Monday, July 12, 2010

Unsatisfactory Reports

I was a U S govt 'war worker' at the Air Force logistics depot on Hickam Field/AFB, Hawaii during and, for a few more years, after WW2. When hostilities ended I was reassigned from aircrew parachute and emergency survival gear maintenance to the depot Maintenance Division's staff office that investigated, documented and processed 'inspection' reports. My assignment included reports initiated by operators, technicians, engineers, etc., on aircraft and support systems and related equipment failures, erroneous tech data, manufacturers' production defects, services errors, and materiel management and support practices generally by contractors and other government entities. The governing directive for my specialty was / is the USAF Unsatisfactory Reports (UR) Program Tech Order 00-35D-54.

My duties included familiarizing shop technicians, crew chiefs and first and second level supervisors with the processes of the UR reporting system such as keeping tech notes, recording and protecting evidence and exhibits to meet the Tech Order's requirements. I occasionally used informal group brainstorming to draw out context, 'probable cause' and 'fix' ideas from crew chief expertise and others that were knowledgeable and added pertinent info in the UR. Failures and defects reports often called for physical evidence/exhibits. In those days URs were air mailed from Hickam to Wright Patterson AFB, the focal point for management of USAF logistics functions.

[Vignette: An unusual UR, as I remember: When: Late '40s. The Maintenance Division's 'Big Hangar' has a line of C-54s down the middle undergoing scheduled extensive repairs. I get a call from the Aircraft Repair chief inspector. Problem: A forward upper inboard corner of the spar in the port wing's integral fuel tank in a C-54 undergoing depot-level inspection shows clear evidence of corrosion. Potential impact: Fleets of C-54s working worldwide; is the problem unique to this one airplane or extensive. Get a UR out ASAP.

I'm off to the hangar up the acft maintenance stand. The integral fuel tank's panel is off. I maneuver my right arm, head and a bit of my shoulder up into the tank. Lights. There it is, within arm reach. Scratch at the corrosion; rough, pitted surface: the evidence / exhibit; photos. Back to the office. UR prepared, signed by authority and on its way, very likely preceded by an electronic priority TWX [currently email].

Next day; from my supervisor: "Mike, Tech Services at Wright-Pat wants the wing section. Right now. Base Commander authorizes use of a C-82 Boxcar. 'Aircraft Repair' gets the exhibit wing section off and on a truck trailer, braced and ready for [rear] loading on the C-82. Wing section delivered to Base Ops and loaded. I stand by as the UR project officer. I observe the C-82 liftoff and return to the office.

My experiences in implementing and using the U R system during and after WW2 resulted, post-retirement, in authoring and updating my blog;

'Fixing and Preventing Mistakes and Deficiencies in the Workplace' online at: