Ma 1 reliability task force


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The F106 was our first line defense against russian bombers carring Nuclesr Weapons

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Ma 1 reliability task force

  1. 1. The MA-1 Reliability Task Force A brief history of an attempt to triple the Reliability of the MA-1/F106 Aircraft by Roland A. Boucher, Task Force LeaderIn 1958 and 1959 the Hughes MA-1 fire control system and associated electronicunits began to be installed in F106 aircraft in production quantities. It soon becameapparent that the poor reliability of the Hughes MA-1 would severely impact on theeffectiveness of the F106 in its primary mission to defend the CONUS againstRussian bomber attack. in 1958 Winston Walker, a senior reliability analyst at Hughesproposed that a quick response Task Force be established to Remedy the situation.The goal of the Task Force was to TRIPLE THE RELIABILITY OF THE HUGHES MA-1IN 90 DAYS. The effort would be limited to the 26 Category II and Category III Aircraftat Pamdale California.The Air Force agreed to the program. At this point Winston Walker quit the companyand management Asked me to head up the Reliability Task Force. I protested that Ihad no experience in the field of reliability analysis or field service. They replied thatno one else had that experience either and that I had the Job. At that time I was a 27Year old Engineer. I had supervised the development of a prototype MA1-40 firecontrol system which was installed in two prototype version of the F106 Dash 30. Myprevious experience had been with the power supply group responsible for thedesign of the electrical power units used in the F102, and F106 aircraft.I asked for the assistance of Colonel Jack Bales who had been my assistant on theMA1-40 development, and we flew to Palmdale California to look over the situation.When we arrived we met the two squadron commanders and the Hughes, Convair,and Pratt and Whitney representatives. There was tension in the Air, These peoplewere not acting as a team. I asked to be assigned a tech Sargent from themaintenance crew to show us some of the problems.His top problem in terms of frequency of repair was a small vacuum tube which wasalso used in Television sets. We went to the supply crib and I Instructed the supplySargent to take out a hammer and smash the suspected bad tube. There was nothingwrong with the tube, The maintenance technicians were stealing them for their TVsets. The same thing went on at the Hughes Aircraft factory in El Segundo California. 1
  2. 2. The tech Sargent then showed us his top problem in terms of difficulty of repair. Theproblem was broken wires in the horizontal situation display which is mounted onthe cockpit floor between the pilots legs. He said the wires broke and he thought thereason was that the wire harness had failed which let the wires vibrate until they failedin fatigue. This made sense but why were the harnesses failing ??? we asked to seea unit. The outer casing was about 24 inches long and the electronic display had tobe inserted from one end with very little clearance. This casing had a large number ofexternal name plates, each attached with sheet metal screws which protruded into thearea where the electronics had to be inserted. I asked for some black electrical tapeand made a crisscross pattern of tape over each protruding screw and told theSargent to try this simple fix and report back if the reliability was improved. It was.Now it was time to witness the maintenance procedure practiced in these twosquadrons. The Sargent called for a pilot to start the engine on one of the planes. Iasked why this was necessary. The squadron was equipped with ground powercarts which were designed to supply all electrical power to the aircraft while on theground. He Responded “ When we plug in the Ground power cart to the airplane,THE AIRPLANE CATCHES FIRE!”. I was shocked !! “HOW IN HELL DO YOUEXPECT TO MAINTAIN THE MA-1 WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING” I said. “You wouldhave to be crazy to stand in front of the air intake of a 15,000 pound thrust jet engine”.I told the Sargent.. “go in and tell the squadron commanders, the Convair rep, theHughes rep, and the Pratt And Whitney rep to come out here, tell them I am going toshow them how to maintain the MA-1/F106”.When every one was assembled in front of the aircraft I said “ok Sargent, plug in theground power cart” The aircraft of course promptly caught on fire!! I turned to theassembled group and declared “ You have 48 hours to fix this problem or I am goingto come back here and burn every aircraft to the ground!!”.My assistant Jack Bales and I turned around, got in our plane and flew back toHughes in Culver City. When we got back I was called on the carpet and told that.Every one was calling and wanted me fired. I told management that this problemshould never have been allowed to continue through the commissioning of 26aircraft, that maintenance was impossible as things were, and that if they expected meto succeed , Hughes had to stand behind me. Management agreed and 48 hourslater we began our program. There were no more fires. 2
  3. 3. I split my team into two squads, reliability analysis was to list the top 50 failures. theywere to rank them first by their effect on reliability, and second by their effect on thedown time of the Aircraft. The second team consisted of electrical engineers who wereto determine the changes to be made, and mechanical engineers who were to makethe proper drawings and military parts selection.I called the team members together and told them there would be NO overtime. Thiswas a crash effort and I wanted everyone sharp and on their toes. Each electricalengineer would be assigned a problem unit at 8:00 AM. They would turn in theirFINAL analysis at noon sharp. Mechanical would take over at 1:00 PM and haveinstallation drawings ready by 5:00 PM. Installation of repair kits was to begin within48 hours. At 1:00 PM each electrical engineer would get a new unit to analyze. Theywould examine two units per day. At this rate of 10 units per week, our five electricalengineers could examine 50 units per week. We started to lose engineers in 24hours. It did not take long to find out who who could not handle the pressure.Fortunately there was no shortages of recruits.In one week we started to see improvement in the 26 aircraft. In two weeks I was ableto lay off all the reliability group. I had discovered that nearly all the failures were inunits which were approved by one of three individuals. Jack Bales looked for thesignatures while I assigned the units for review. This was a very important discoverysince the personnel reporting to these individuals were very sloppy and made verySTUPID MISTAKES which were easy to spot, and easy to fix.In two months we had nearly doubled the in-flight reliability of the MA-1/F106 weaponsystem. That is when I made my fatal error. I wrote an internal memo suggesting thatthese three individuals be fired. I suggested that this action might actually double thereliability of the whole Hughes Aircraft Company. I must have hit a nerve becauseshortly the Task force was shut down and I was instructed to burn all records andscrap all improvement kits not already installed.I complied, Almost, certain copy’s of the records were spirited off to members ofmanagement I could trust, and all kits were stored in an undisclosed location,to be use as required by trusted Hughes field engineers. We had repaired thecategory II and category III aircraft but the hundreds of aircraft in productionremained unmodified. 3
  4. 4. Over the ensuing four or five years, as a large number of engineering change ordersbegan to filter through the system, I was able to advise friends in the F106 programoffice which of these proposed changes had been flight tested in the first twosquadrons at Palmdale.The Moral to this story is :It does not take too many rotten eggs to spoil the barreland that management often does not have the guts to remove them.This story is true to the best of my recollection now 43 years later. I still have a copy ofthe repair records to prove it. I also have records of a proposed improved electricalpower supply system for the MA-1 /F106 which was developed for the dash 30aircraft. Roland A. Boucher September 6, 2002 Irvine California.Enclosure1 Task Force report dated 16 July 1959 (There was no IDC # assigned)2 Recommendations to replace F102 / MG-10 and F106 / MA-1 electric power generators with Series Tube Regulators operated from the 3-phase 400 cycle, 115VAC, 30 KVA Alternator. A MG-10 Recommendation..... IDC # 4114.2-84 dated 12, October 1956 B MA-1 Recommendation ...( draft copy only ) dated 24, September 1956 C MA-1 400 CPS POWER SUPPLY (Presentation) dated April, 1959 4