Potential Reductions in Aircraft Operation and Maintenance Costs by Using Thrust Computing Support Equipment

PLRD-82-4: Published: Oct 27, 1981. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 1981.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Defense's (DOD) efforts to save fuel and reduce maintenance costs on turbine jet engines through thrust and power management and studied the feasibility of using certain equipment which has the capability of measuring the thrust of engines while installed in aircraft.

The analyses showed that the accurate measurement and setting of thrust for installed jet engines is of vital importance, not only for aircraft readiness and safety, but also for operation and maintenance cost reductions. Although test results indicate that a system is available that can perform such measurements, the services have not been using it. The Air Force conducted extensive tests of the thrust-computing support equipment that will measure thrust for installed J85-5 engines. Although the Air Force decided to implement the thrust-computing system for its J85-5 engines, the system may not be implemented due to a lack of funding. If funds are not made available soon, the system may never be implemented. If this occurs, the Air Force will lose millions of dollars already invested in the program, in addition to millions in projected savings. Furthermore, failure to implement the system may reduce aircraft readiness. The Navy has not performed any tests to determine whether its aircraft jet engines might benefit from such a system. According to the contractor, the system can offer similar significant benefits for Navy aircraft engines.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The DOD Inspector General (IG) investigated the Air Force's failure to implement this recommendation and reported on December 22, 1987, that implementation of this recommendation would not be cost-effective.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to ensure that adequate plans are prepared to monitor implementation of the thrust computing support equipment for the J85-5 engines at Laughlin Air Force Base and to verify and evaluate the benefits of the system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD/IG investigated the Air Force's failure to implement this recommendation and reported on December 22, 1987, that implementation of this recommendation would not be cost-effective.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to develop a plan to ensure that the system will be timely implemented on the J79 engines if the system functions as well as expected on the J85-5 engines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Navy decided that there was no potential benefit from coordinating with the Air Force and, therefore, does not intend to do so. The Navy's opinion is that it uses superior trim methods on its older engines and its newer engines are required to be no-trim or self-trim.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy to coordinate their efforts in evaluating the thrust computing system on variable nozzle afterburning jet aircraft engines. Such an exchange of information will prevent duplication of test and evaluation efforts between the services.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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