Bell Helicopter delivers first nine safety enhancement program OH-58Ds ahead of contract
Bell Helicopter closed out 2008 with delivery of the ninth OH-58D aircraft to be modified under the current Kiowa Warrior Safety Enhancement Program contract.
"We delivered a total of nine aircraft in 2008 - six more aircraft than were required by the contract schedule," said Amy Tedford, Director of Military Fielded Systems at Bell Helicopter.
"We're keenly aware of the Army's need to have additional OH-58D aircraft available for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan," said Tedford, "and it's been a real team effort by everyone involved in the Safety Enhancement Program to get these aircraft completed and back to the Army ahead of schedule."
Bell's Safety Enhancement Program (SEP) line had been closed down and put into storage after work was completed on the previous SEP lot in December 2007. As workers prepared to restart the line for Lot 11 in May 2008, they applied Textron Six Sigma processes and tools to accomplish a lean restart of the SEP line.
"The direct involvement of employees from every part of the process allowed Bell's SEP team to significantly reduce the footprint for both assembly and flight operations, and to increase their aircraft production rate by fifty percent," said Tedford.
The first aircraft completed by the team was delivered back to the Army on Sept. 24, 2008, two months ahead of contract schedule. Bell's SEP team has maintained that lead and continues to deliver all completed SEP aircraft two months ahead of schedule.
A total of 27 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior aircraft are being upgraded in Lot 11 of the Safety Enhancement Program. The $30 million contract was awarded April 30, 2008. All work is being done at Bell Helicopter's Plant 1 facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The 18 remaining aircraft in Lot 11 are planned to be completed in 2009.
The OH-58Ds are being upgraded with an improved engine and improved computer control systems that include related new wiring harnesses. The improvements are part of a series of safety and performance modifications the Army has implemented to keep the OH-58D armed reconnaissance helicopter safe and mission effective until it is retired.
The US Army fleet of Kiowa helicopters has accumulated more than 1.6 million flight hours and over 400,000 combat flight hours. Despite high usage rates, daily combat scenarios and harsh environmental conditions, the OH-58D continues to achieve readiness rates above 80 percent.
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