Thursday, February 23, 2012

Corpus Christi Army Depot celebrates military aircraft engine milestone

CORPUS CHRISTI — Whether in the deserts around Bagram Air Field or the mountainous region of Tora Bora, Afghanistan offers terrain like no other American armed forces have fought in before, Col. Christopher Carlile said.

Takeoff, maneuvering and landing of Black Hawk and Apache helicopters takes reliable engines that give pilots power when they need it most.

For the Afghanistan War effort, that engine evolved into the General Electric T701D conversion engine — 2,000 shaft horsepower, twice as durable and 5 percent more potent than its previous version — and all rebuilt, upgraded and readied for battle at the Corpus Christi Army Depot.

The essential mission has saved soldiers' lives, said Carlile, commander of the depot.

"Remember, take care of the soldier and everything else takes care of itself," Carlile told workers and others gathered Thursday at CCAD's Engine Test Cell Facility.

On Thursday, the team of maintenance, repair and overhaul workers celebrated its 3,000th engine overhaul, a milestone which depot, company and union officials hailed as a fitting symbol of pride for the 6,000-worker facility that generates an economic impact of more than $2 billion to the Coastal Bend.

"These engines support the most advanced fighting force the world has ever seen," said Roderick Benson, CCAD director of engine production, adding the work is an example of the faith the military has in the workers of South Texas.

The engine overhaul program began in February 2006 using kits developed by General Electric. Since then, workers have installed about 855,000 parts to upgrade the engines.

The work is the product of a government-business partnership between the depot and General Electric that began in 2000, when the depot and the company entered a technical and engineering services supplies contract for the T700 family of engines.

The agreement brought in General Electric's technical support to work alongside depot employees, company site manager Tony Conrad said.

Carlile said the results have been a boost to business for General Electric and a boost in efficiency and cost savings for the government, which has shifted the focus from profits to serving soldiers.

"Our profit is reducing cost," Carlile said. "That money we save goes back to the taxpayers."

The engines are rebuilt and upgraded at a cost of about $400,000 each. They would each cost $900,000 bought new, Carlile said.

The Army has saved about $6 million since the program began.

The partnership has reduced the average time needed to turn around engine projects from 261 days to 78 days, and the amount of time an engine stays in use has increased 18 percent, Conrad said.

The work could continue for another four or five years as workers serve a fleet of about 8,000 aircraft, Conrad said.

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