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In fiscal 2010, Naval Air Systems Command's CH-53K Supportability Program (PMA-261) was searching for a way to effectively and systematically apply analytical techniques to keep costs down and performance high throughout CH-53K development and in fleet operations.

Through due diligence, Bob Leavitt, H-53 logistics director, said he and his team evaluated several successful programs, including a major rail line and public airline operations centers, but Sikorsky's S-92 Fleet Management Operations Center concept proved to be the best suited for the program's needs. Now, this concept serves as the model for PMA-261's Fleet Common Operating Environment, or FCOE.

Within two years, the team worked swiftly through contract negotiations and processes to have FCOE fully operational by the close of fiscal 2012. The ribbon cutting for the facility was held at the Sikorsky office in Lexington Park on Oct. 25.

A collaborative effort between PMA-261 and Sikorsky, FCOE crunches every imaginable piece of data and trend related to the CH-53E in-service.

The initial data is provided by maintainers, the fleet, Defense Logistics Agency, suppliers and even the aircraft itself from the aircraft Health and Usage Management System. This data is fed into 19 different Navy and DoD data sources.

FCOE takes all the data and with flexible software, it efficiently analyzes, translates, organizes and presents it to engineers and other stakeholders so they can make predictive decisions that ultimately reduce flight-hour costs and increase performance and reliability.

"The FCOE mission is for all stakeholders to use a common set of tools and processes," Leavitt said. "When applied across all PMA-261 programs, this will enable the right technical and business decisions, based on root-cause analysis, to drive operational success while reducing total ownership cost. Reliability drives supportability, and our focus is to ensure we understand our actual reliability performance versus our baseline reliability performance."

Because FCOE members specialize in maintenance, logistics and engineering, having their knowledge and experience in one room maximizes this team's edge when it comes to forecasting and making recommendations based on the real-time data they review every day.

CH-53K is a heavy-lift helicopter designed to be three times more capable than its predecessor while being more affordable, making cost and performance are more critical than ever.

H-53 Program Manager Col. Bert Pridgen said he is already encouraged by the results.

"The FCOE team is taking what we're learning from the CH-53E and using this new information to drive down costs and increase reliability today," Pridgen said. "Ultimately, the FCOE is about delivering capability at the right cost, at the right time, no matter what the platform may be. We'll do this continuously to ensure our new aircraft has the best possible performance at the best possible flight hour cost. We're using all available technology to discover failures as early as possible, well before they occur."