembly line efficiency is important as the joint Bell/Boeing team are poised to work on any engineering changes to the aircraft that may come out of the US Marines check out aircraft in the VMM-263 squadron preparing for deployment to Iraq later in the year. 'They're very demanding. They don't want anything to go wrong,'he said. 'there's a lot of interaction going on between us here and Navair.' So far most of the work is being performed by the Marines themselves at the New River, NC, base albeit with input from Scrugg's engineers working alongside them at the base.

A case in point has been a re-design and installation of new Engine Inlet Particle Separators (EIPS) which involved a retro-fit programme here. Other work has concerned production-level integration of EW equipment for the squadron's MV-22A Block B aircraft. Scruggs took over his job in 2015 after moving from running production operations on the F-16 line at Ft Worth, Tx., for Lockheed Martin.

He soon set about applying similar principles at the Bell plant, quickly succeeding to clear up a rapidly accumulating production backlog that was directly affecting quality of work being done on the aircraft.

By the end of that year, he says, Osprey assembly operations were running smoothly, with all build operations scheduled for that year completed on time. The story was similar for 2016. V-22 assembly rates will ramp up to 20 aircraft (both MVs and CVs) during 2009 and to 33 in 2010.

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