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Is Civil Or Mil More Stringent With Maintanence?  
User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 19 hours ago) and read 3294 times:

I was wondering which of the two sides has more stringent and overall better maintanence programs for air craft overall. The the large airline companies or the military, namely the Air Force. Thank you.

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineAUAE From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 296 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 3247 times:

In my opinion it is civil, namely due to the FAA oversite.

Air transport is just a glorified bus operation. -Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive
User currently offlineSQ325 From Germany, joined Jul 2001, 1473 posts, RR: 7
Reply 2, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 3243 times:

Based on my experience in AB) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA i have to say civil is much better!
I've seen about 10 RTOs by US mil jets and the same number landing with priority because of technical problems.

User currently offlineFinnWings From Finland, joined Oct 2003, 640 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 18 hours ago) and read 3234 times:

I have been working with both sectors, military and civil and I have to admit that civil regulations are much tighter. Fighter or military transport aircrafts even the most modern don't have same reliability than commercial jets. Civil airlines and aircrafts which have civil register have also follow very tight FAR or JAR regulations... or the rules of some other national aviation administration depending of the country. Air Forces have their own procedures and even they keep good care of their aircrafts too they have different job to do and those aircrafts are designed for different purposes...Military aircrafts don't have to carry many times a day some 20-30 years people from place A to B.

Best Regards,

User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 16 hours ago) and read 3209 times:

Thanks alot for the info, I had a little bet going with my friends about this and now it looks like I won this one.

User currently offlineChdmcmanus From United States of America, joined Mar 2001, 374 posts, RR: 2
Reply 5, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 15 hours ago) and read 3204 times:

Not so fast gambling man. You’re comparing apples and oranges. The two systems are designed around very different principles. The USAF requirements are much more stringent, in particularly with documentation and accountability, but that may be attributed to a higher turnover rate in the workforce. The FAA A&P certification requirements cover the entire gamut of aviation mx, from fabric and piston to composite and jet, and are very liberal with who can correct a given defect; whereas the military personnel are very task specialized and have a stringent accountability chain. As a Crew Chief my duties and capabilities were very explicitly defined, and if performing a listed critical task, required two person certification. The same job that required a specialist and two person certification in the USAF may only need a Certificated A&P, who has done the task at least once, to complete the task. Example, a MLG tire change on the C-141, required a minimum of 3 mx log (AFTO Form 781A) entries, 1) Antiskid detector removed IAW 1C-141B-2JG-xxx 2) Tire removed IAW xxxxx 3) Strut serviced FOM tire change IAW xxxxxx. Each person changing the tires must be a 5 skill level (roughly an A&P); certified in there training records for EACH step of the tire change, and signed off by a task certifier, and must have completed the required recurring mx training. There are 2 IP inspections required by a 7 level (roughly an IA) who is not performing the mx, only inspecting, one for the bearing serial numbers and one for the torque settings. When the task is completed the mx log entries must be "signed off" by both the person performing the work and inspector, and an electrician must perform an ops ck on the anti-skid system and the brakes checked for operation. The same procedure, by the letter of the law from the CFR's, (the specifics will change based on particular airlines FAA approved mx program, this is the minimum) may be accomplished and signed off by a single A&P, who has performed this task once before in the presence of another certificated A&P, and a single entry in the logs stating that the tire was changed. Both systems are safe, but the difference is turnover. The USAF system is designed around the fact that the 5 levels doing the tire changes probably have an average of 3-5 years AF experience, and may not have that long on a given aircraft, whereas the Airlines workforce is much higher in average experience and long term specific employment. The USAF has a vested interest in ensuring that a 19 year old 5 level Crew Chief and a 24 year old 7 level inspector, with only 10 years of experience between them operate at a safety level commiserate to a 15 year experienced Delta (or whomever) maintainer. The FAA doesn’t have as large of an issue with turnover, and thus more accountability and “core of common knowledge” may be placed on an individual. The USAF also has much more stringent ground servicing requirements, which is a constant point of friction with civilian fuel truck drivers. USAF regs go as far as specifically prohibiting certain kinds of fabric in clothing and are extremely conservative with grounding/bonding., for the same reason.

Both systems are tailored to specific needs; the FAA keeps passengers safe on aircraft that operate on established scheduled routes and intervals. The operational routines for theses acft are fairly rigid, and the companies can predict with a high degree of certainty at what points in the schedule certain lifespan milestones will be met and the operational environment and climate they will occur in. The USAF on the other hand, operates on an extremely fluid schedule, maintaining a primarily reactionary outlook to long range predictions. Example, Boeing 767 reg #xxx working for xxxair is flown on routes a, b, c, and d. It is easy to predict the leg times on these routes and thus the total airframe accumulation rate and cycles over an extended period of time. Also, the climate (summer, winter) and geo. region is set (desert, temperate) and thus special mx considerations can be made for the jets. The USAF on the other hand may have the same jet flying tactical airlift for a few weeks in a desert, then re-assign it to strategic support in the arctic for a while, then immediately turn it over to staff duties in a completely different region. This requires a different approach to long term mx scheduling. The other side is preventive mx, for the same reasons. This creates an atmosphere of extreme documentation and accountability, so when you have a younger mx force to deal with, you want to ensure beyond a shadow of a doubt that certain information reaches the right place at the right time, so that the mx needs of a particular airframe can be recognized and reacted to before your stuck in Kabul with an engine change that could have been done in Frankfurt.

Military aircraft are every bit as reliable as there commercial counterparts. The reason you will see more mx returns and RTO's in military jets boils down to money and ORM (operational risk management). The airlines must fly in order to generate a profit, and thus will take an MEL list to its limits before taking a jet down for non-revenue ground time; the USAF does not have thus constraint. Mil jets operating out of a MOB (main operating base) such as EDDF will RTO or break in heartbeat, but you give the same crew the same malfunction on a short runway in Afghanistan, and they will go like a homesick angel. That is part of ORM, or deciding what is acceptable or unacceptable risk, both instantly and 5 minutes or 5 days down the road. Most airlines operate out of places which have support for them on a regular basis, and very rarely go to places where they have to be self sustaining.

Hope it helps,

"Never trust a clean Crew Chief"
User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 3174 times:

As a member of a deployed C-130 squadron myself, I see where you are coming from. Even though I am ops and not mx, so far I have been led to believe that Air Force maintanence is better i.e. time in the air = revenue for the air lines but not the Air Force theory to be nothing more than a theory. I only say this because we have canx'd many mission in such a short time due to errors on the mx end that could have been prevented. I know the t.o.'s should prevent this, but I think that due to the young age and the low asvab score requirements (for most all career fields for that matter) kind of hinder a program that in theory could be alot better. But since I have zero experience working with civil aviation maintanence programs, I am not really in a position to declare a winner. Thanks for the info though, glad im not betting for money.

User currently offlineAUAE From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 296 posts, RR: 3
Reply 7, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 3166 times:

I have two words. Can birds.

The AF couldn't keep a fleet of aircraft going unless it had can birds at 50% of the bases that flew it. Money is a big issue, the AF does spend enough on spare parts to keep thier a/c flying. That issue plagues the C-5 and C-141 and probably any other a/c that is more than 10 years old.

By comparison, if airlines ran their MTC program like that they would be out of business.

Strict and best may be a word issue, the military is pretty strict, but I would not feel that they have the best MTC program. Don't take it too personally if you work in the military, I just feel that way after working around both environments. Anyone every see the blue angels up close? They are usually the hand me downs of the NAVY. I have seen blistered paint all along the keel due to corrosion. Come on, at least grind it down and repaint it!


Air transport is just a glorified bus operation. -Michael O'Leary, Ryanair's chief executive
User currently offlineAirplay From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 3164 times:

I agree that its not a very fair comparison. Military airplanes and the associated maintenance have very different goals than civil aircraft when it comes to acceptable risks.

So...I would much rather fly on a civil registered 737 on my vacation than a military herc in Iraq.

User currently offlineIMissPiedmont From United States of America, joined May 2001, 6544 posts, RR: 29
Reply 9, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 11 hours ago) and read 3144 times:

A 30,000 hour C-130 is ancient but a 30,000 hour 737 is just getting warmed up.

But it is comparing pigs with silk, vastly different requirements. Both are equally stringent, just in different areas. Ex-military mechanics tend not to do well in the civil sector right off the bat. Trust me.

The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
User currently offlineDC-10Tech From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 298 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (12 years 1 month 1 week 8 hours ago) and read 3132 times:

Having been a KC-10 maintenance tech in the USAF and then working DC-10's and MD-11's nearly exclusively as a civillian since I got out, I can tell you that the USAF guidelines are MUCH more strict. I was amazed when I got out and how laid back many regs and procedures seemed to me, even though they violated no FAR's. Without a doubt, guidelines are much for strict!

User currently offlineJohnM From United States of America, joined Feb 2001, 377 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (12 years 1 month 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 3046 times:

The military is by far much more strict. I does not however do a better job. In my experience, we (the military) have a very high rate of repeat and recur jobs, and generally don't have the quality of the civilian guys. To troubleshoot a fuel quanity system on a C-5 for example, I will generate at least 20 red X discrepancies just to find out what the problem is. I know this type of crap in the civ world just isn't going to fly. All the documentation takes huge amounts of time and energy. The 2 systems are quite different, and must be because of the inherent unreliability of some of Uncle Sam's airplanes, young troops, and trying to deal with 20-40 % turnover per year. Polar Air would be out of business in 6 months if they had to deal with a fleet of C-5s for example. I know our on time stats are no longer published because they got so bad. I bet the airlines still track that number quite closely.

User currently offlineL-188 From United States of America, joined Jul 1999, 30414 posts, RR: 57
Reply 12, posted (12 years 1 month 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 3034 times:

Depends on what we are considering.

Are we conparing civil aviation with the peacetime military maintaince or wartime in a combat zone maintaince. They are really two different things.

User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (12 years 1 month 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 2948 times:

Well I flew over to Kuwait from Arizona on 3 different C-5's, all of them broke down for at least a couple of hours, but damn is it nice to lay on the floor on those long ass flights. It was a bit disconcerting getting off of the Atlantic leg and seeing hydro all over the rudder. Now that I am in Iraq at war, of our 2 C-130's that are over here, one has been gone for awhile now due to a problem that proper maintanence could have prevented. I think there needs to be a larger reenlistment incentive to keep more experience in the mx ranks.

User currently offlinePhollingsworth From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 825 posts, RR: 4
Reply 14, posted (12 years 1 month 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 2917 times:

Remember that one of the reasons that military aircraft have more problems and crashes is they are not designed to be nearly as robust and reliable as commercial aircraft. The reason for this is in military aircraft performance has a much higher desirability, and safety is lesser. Remember an optimum design is very, very rarely a robust one.

User currently offlineIMissPiedmont From United States of America, joined May 2001, 6544 posts, RR: 29
Reply 15, posted (12 years 1 month 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 2893 times:

The C-5s did not, as yuo put it "break down", SickBird.

What we have here is, as an old movie quote says, is a failure to communicate.

The C-5, KC-10 and C-17 are so valuable that they are not dispatched in anything less than perfect condition. There is no such thing for these birds as an MEL, minimum is perfection when going anywhere other than a maintenance depot.

I guess I should explain my previous comment though. Military techs have a hard time acclimating to the cost factor in civil operations. You don't worry much about the patch on a C-5 being beautiful (aerodynamic) but it is a requirement on that lil ole 727 in the hangar.

Tough subject to explain.

The day you stop learning is the day you should die.
User currently offlineMD11Engineer From Germany, joined Oct 2003, 14968 posts, RR: 61
Reply 16, posted (12 years 1 month 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 2882 times:

I´ve worked with colleagues who came from an US miltary background, some from the USAF and others from the Navy (for myself, I´m purely civilian trained). I found that the airforce guys tened to be always looking for somebody to tell them what to do and they expected to be taught each and every little maintenance operation. If there was serious troubleshooting out of routine going on they were often lost (same with former German Luftwaffe mechanics BTW). The former Navy guys on the other hand were much more selfdependend and had a wider scope of skills. I got told that the reason is that on an Airforce field there are specialists for each and every job, while there isn´t that much space on an aircraft carrier for many mechanics, so everybody has to be able to do all kinds of jobs.


Je Suis Charlie et je suis Ahmet aussi
User currently offlineDC-10Tech From United States of America, joined Jun 2001, 298 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (12 years 1 month 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2875 times:

MissPiedmont - not entirely correct. On the KC-10, we did in fact use the same MEL as the DC-10. Almost everything we did was the same. We averaged 96-100% dispatch reliability regularly while I was in (very similar numbers to what I've witnessed in the civilian world on DC-10's)

Some people are forgetting how old these military birds are. Some are pushing 30-50 years old. How many civillian airlines are operating junk that old? Unless you live in an undeveloped country - nobody. Not to mention that nobody makes a lot of the parts any more.

Jan, you are correct with the USAF, we were very specialized. You only started to pick up other systems if you were deployed, or had spent a lot of time on the jet. We had enough technicians - and enough work! - to keep each specialty very busy with his own trade.

My take on it all: Military = More strict, but higher quality of work. Civilian = Less restrictive, not always the best quality of work.

User currently offlineAvioniker From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 1109 posts, RR: 10
Reply 18, posted (12 years 1 month 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 2845 times:

MD11, I think you hit it right on the head.

Before you all go nuts, I'm a 22 year vet of the AF. When I retired I was going to go and show those civillians how to fix planes. Boy did I get my eyes opened!

With the exception of the 52 and 135 what planes are that old in the military fleet? Those are good old Boeings but the fact of the matter is that there are quite a few older DC8's in daily service racking up on the order of 10 to 18 hours a day. The military has never come close to that.

The bottom line is that in the AF the planes are at a more fixed base and can return there for even routine maintenance. The technicians are not highly experienced and the vast majority are within 8 years of graduating high school. They are taught a narrow set of skills and a lot of theory so that they can do their jobs as well as possible in the little time the AF has to use them.
Let's face it. In four years the majority of AF mechanics get 1 year of school, 1 year of walls and floors, 1 year as a third wipe and if they're good 1 year of actually crewing a plane.
The avionics technicians and other specialists suffer much the same fate. The AF doesn't have the average tech long enough to make them a good general mechanic or technician.

After they leave the AF they go to a company where they learn what ATA is all about. The idea that the autopilot or changing a window is always in the same chapter is almost completely foreign to them.

The AF, FBO's and Repair Stations are where A&P's go to get a beginning. After two years on commercial planes the airlines will look at those people.
I used to take umbrage at that but now I understand.

I have to agree that the Navy people are more independant. That comes from their training and need. I have to say that ex Navy people generally need to be watched a little closer for the first few years in the commercial world. Some of the "repairs" I've seen have been very interesting to say the least.

I did my last five years on the KC-10's so at least I learned the ATA's and what an MEL is actually for. Thing was that they had current Airworthiness Certificates up until the first Gulf War. That's why CAMS was on scene courtesy of McDonnel Douglas. All repairs and parts had to come through their A&P's hands before they could be installed on the planes. What they didn't tell too many of us was that they all had Certs and were only repaired by Certificated Repair Stations. Only the 89th fleet and the KC-10's are maintained that way in the AF. The rest are 66-5 or 66-1 or whatever has replaced those wannabe abominations.

Best thing I did was go to my tool box for my first years out of the AF.
It took my more than five years to begin to realize what I didn't know.
Now I learn more every day.

After 37+ years doing maintenance there are days I wonder if I'll ever get really good.

One may educate the ignorance from the unknowing but stupid is forever. Boswell; ca: 1533
User currently offlineBuzz From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 697 posts, RR: 20
Reply 19, posted (12 years 1 month 3 days 22 hours ago) and read 2841 times:

Hi all, Buzz here. I was a C-141 Crew Chief in the '80's; had my A+P before i went in (Air Force), and have been working for UAL the last 20 years.

It's an apples and oranges comparison: different missions (kinds of flying), different skills in each batch of people.

I think it depends on the skill of the crew taking care of the airplanes, and how easy it is to get parts. I've seen poor workmanship on each side.

Buzz Fueslsausage; Line Mechaic by night, DC-3 Crew Chief by choice, Taildragger pilot for fun.

User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (12 years 1 month 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2820 times:

I would disagree with you Piedmont. When the main apu begins shooting molten metal on the C-5 I believe that qualifies it as being broken down. It is not a minor problem. Same goes with having large amounts of hydraulic fluid pouring off the rudder. I love flying on those planes but from my short experience with them, they have many problems. The 3rd problem was after they kneeled it on the ground. They could not get it to stand back up for many hours.

User currently offlineAAR90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 3590 posts, RR: 44
Reply 21, posted (12 years 1 month 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2778 times:

was wondering which of the two sides has more stringent and overall better maintanence programs for air craft overall. The the large airline companies or the military, namely the Air Force.

IMHO, an "apples-to-oranges" comparison. Simply put, there are different missions, different priorities, different equipment, etc., etc., etc. The large airline company would do a terrible job trying to perform the USAF mission using their airline company procedures and programs while the USAF would do a terrible job trying to perform the large airline company mission.

*NO CARRIER* -- A Naval Aviator's worst nightmare!
User currently offlineLMP737 From United States of America, joined May 2002, 5069 posts, RR: 16
Reply 22, posted (12 years 1 month 3 days 12 hours ago) and read 2774 times:

AAR90 is on the money when he says you are comparing apples and oranges when it comes to military and commercial aviation maintenance. Commercial aircraft are not exposed to the operational environments that military aircraft are. On the flip side the military is not under the pressure of the business world. If a military plane sits on the ground it just sits. A commercial airliner bleeds money when it sits on the ground.

Never take financial advice from co-workers.
User currently offlineSickBird From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 35 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (12 years 1 month 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 2730 times:

I enjoyed everyones reply and I appreciate you all trying to teach me about the two Looks like we both are holding our money.

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