Royal Navy Engineers Find Simple Fix That Saves $16M in Maintenance Costs for Helicopters

The Mk2 operates as a submarine hunter, in early-warning operations 7 photos
Photo: Royal Navy
Mk2Mk2 and Royal Navy EngineersMk2Mk4Mk4Mk4
If you enjoy working on your car often, you’ve probably had one of those Eureka moments when you realized that a simple, ingenious fix could spare you hundreds or thousands of dollars in complex repairs. Imagine what that would be like for repairs worth up to $16 million, related to one of the most important air vehicles of UK’s Royal Navy and Royal Marines – the famous Merlin.
We’re not talking about improvised solutions that end up costing even more even in the end, but about a “common sense” realization that led not only to huge savings for years to come but also to changing a maintenance guide that’s over 20 years old. Instead of replacing an entire piece of machinery, two experienced former Royal Navy engineers discovered that a simple pinion was the answer.

The time had come, according to the original maintenance guide, for the Merlin helicopter’s nose landing gear to be entirely replaced. After 3,500 hours of flying, this important front section needed to be replaced, meaning over $300,000 (£230,000) and complex, time-consuming operations for each helicopter. But that is when contractors Chris Lewis-Brown and Jim Bartholomew at the RNAS Culdrose – one of the largest helicopter bases in Europe, realized that it was an unnecessary effort because the simple replacement of the pinion in the steering system would do the trick.

None of the 55 aircraft in the Merlin fleet had reached that official number of flight hours until now, so this was the perfect time to discover that the guideline specification was actually wrong. “Somewhere along the line, years ago, someone included the entire nose landing gear for replacement, when it should just have been the pinion,” said Chief Petty Officer Jamie Medlen. A pinion that gets replaced regularly, anyway, as it turns out.

This Eureka moment equaled up to $16 million (£12.5 million) in savings – that’s how much it would have cost to replace the entire piece for 55 aircraft. As a result, Medlen is now working with industry partners to change the Merlin maintenance procedures that were outlined two decades ago.

The British Armed Forces are using two variants of the Merlin. The Mk2 is mainly a submarine hunter, operating from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, while the Mk4 is a cargo version that supports Royal Marines operations.
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About the author: Otilia Drăgan
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Otilia believes that if it’s eco, green, or groundbreaking, people should know about it (especially if it's got wheels or wings). Working in online media for over five years, she's gained a deeper perspective on how people everywhere can inspire each other.
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