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U.S. ARMY, INDUSTRY TEAMWORK ENHANCES COMBAT-PROVEN AH-64 ATTACK HELICOPTER

 MESA, Ariz., March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The combat-proven AH-64A Apache is a better helicopter today than it was 10 years ago, thanks to unprecedented teamwork between the U.S. Army and the talented industry team that builds it.
 Criticism seems to follow the Apache wherever it goes, but one undisputed fact remains: When the Apache was called to duty for Operation Desert Storm, it was ready, and performed as promised.
 Readiness rates for the Apache continue to meet Army requirements two years after Desert Storm, countering claims over the years that the Army cannot maintain required Apache performance levels for extended periods. Shortfalls this year in Army funding and unit maintenance personnel to support the Apache and other Army aircraft may impact readiness rates but are not attributable to aircraft performance and reliability.
 "When critics cite `problems' with the helicopter's main rotor blades, its 30mm area weapon system, or subcontractor management, they're generally rehashing news that's outdated by two to five years," said Al Winn, vice president of engineering at McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co. "We've heard it all before."
 In fact, Winn says, the Apache has become a very reliable helicopter, one that can be maintained effectively by its ground crews.
 "We've spent the better part of three years working hand-in-hand with the Army and our teammates to eliminate the Army's concerns," he said. "The Apache isn't perfect, no advanced aircraft is. But it's the best helicopter weapon system ever built, it has proper Army and industry management and it's getting better all the time."
 He added that the company has implemented a quality improvement program in the past few years, and actually was in the process of resolving many quality and systemic concerns prior to being placed on a contractor improvement program by the government in 1991. The company was removed from the program last year -- with government acknowledgment of significant progress having been made.
 "We made additional system and organizational improvements that met with the Army's approval," Winn said. "And we're continuing to strive for higher quality and better performance in everything we do."
 Nonetheless, negative reports about the Apache persist.
 For example, problems with main rotor blades were identified in the mid-1980s and immediate corrective action was initiated and placed on fielded fleet aircraft.
 "We've read many times about Apache blade failures, and of problems with the blades that reduced service life to just a few hours," Winn said. "In almost all cases, the data was either a distortion of the facts or just plain wrong."
 In fact, since fielding the Apache in 1986 and with more than 500,000 hours of flight time on the fleet, the Army has reported only one instance of a trailing edge repair failing. This incident caused an out-of-balance situation that required the aircraft to land.
 "We were dealing with a young fleet and needed to understand the nature of the problem," Winn said. "We identified blade problems, made corrections at no cost to the government and have completed all the field modifications."
 Mean time between removal has steadily risen, and contrary to reports that blades have short service lives, Apache main rotor blades exceed the system specification -- 1,500 hours of service between removal -- by several times.
 Another area of concern, Winn said, has been the Apache's area weapon system accuracy.
 "The original first article tests of the area weapon system in 1985 were started but never completed for several reasons," Winn said. These initial tests had indicated the need for improved performance in several areas.
 "After continuing discussions and negotiations with the Army, and after development of improvements in the gun system by McDonnell Douglas, we agreed to retest the system last year."
 The gun was tested for both reliability and accuracy during two separate test programs.
 During the year-long reliability tests, the Apache area weapon system recorded an Army-scored reliability more than double the Army specification. In 1991, the Army and McDonnell Douglas created the Area Weapon System Accuracy Improvement program to satisfy Army requirements.
 "Because original accuracy requirements were very demanding, requiring performance outside the Apache's current mission requirements, the Army redefined the importance of each test point," Winn said.
 During the accuracy evaluation, the weapon system passed 16 of 19 test points. The remaining points do not impact the operational capability of the Apache.
 "Based on these results and guidance from the Army, we've developed two engineering change proposals for system accuracy that have been submitted to the Army for approval."
 Regarding subcontractor management, Winn said McDonnell Douglas has consistently worked to improve the performance of its Apache subcontractor team.
 For example, when McDonnell Douglas was made aware that a supplier had not complied with heat treat requirements for strap pack assembly nuts, an investigation was conducted.
 McDonnell Douglas identified the discrepant hardware and removed it from service at no charge to the Army.
 "Because McDonnell Douglas will only award work and requalify the highest quality performers," Winn said, "this supplier was dropped from the company's approved supplier list."
 Winn said difficulties with subcontractors are normal on programs as large as the Apache.
 "We've had our share of supplier quality disagreements," he said, "but overall, the Apache team has produced quality components and subsystems that together represent the best combat helicopter in the world."
 Winn described aerospace programs like the Apache as "extremely complicated."
 "Thousands of individual parts are manufactured to exacting tolerances by hundreds of subcontractors and brought together at the same time and place and assembled into a sophisticated fighting machine. It's an amazing process to observe," he added.
 "If the Apache team played baseball instead of building helicopters, we'd be batting over .900 and, considering the opportunities for mistakes, our errors handling the ball would be almost nil," Winn said.
 "With that kind of team, we'd win the World Series every year."
 -0- 3/30/93
 /CONTACT: Ken Jensen of McDonnell Douglas Helicopter, 602-891-2119/
 (MD)


CO: McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Co. ST: California IN: ARO SU:

KJ-JB -- LA036 -- 1278 03/30/93 18:42 EST
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