Draining the Swamp

There is an old saying that is used a lot in management training courses and is even stenciled on one of my son's t-shirts.


Simply put, CASP looks at company's maintenance procedures. The very first thing a CASP audit should confirm is that everyone in the maintenance organization, whether it is the big guy at the main base or the part-time mechanic at the line station at Barking Spider, MT, is following the same maintenance procedures in the company manual.

CASP procedural audits can be comic book simple, like checking to see if the correct forms are being used and properly filled out at each maintenance base or performing a monthly check to see if the publications and tech data are current and available.

On the other hand, an audit can also be technically complex. For example, performing an in-depth review of all of the maintenance manual procedures for performing a "D" check on a B747-300. The audit can begin with reviewing how work is scheduled, to checking the work turn over procedures between shifts, and ends with reviewing how the aircraft is approved for return to service. If any holes are found, the maintenance manual procedures are changed. Audits also examine the adequacy of equipment and facilities, parts protection and inventory control, and efficiency and competency of personnel.

Another important area not to be overlooked is how each organizational element communicates with both the total organization and other individual organizational elements within the airline.

Airlines should not just limit the audits to checking the internal functions of the organization itself. CASP audits must include checking outside repair stations who are doing contract maintenance for the airline and vendors that supply goods and services. The audit should ensure that each contractor is properly authorized, qualified, staffed, and equipped to do the work and that the work is done in accordance with the airline's maintenance manual. CASP audits also look at the data on the number of parts that failed, the reasons behind each failure, and incorporate a fix.

What does the performance analysis section do?

This part of CASP looks at the technical hardware side of the organization. It looks at the daily maintenance problems, deferred maintenance items, pilot reports, mechanical interruption summary reports, engine failures, component failures, and a high number of unscheduled component removals. In short, it looks for red flags, the early warnings of equipment failure or an accident waiting to happen.

How can CASP save money?

Ideally, CASP identifies small maintenance problems before they become big ones. An airline CASP's success will be reflected in a declining number of maintenance delays and component failures each year. Unfortunately, the total money that CASP saves the airline is invisible on the balance sheet. Upper management only sees the money spent to solve small problems or the hassle of revising the manual to fix a faulty maintenance procedure. This is one of the reasons why it is hard for FAA to sell management the advantages of a well run CASP.

What are some of the problems with managing a CASP?

Other than the long suffering individual who is responsible for running CASP for the airline, and not getting the respect that he or she deserves, here are some of the problem areas the FAA has bumped into.

1. The CASP was inadequate right out of the box or over time has become seriously flawed because it has not adapted to the organizational or technical changes in the airline maintenance department. When a CASP cannot evolve with the company, the problem usually began when the CASP was submitted to the FAA at the time of certification because it only met the letter of the law but not its intent.

So what you have is a stunted, hollow document that is badly conceived because not enough time was spent planning or designing an efficient or effective maintenance audit program.

Sadly, I have been the recipient of some of these hollow documents. They impressed me as a Xerox clone, lifted from someone else's internal audit system. I can still remember one CASP. On each page, it had the new airline logo superimposed, but it didn't quite cover the original airline's logo. What do you say to an operator who presents you with such a document. It's the professional equivalent of putting a clean shirt over dirty underwear?

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