REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A small warehouse on Corpus Christi Army Depot serves as a sort of "Pull-a-Part" shop for Army rotary wing aircraft undergoing maintenance.

The Storage, Analysis, Failure Evaluation and Reclamation program, managed by the U.S Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center, Army Engineering Directorate, Aviation Engineering Directorate, Maintenance Engineering Division at CCAD provides SAFR as an engineering tool to assist with readiness.

"The SAFR Program is an engineering tool which provides expert parts failure analysis, repair development and remediation solutions to military aviation maintainers in support of their critical supply needs," said Michael E. Vourcos, AED aerospace engineer and SAFR Program Engineer. "SAFR allows us to improve readiness, reduce turn-around-time and meet cost savings objectives, while maintaining the highest levels of airworthiness and flight safety."

SAFR began in 1989 in support of the overhaul lines at CCAD. The program operates by collecting specifically identified candidate parts from airframes being overhauled at CCAD during depot maintenance, repair activity and other higher level maintenance operations.

"We select the parts based on critical supply need, complexity to manufacture, raw materials availability, long procurement lead times," said Vourcos. The selected parts are typically those which no longer meet current repair criteria limits or are beyond economical repair.

The pulled parts are then researched and evaluated, and AED engineers formulate potential repair solutions. The parts are then sent to repair maintenance shops on CCAD to be returned as usable items. Commonly repaired parts include gearbox housings, transmission gears, engine blades and rotor heads, along with a variety of other components.

"Our repair development solutions typically reclaim 50 to 75 percent of the parts," said Vourcos. "This results in an average of more than 2,000 parts repaired and returned to service annually."

The return of parts has led to the success of overhaul and repair operations that would have otherwise failed or been significantly over budget. Roberto Rodriguez, branch chief for the CCAD AH-64 main transmission and gearbox assembly and testing shop, was recently able to complete repair on six AH-64 transmissions, using parts from SAFR.

At the beginning of March, Rodriguez and his shop were struggling to find necessary parts to make the repairs. No contract was in place for the missing parts, and there had been a higher than expected need. "As we were all scrambling, I remembered I had been to the SAFR parts review a few months prior, and I knew a lot of the parts we were short on were actually at SAFR."

Rodriguez called the SAFR team, who pulled the best available parts, put them into the repair process and made sure they met airworthiness requirements.

"Within 2 to 3 weeks, with complete teamwork between AMRDEC engineering and the process shop, we were able to get those parts back to the assembly line. Just days ago, we sent the last transmission over to paint," he added. "I call them my second source of supply -- without those parts at SAFR, there was no way we were going to finish those transmissions."

The return of parts to usable inventory has also resulted in numerous Values Engineering Awards for the organization including at the Department of Defense level.

A $1 billion watermark in cumulative VE savings was achieved through the program in Fiscal Year 2011, and the savings continue to grow each year. "The Value Engineering command cost savings typically ranges between $50-100 million per fiscal year," Vourcos said.

The success of the program is largely linked to collaboration between the AMRDEC team and the CCAD workforce. SAFR hosts monthly meetings for specific system teams and larger quarterly meetings to ensure they are continuing to meet the Depot production supply needs. The meetings are a forum to discuss new repair technology and process developments which might put more parts back into the supply system and on the assembly lines.

The key to the success of the program involves, "Empowered decision-making engineers on the ground where the parts are located working and communicating with production, programs, supply, artisan and partnership folks," according to Kevin Rees, chief, Maintenance Engineering Division.

"You need to have engineers in place, along with the warehouse, data base, process flow and program support, that can actually perform the 'engineering magic' to develop and/or approve repairs for these parts successfully," he added.

In addition to the parts on hand at CCAD, SAFR-Lite also exists at the AED Liaison Engineering Sites at locations across the Army.

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The U. S. Army Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities for decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the Joint Warfighter and the Nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Material Command.