Greene County News
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — When preparing to buy a product, purchasers will sometimes seek an official statement or indication that something has been assessed by a recognized authority. It is a primary driver behind the Air Force’s latest innovative concept for supporting airworthiness assessments for non-defense military-type aircraft (NDMA).
An NDMA is an aircraft designed for military use that is not commissioned, owned or operated by the Department of Defense, is not part of the current inventory and is not part of a foreign military sales case. Therefore, the USAF has no legal authority to oversee the airworthiness of these aircraft, issue airworthiness certifications or flight releases for them.
Airworthiness of these NDMA is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is not traditionally responsible for certifying military aircraft. Therefore, they may have minimal expertise in many aspects of military usage or related designs. (e.g., ejection seats). This leaves manufacturers of NDMA in a bit of a pickle, as potential foreign customers of these aircraft are eager to ensure the NDMA designs are airworthy, including both the civil and military aspects.
“As foreign military authorities become more aware of the value of establishing formal airworthiness programs when procuring aircraft, they may require their system procurements be predicated on aircraft having existing military airworthiness assessments” said Robert FitzHarris, NDMA Office Team Lead. “On the flip side, airworthiness assessments can provide the Air Force insight into civil technologies that we may not see in the military. This cross-flow of information is beneficial to both participants”.
Recognizing the invaluable Air Force’s research, development and engineering experience in evaluating distinctive military aircraft designs, commercial industry requested help in attaining airworthiness assessments from the USAF Technical Airworthiness Authority (TAA). As a result, the NDMA Office (NDMAO) officially opened April 4, 2016.
“The new NDMAO addresses an industry request I received” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “The NDMAO will provide an innovative means for the Air Force to partner with industry as we provide support of their research and development goals while simultaneously gaining insight into the latest industry efforts.”
Within the opening days, the NDMAO received many requests from potential industry collaborators and is currently engaged in multiple efforts, according to FitzHarris. With a desire to keep business processes simple yet legally acceptable, the NDMAO utilized the existing Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) process as a mechanism to establish collaborative working arrangements with industry collaborators. While the CRADA construct is not new, using CRADAs to conduct airworthiness assessments with industry is a first.
The NDMAO is located in AFLCMC/EZSA, the USAF Airworthiness Office at WPAFB.
“Our biggest success, thus far, has been in setting up the core NDMA Office in a very short time,” FitzHarris said. “We established a core office capability in about four weeks once we had the SECAF mission assignment memo. This was accomplished thanks to commitments from leadership in our AFLCMC functional offices.”
“However, it was the working-level folk’s willingness to pitch in and get the job done, working nights and weekends that made it happen so quickly,” FitzHarris said. “We also owe a special thanks to Dr. Camron Gorguinpour, Director of SAF/AQ’s Office of Technological Innovation, who was instrumental in helping us break down potential barriers we encountered along the way to making this office a reality.”
Interested eligible participants can link with the NDMAO by requesting a participation questionnaire via the NDMAO mailbox at USAF.NDMA.Office@us.af.mil.
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.