From left, retired Rear Adms. Tim Matthews, Don Eaton, Steve Heilman and Mike Backmann; Rear Adm. Daniel McGinnis, Reserve Deputy Commander at Naval Air Systems Command, and Rear. Adm. Mike Zarkowski, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, participate in a Flag officer panel discussing the health and future of Naval aviation maintenance. The panel discussion took place during the Aviation Maintenance Professional Symposium in Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 13-15. (U.S. Navy photo/released)

Aviation Maintenance Professionals plan course forward

Capt. Tim Pfannenstein, Naval Air Systems Command Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR-6.0) military director, provides lessons he learned over more than three decades as an aviation maintenance professional. The presentation took place during the Aviation Maintenance Professional Symposium in Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 13-15. (U.S. Navy photo/released)

NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – More than 300 aviation maintenance professionals from all levels gathered May 13-15 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to discuss ways to improve readiness for the fleet and keep more aircraft and components available for tasking. More than 40 speakers discussed readiness and modernization initiatives, training improvements and facilities and equipment upgrades, among other topics.

The group also celebrated the 50thanniversary of the formation of the Aerospace Maintenance Duty Officer (AMDO) community. Five of the Original 100 AMDOs were on-hand to share stories of how the community started and how to improve into the future.

“When most people think of Naval aviation, they think of aviators and Naval flight officers,” said Rear Adm. Mike Zarkowski, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, as he kicked off the symposium.  “We, the aerospace maintenance professionals are the ones who keep the aircraft flying.  We fix for the fight, day in and day out.”

One of the senior AMDOs in the community, Capt. Tim Pfannenstein, Naval Air Systems Command Logistics and Industrial Operations (AIR-6.0) military director, talked about his experiences in aviation maintenance and sprinkled a bit of humor into a very serious subject.

“If no liquids are leaking from an aircraft, it’s safe to say it’s empty,” he said. “Equipment problems that go away all by themselves will inevitably return all by themselves.

“Our community has endured a rough couple of years,” Pfannenstein said. “Many of our issues are maintenance related and I honestly believe you, the men and women here today, are the solution.”

With reduced flight hours attributed in part to tight budgets, he said maintenance personnel are not getting the opportunity to work on aircraft as often as they should to perfect their skills.

Rear Adm. Mark Whitney, director of Fleet Maintenance, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, challenged leaders to be innovative and creative in finding solutions to improve readiness.

“The challenge for leadership is to make status quo more dangerous than the challenge of trying something new,” he said.

Part of an effective maintenance program is a well-functioning supply system. Guest speakers Air Force Brig. Gen. Linda Hurry, dual-hatted as commander, Defense Supply Center Richmond and Defense Logistics Agency Aviation, Richmond, and Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapons System Support, spoke about their commitment to making sure their teams work together to ensure parts and supplies are available when and where needed.

From left, retired Rear Adms. Tim Matthews, Don Eaton, Steve Heilman and Mike Backmann; Rear Adm. Daniel McGinnis, Reserve Deputy Commander at Naval Air Systems Command, and Rear. Adm. Mike Zarkowski, Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, participate in a Flag officer panel discussing the health and future of Naval aviation maintenance. The panel discussion took place during the Aviation Maintenance Professional Symposium in Virginia Beach, Virginia, May 13-15. (U.S. Navy photo/released)

“Adm. Heinz and I are joined at the hip and quite frankly, we don’t care which one of us hands you a widget,” Hurry said. “The key to our success is to make sure we are linked and synched and we understand collectively what your requirements are. That way we can more intelligently drive the supply chain so you can do what we’ve asked you to do.”

The Secretary of Defense “has given us collectively as military services a few directives,” Hurry said. “We are to drive up service readiness, increase lethality, do it in the most affordable manner possible and speed up the collective system. Our ultimate goal, at least from a DLA perspective, is that we will try new things. If it’s not illegal, immoral or too terribly fattening, we’re going to try it.”

The symposium also included panel discussions and mentoring sessions with retired Flag officers and senior aviation maintenance leaders. Other topics discussed during the three days included additive manufacturing, safety initiatives, and updates on F-35 logistics and sustainment.

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