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Miltary Aircraft Availability


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Let's also not confuse "operational availability" with "serviceability". Operational availability normally means that if a unit with say eight aircraft is responsible for generating five lines of tasking (ie. five aircraft must be available constantly for missions 24 hrs day) and it manages to provide aircraft to satisfy their responsiblity for that 24-hr period, then the availability rate would be 100%. So add in refueling, turn-arounds, aircraft swaps, crew changes, snags, hard unservicabilities, normal maintenance, scheduling problems, weather delays, etc... you can see the availability rate drops dramatically - even substantially less than the servicability rate. So the Airbus probably has a 99% rating because of how often its expected to be tasked. I don't have firsthand knowledge of the tasking schedule for the Airbus, but I'm sure not all five aircraft are expected to fly every day, all day. Beancounters :hide: love to throw these numbers around like they mean something but the number game really has little bearing on the true picture. When the machines are in the field working, they fly...and they fly a lot. Minor snags are noted but not rectified until the techs can get to it without affecting operations. In garrison there is less pressure to fly with problems so the time is taken to fix a snag even if a mission has to be delayed or cancelled.


In short, its apples and oranges...you can't compare how commercial operators do it with how the military functions. I love flying commercially because its me, my machine, an engineer, and a job to do for four to six weeks at a time. In the military, its you, your crew, the Sqn maintenance organization, restrictive flying rules, leave requirements, mandatory career courses, continual military skills training, secondary duties, staffwork, social obligations, unexpected deployments, ad infinitum...none of which is truly bad, its just not what you get in the commercial world where an aircraft on the ground can't generate revenue which truly IS a bad thing.


Truth be told, in the military the bulk of my "real" work for the day started after I got out of the cockpit...

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It all becomes a problem either way, when you don't have an over-abundance of a/c and can't replace a U/S one readily. Curtail an operation, have the Press find out about it and away we go. The American military I know a little bit about from being in that enviroment and they have similar, but maybe not the exact same problems. The difference being, that on any given day, just at their training facility in Ft. Rucker, AL they have more R/W sitting static and ready to go than the CAF has in the whole organization. It's much easier to hide problems from our friends in the Press with that availability than it is for the CAF. The Press now "smells blood" concerning the CAF and if someone trips over a tool laying on the floor and hurts his foot, they are on top of it like a school of piranha. The CAF got some inbred problems in the way that they do things and always have, but the vast majority of problems can be traced back to something to do with budgets, money and funding from you know who. There's a reason why maintenance people are "cycled" around from one a/c to another and it ain't because they like to keep people moving from a/c to a/c either. Do not compare a military in peacetime to one during a combat or wartime enviroment......bad move. A whole new deck of cards comes out at that time in a whole bunch of different ways ....and watch the "servicability" charts change dramatically when that happens. The added feature to that scenario is that the reporting of our friends in the Press gets "muted" somewhat if the military has anything to say about it.

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Ahhh, don't drain your fuel daily. Hmm.


I started to write how fuel has been contaminated by water in the various helicopters I have flown and began to sound like a freight train crossing the prairies, you know just going on and on and on. Let me tell you that I would NOT be alive on minimum of three occasions, as the fuel in my tanks was crap, two were quantities of water contamination and one was simply not fuel in my tank.


For that little point alone, you are nuts. The ONLY time I DON"T drain the fuel on a daily basis is when the Aircraft Flight Manual tells me NOT to, which on an Astar is then the OAT is less the -10 C due to the integrety of the seals being compromised. I simply would not fly a aircraft that I didn't know what the condition of my fuel is.....


Have been flying for 24 years and one of the first lessons I learned was to not be a statistic due to the result of laziness, I know the military has probably 12 million reasons why it is a BAD thing to check the fuel daily, my simple little book has one, too lazy to find a way to do it safely. I drain my fuel into a clean container and if it is clean, it gets cycled back to the tank, if it is dirty put it in a container that gets recycled, or heaven forbid non are available, I throw it away, just like every other civie pilot flying. Now, before you go on about contaminating the earth think about the contamination a crashed helicopter does to the earth!!!


If you want to ever not be in the military, start mentally preparing to drain your fuel daily, as for me I will not be standing in line for the reserves if this basic fundamental procedure is not being followed, but who cares right :down:



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SC you make very good points and I agree but don't confuse the fact that I as a pilot have never drained my fuel in a military helicopter as being nuts or nor careful.


Our maintenance and preflight inspections work, our machines do not fall out of the sky on a regular basis for fuel contamination, I promise, we've got plenty of accident and incident stats that prove it.


Now as for physically doing the task, I have no problem with the idea at all and would gladly and eagerly do it if that was the procedure. For us right now it is not but I know our civilian AMEs do it every day. If I were fortunate enough to find gainful employment with one of the numerous great outfits in this country and they expected me to do this than I would do it without reservation or arguement.


All I am saying is what I am used to. Look at it from my point of view, it's all what you are used to. Every time I have asked our (military) maintenance guys why we don't drain fuel they explain the maintenance cycle, the checks do to refuelling systems, trucks, hoses etc.....Sounds good to me, and like I said, never heard of fuel contamination in one of our machines in 23 years. The few times I know of it happening, we found it in the truck or tank, not in a helo.


Finally, Sticky, yeah c'est moi. As you understand I'm sure it is very hard to discuss serviceability rates and operational readiness numbers with our civil conterparts because we function so differently. I hope I did not offend anyone in here as I have nothing but the utmost of respect for civil operators out there unless you prove otherwise. I simply expect the same in return.


Different doesn't mean wrong.

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If the civilian AME's working on contract are allowed to drain fuel daily are you not?


If you are allowed to drain it daily then I would suggest you start. I have had water get into fuel from various manners, the strangest but most common is rain whilst parked, runs down side of aircraft and past a poor sealing fuel cap. What about vandilism, heard the story of the muffins?


I still think that being part of an organisation that works in environments which could be unfriendly and susceptable to terrorists or environment extremes that nuts still comes to mind, sorry.


I think that perhaps being the only guy in a squadron draining the fuel daily may actually get others thinking about it too. Why not start, what would it hurt?



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I've seen water in fuel from aircraft that sleep in the hangar, at controlled temps. I don't know how, but water does get into fuel. Just out of curiosity, is Jet A/B more suceptible to water contamination than 100LL ? Is it as easy to spot with all the other crap that comes out the belly drain ?


(I think we can safely say this thread is officially hijacked :P )

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To answer your question briefly, YES, Jet A/A-1/B can hold water much more readily, and it is usually suspended for extended periods.


Hence we let the aircraft sit for longer before we drain a turbine machine.


I generally wait 5-10 minutes after fueling 100LL, and 25-30 minutes after fueling Jet Fuel before I sample the tanks.


I was taught by a man no longer involved in flight training (from Ottawa) that when you fuel from a "known" source, you don't have to check it.


A known source being that of a system drained daily.


(Another reputable source just told me that Jet fuel (kerosene) will suspend water molecules for up to 24 hours after being stirred...)

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OK we differ in opinions and that's fine and let me make these my final comments on the matter.


First the Air Force never puts a machine to bed without immediately refuelling it full every day. This definitely deters condensation build up potential.


Second if you won't fly in a military helo, I hope that this is open to interpretation should you ever find yourself in dire need of assistance and a bright yellow and red Cormorant is hovering over your last known position. I pray this never happens to you or anyone else in these forums but it is worth a think over.


Lastly, I have since spoken to numerous friends with corporate and airline experience and I guess you had better stop flying the airlines because they do not drain their fuel either, best of luck with that.


(Since I cannot convey tone using this medium please rest assured that it is lighthearted and meant for friendly discussion. There is no sarcasm or anger so relax and fly safe.) :)

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Good info, It is important that pilots know that FSII 'hides' the water in the fuel from most water/ partical filters.(Velcon we learned) We got educated on this a month or two back! So if your planning to get FSII in your Jet fuel, know what this substance does, and what it is used for!. We always thought, you can't go wrong. But you can!




I know the military has its way, but in the civillian world, we ALL drain our fuel! It's good airmanship and reduces potential risk and reduces the chance of fuel contamination!!!!! If you don't, you'll be looking for another job. Most operator's have it clearly stated, direct in their Ops manual for daily fuel testing either with water paste/tablets or clear and bright!


As for the Cormorant, remember, most onshore rescues are accomplished by commercial operators! They have more skills, and knowledge to accomplish any task!



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I'll go flying with you every day! However, I have never been allowed onboard a Canadian Military helicopter (For flying) for some reason (Liability?).


I have tried on the Sea King and the lab, but they did not seem interested to bring me... :(


I have quite a few hours in Norwegian Sea Kings though (In the back), and would not hesitate for a second to go with you!


All in all, it is just a difference in the way we do things it seems, and that does not matter worth a **** when we look into it.

As the original discussion was on reliability, I guess that it was just another creative way of using statistics...

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