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Expenditure Review - Maintenance of Aircraft in the Air Corps

Military personnel from the Army and the Air Corps, and civilian personnel from the Department of Defence produced this Expenditure Review of Maintenance of Aircraft in the Air Corps. This review topic was approved by Government for inclusion in the 2002 – 2004 programme of expenditure reviews.

This report contains all of the main findings, analysis of the findings, conclusions and recommendations for Department of Defence, Defence Forces and Air Corps senior management
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Executive Summary

This report presents the findings and recommendation of a review of Aircraft Maintenance conducted under the Expenditure Review Framework. The key points arising from the review are as follows:

The two key performance indicators for the Air Corp Maintenance function are the aircraft serviceability rate and the maintenance cost per hour. The serviceability rates varied over the reporting period. The age and diversity of the fleet were significant factors to the variation. The maintenance cost per hour varies according to each aircraft. The older aircraft are significantly more expensive to maintain.

At the end of 2003 the Air Corps were operating thirteen and maintaining eleven different aircraft types. Aircraft purchased prior to 1980 delivered 45% of flying hours. There are significant savings to be made from operating a reduced number of modern aircraft types. The retention of the Alouette helicopters alone, instead of their modern equivalent has increased maintenance costs by approximately €5.1 million in the last ten years. (At 2002 costs)

Air Corps aircraft are maintained to manufacturer’s requirements, which are sometimes adapted for the specific roles of some aircraft. The quality of the maintenance and the resulting safety standards are maintained to a high level.

The amount of contracted maintenance increased by almost 100% between 1998 and 2002 without a corresponding increase in serviceability rates. This is due in part to the difficulties in sourcing spares for the older aircraft, and the uniqueness of some of the Air Corps aircraft, on which Air Corps personnel have the most experience.

Aircraft maintenance performed in-house can be completed in less man-hours than contracted organisations, but because of skills shortages, difficulties with the availability of spares and the fact that the majority of maintenance is performed during normal working hours, the turn around times for maintenance checks can be compromised. Insufficient performance data is kept to facilitate labour productivity analysis.

The organisational structure of the aircraft maintenance function is based on a fleet of seven modern aircraft types that is, as yet, an unrealised fleet configuration. Within that structure there is no Officer accountable to GOC Air Corps for the performance of the maintenance function. Some of the maintenance squadrons are considerably understaffed. This is partly attributable to a decision, which culminated in no apprentice intakes for 1997 and 1998. This has meant that, allowing for technicians working in support in the aircraft workshops, in the Technical Training School and support functions, there only remains between 38 and 44 personnel, out of 277, available to participate in maintenance crews in the hangars.

The diversity of the fleet has resulted in higher stock levels and a high number of suppliers, which is both uneconomic and inefficient. This is compounded by the lack of a fleet replacement policy, which has hindered the adoption of an effective stock holding policy, consequently leading to an overuse of the more expensive Aircraft on Ground (AOG) purchasing system.

The Air Corps has no formal system in place to report on the performance of the maintenance function and no performance indicators have been specified. The report proposes a suite of monitoring and evaluation indicators. A strategic computer application that can produce management information is being used and is expected to complement the Management Information Framework (MIF) in the short to mid term.

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