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NASA's DC-8 Flying Laboratory to Undergo Major Maintenance
November 13, 2013

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One of NASA's Airborne Science Program workhorses – the DC-8 flying laboratory – will be undergoing major maintenance called a "C Check" over the next few months. The heavy C Check maintenance activity is defined as part of the aircraft’s new Low Utilization Maintenance Plan -- LUMP for short.

The venerable converted jetliner was flown from its home base at NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif., Nov. 12 to the AerSale, Inc., maintenance facility at the Roswell International Air Center in Roswell, New Mexico, where the major inspection and maintenance will be completed.

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Under the fixed-price portion of the $2.8 million contract, AerSale will conduct the 72-month Heavy C-Check structural inspection of the entire airframe, as well as replace the DC-8's landing gear, cabin insulation blankets, reseal the fuel tanks and repaint portions of the aircraft. Under separate indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity provisions, the contract also calls for the firm to provide "over and above" engineering services, conditional maintenance, parts and materials for any outstanding items found during the inspection process.

The Boeing Co. developed the LUMP scheme for NASA's DC-8 based on a maintenance plan for aircraft that fly fewer than 1,200 hours annually. NASA's DC-8 falls into this category, as it typically flies between only 350 to 550 flight hours each year.

"This heavy C Check enters NASA's DC-8 into the LUMP scheme of maintenance that provides a highly efficient means for managing airframe and subsystems inspections," said NASA's DC-8 project manager Frank Cutler. "The LUMP inspections are planned into regular 'bite size' pieces instead of less regular and larger, more costly inspections."

The LUMP also marries basic maintenance, the Corrosion Prevention and Control Program (CPCP), and the Structural Significant Items (SSI) inspection program into a single maintenance plan for efficiency and safety. For NASA's DC-8, this translates into periodic inspections that cost less and are more easily scheduled around science mission activities. NASA's Airborne Science Program benefits from more easily managed DC-8 project funding profiles and more efficient science customer support.

In preparation for this exercise, NASA Dryden's DC-8 maintenance team has replaced specialized windows for science instrument observations with standard passenger windows, removed all science equipment, all the seats, carpeting, interior panels and all other items that are not part of the basic airframe. The flight deck, however, remains fully equipped and functional, as a NASA flight crew will fly to aircraft to the inspection location.

During the inspection, NASA maintenance personnel will remain on site to monitor contractor work, perform non-contracted maintenance and act as resources for information about this particular DC-8, built in 1969 as a long-range version of the first-generation jetliner.

The NASA DC-8-72 is a four-engine jet transport aircraft that has been highly modified to support the agency's airborne science mission. Acquired by NASA in 1985, the aircraft is 157 feet long with a 148-foot wingspan. With a range of 5,400 nautical miles – about 6,200 statute miles -- it can cruise at altitudes from 1,000 to 41,000 feet supporting science missions up to12 hours in length, although most science missions average six to 10 hours. The DC-8 can carry 30,000 pounds of scientific instruments and equipment and can seat up to 45 experimenters and flight crew.

Beth Hagenauer, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center

NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory has flown Earth science missions for more than 25 years under NASA's Airborne Science Program. Expert maintenance has allowed this aircraft to conduct research on six continents and study ice fields on the seventh – Antarctica.
NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory has flown Earth science missions for more than 25 years under NASA's Airborne Science Program. Expert maintenance has allowed this aircraft to conduct research on six continents and study ice fields on the seventh – Antarctica.
Image Credit: 
NASA / Lori Losey
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The interior of the fuselage of NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory has been emptied of science instruments, seats, carpeting and side panels in preparation for major C Check inspection and maintenance.
The interior of the fuselage of NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory has been emptied of science instruments, seats, carpeting and side panels in preparation for major "C Check" inspection and maintenance.
Image Credit: 
NASA / Matt Berry
Image Token: 
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