Robins won’t see fewer planes as a result of cuts

wcrenshaw@macon.comAugust 27, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- In March, Robins Air Force Base officials announced that as a result of across the board spending cuts, 28 fewer planes would be coming in for overhaul this fiscal year, but that has changed.

Now only one plane will be delayed to the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. Base officials deferred questions on the change to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

In an email, Wright-Patterson spokesman John Scaggs said the initial 28 plane estimate was based on a “worst case scenario” for the funding that would be available for maintenance under the federal cuts, referred to as sequestration. However, he said cuts were found elsewhere, and some “overflow” C-130 work at Hill Air Force Base in Utah was switched to Robins.

Had the planes been pushed to the next fiscal year, it likely would have meant many of them would have been grounded because they were due for overhaul maintenance. Because of the six days of furlough that occurred, at least some planes will likely still be delayed in getting back in the air.

Basically, the change from the previous announcement means the workload at Robins stayed the same while six days of work were lost. Retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, president of the 21st Century Partnership, said the end result will be that more planes likely will be finished past the due date.

“You can’t accomplish 100 percent of the work in 80 percent of the hours and expect those aircraft to roll out on time,” he said. Nearly all civilian employees at Robins were furloughed each Friday for six weeks, which meant a 20 percent reduction in man-hours during that time.

McMahon also noted that overtime was banned during the furlough period, which also impacted the ability to get planes done on time.

Scaggs said once planes become due for programmed depot maintenance, there is only a small window in which those planes can still fly. Once that window closes, the planes must be grounded until the maintenance is done, unless engineers determine a plane can safely fly.

Scaggs said an effort was made to “focus resources ahead of the furlough” that may reduce the number of planes finished late. He expects some will be finished early or on time, while some will be late. He also noted that due dates were not extended to compensate for furloughs.

“We will almost certainly see a dip in due-date performance as a result of the furloughs,” he said. “We won’t know the full extent of that until the various aircraft that were affected are completed later this year.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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