FAST (Falcon Aircraft Support Team)

By: John C. Evans

This page is dedicated to the “FAST (Falcon Aircraft Support Team)” and the personnel that made it successful.  The FAST ATF3-6 & ATF3-6A Turbofan improvements program is one of the most recognizable by the engines end users.

The “Falcon Aircraft Support Team (FAST)” was only one aspect of the ATF3 engine improvement programs.  The bulk of the engine modifications, improvements, and revised training programs that I will address on this page ran in the background, and were only noticeable to the end users when presented in Technical Training, the “Advisory Board Meetings” or as improved engine durability, reliability, and as Technical and Program Support.

U.S. Coast Guard was the first user of ATF3-6 propulsion engines.

    To say that the Garrett ATF3-6 Turbofan product line had initial teething problems when the first production engines were delivered to the United States Coast Guard on the AMD (Dassault) Falcon HU-25 Guardian aircraft would be a gross understatement.  The U.S. Coast Guard was not only the first user of production ATF3-6 Turbofan engines, it also operated in some of the most hostile corrosive environments a Turbofan engine can operate in.  When the hurricanes are beating the coastal cities with 100-plus mille and hour winds and rain with 40-plus foot seas and the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Commercial Airlines are securing their aircraft, the U.S. Coast Guard crews are taking off to search for ships and people in distress.  When other operators are flying over the weather at or above 37,000 feet the U.S. Coast Guard is flying on the deck 70-feet off the water searching for things on the surface like ships, life boats, or people in life preservers. 

    U.S. Coast Guard pilots and their flight crews are the farthest thing from “Fair Weather Flyers” that you will ever encounter!  When duty calls the U.S. Coast Guard goes regardless of the weather or risk to themselves, and duty usually calls when the weather is very bad.   USCG HU-25 aircraft are flown so low during search missions that they leave wakes in the ocean (like speed boats). 

ATF3 Turbofan engines initially introduced into a very hostile environment.

    I am making the point about U.S. Coast Guard operations because of the corrosive environment that USCG pilots subject their aircraft and engines to in the performance of their duties.  The Salt Air environment close to the Oceans surface corrodes Aircraft and Engines alike.  The AMD Falcon aircraft are literally built like French Mirage fighters.  Their structures are among the strongest and most corrosion resistant that you will find.  Their airframe structures are Epoxy painted and Hard Anodized.  Even so, every two years U.S. Coast Guard maintenance personnel completely strip HU-25 airframes, neutralize and remove any corrosion they find, and re-prime and re-paint the airframes.  They then rebuild the aircraft, test all systems, and return the aircraft to service.

ATF3-6-2C Turbofan engine corrosion and performance problems.

    Shortly after the first 100-hours of operation of the U.S. Coast Guard HU-25 aircraft the ATF3 engines started to have a high removal rate due to loss if ITT margins (loss of performance).  Engines removed and returned to Garrett Repair and Overhaul exhibited heavy corrosion and loss of Low Pressure Compressor (LPC) shroud abradeable material resulting in loss if compressor efficiency and performance.  The cause was moisture and salt laden air corrosion.  The short term fix was for the USCG to run the engines at idle and fresh water wash the engine core while while washing the airframe after low over the water operation.  This procedure doubled the engine life to about 200-hours while Garrett worked on a more durable shroud material.

Garrett forms FAST (Falcon Aircraft Support Team).

    By  late 1984 the ATF3 Program Manager Earl Cummings decided with Sales Engineer George Purpura and ATF3 Turbofan Engineering Manager Don Tyler to create a team of “experts” to address and resolve ATF3 unscheduled engine removals and its poor image among the aviation community and Falcon Jet operators. 

    Initially when the FAST team members were being selected Product Support suggested a four-man team made up of selected Field Service Engineers under the direction of Field Service Engineering Manager John Elam.  This plan was rejected in favor of the four-man team being comprised of two Field Service Engineers with the most ATF3 experience Homer Shiroma & Jerry Palyash and two ATF3 Engineers from the ATF3 Project John C. Evans and Gary SaarupJerry Palyash at his own request was replaced by Homer Shiroma and later by Charles Hall.  This team resulted not only in having Product Support experience, but ATF3 Engineering and Testing experience as well. 

    When ATF3 Project Engineering began receiving unfiltered reports directly from ATF3 operators and AMD Dassault attending the ATF3 Advisory Board the magnitude of the ATF3 teething problems and necessity for resolving them in a timely manner became painfully clear.  What also became clear is why Garrett U&O was receiving so many low time ATF3 engines for Repair and Overhaul requiring a complete disassembly for performance recovery.  (See previous page for Performance Restoration)  

ATF3 Operators finally get their messages across.

    After an “ATF3 Advisory Board” was established with quarterly interactive meetings between Garrett and ATF3 operators at Hangar Facilities (chaired by  Gary McIntyre Garrett learned first hand what operators perceived as problems.  Garrett personnel informed Operators of Garrett’s solutions and schedules for implementation.  The first three Advisory Board Meetings were held in a very agitated atmosphere.  When Garrett presented their proposed fixes to the operators problems some of the operators responses were “we have heard all of this this before, when are you going to do something?”

    The first couple of meetings were heated to say the least.  Owners, Operators, and Maintenance Directors were unhappy and were not afraid to say so.  They were experiencing numerous problems and felt that no one was listening to them as they hadn’t see any action from Garrett.  Some of the problems operators were experiencing were;

  1.     Heavy salt air corrosion of the ATF3 inlet and compressor section on USCG HU-25 aircraft.

  2.     Unavailability for aircraft dispatch due to engine operational problems and unscheduled engine removals.

  3.     N2 (Low Pressure Spool Speed) transient over-speeds during EEC (Electronic Engine Control) trips to Manual Mode at high altitudes.

  4.     High oil consumption and main shaft carbon seal leaks.

  5.     Leaking main shaft carbon seals.

  6.     Aircraft Cabin noise from Fan unbalance and vibration.

  7.     Low frequency beat noise in the aircraft cabin from miss-matched N2’s (low pressure spool speeds) at matched N1’s (fan spool speeds).  Cabin beat noise could not be eliminated with either N1 or N2 synchronizing.

  8.     Wet socks odor in the cabin when flying in rain or through clouds.

  9.     Hangar Facilities were unable to repair engines on-wing with most ATF3 engine problems requiring unscheduled engine removals and bank engine rentals to continue to operate their aircraft.

  10.     The ATF3 had an ear splitting high pitched shriek emitting from the engine inlet that the TFE 731 product line did not have, and owners/operators were wondering why.

  11.     In effect by replacing ATF3 engines for any problem Garrett was training operators and hangar facilities that the engine was a non-repairable throw away unit.

    Garrett Assistant Project Engineer Fred Fuller once made a profound statement to me; “Knowing that an engine can NOT be fixed is a self fulfilling prophecy.  No mater how many times you try you will always fail.” Fred knew that he needed a team with a positive attitude about the ATF3 engine to resolve customer complaints and develop a positive customer attitude in the engine.  The word failure was not in Fred’s or his team’s playbook.  The can do attitude of the team along with dedicated hard work could and would resolve any and all customer complaints, and we set about gathering a team of professionals to prove it.

    It was becoming painfully obvious that the ATF3 engine design and operating characteristics were substantially different from TFE731 engines and too few Hangar Facilities and Field Service Engineers had received the necessary information and training to properly support the engine.  As a result a perceived inability to repair ATF3 engines on wing (at Hangar Facilities) gave the impression by maintenance personnel and operators alike was that every ATF3 engine problem required an engine removal.  When these engines were returned to Garrett R&O most required an complete disassembly and performance restoration in order to pass test cell performance before returning to the customer,

    AMD Dassault immediately requested that one of their representatives attend the ATF3 Advisory Board to first monitor the meetings, and later participate in them.  When the U.S. Coast Guard heard about the meetings they requested that they be allowed to participate (usually with one Officer and one NCO).  The ATF3 Advisory Board was rotated between Garrett Aviation hangar facilities to allow almost everyone to participate in the meetings and was well received by all concerned, as operators could see first hand what the company was doing to address their problems/issues.

    The Falcon Aircraft Support Team was not the “stand alone” program that it appeared to be on the surface.  The team interfaced not only with Product Support, ATF3 Project Engineering, AMD Dassault, and Falcon Jet aircraft operators, but also with Garrett Technical Training instructors Wilber (Red) Tory, Grant Mann, and Andrew Sciabbarrassi, and used Garrett R&O expertise and personnel from the performance recovery program (above) and the diagnostic and testing expertise of the Garrett Site B facility in Torrance, CA.  Personnel in Site B had been working on ATF3 engines since 1966 and the knowledge and expertise in the facility was just too good to pass up.  When we were unable to correct problems in the field, Site B personnel could often diagnose, repair, test at Site B, and return to the customer avoiding the added expense of a complete engine overhaul.

Garrett Engineering focuses on design improvements for Advisory Board issues.

  Garrett Management and Engineering personnel are exposed to “unfiltered feedback” from ATF3 operators in the ATF3 Advisory Board meetings.”  It becomes painfully obvious that AMD Dassault and the Falcon Jet operators want immediate resolutions to ATF3 engine reliability and aircraft dispatch issues.  Garrett assumed early on that TFE731 Field Service Engineers could support ATF3 engines without additional training.  As it turned out the ATF3 was a very different animal with 3-spools, variable inlet guide vanes, a more complex control system, and different operating characteristics requiring different maintenance and operating techniques and some additional technical training.     

    Assistant Project Engineer A. W. (Fred) Fuller took charge of the ATF3 modification programs in Project Engineering.  Fred was not contaminated with  previous paradigm’s and was a breath of fresh air.  After about a month Fred said “everyone knows what is wrong with the ATF3 and they now how to fix most of the problems.”  Fred also said “If you know it can’t be fixed, no matter how many times you try you will always fail.”  Fred’s comments turned out to be profound, and exactly what the ATF3 program needed to resolve its many issues.  This fresh attitude is what ultimately led to improved ATF3 reliability and the “ATF3 Silver Bullet Modification’s program.

ATF3 design improvements begin to enter the fleet’s.

   Garrett Management and Engineering personnel realized at the outset that design changes and hardware improvements had to enter service in the fleet to resolve ATF3 reliability and customer satisfaction issues.  Garrett made the decision to pay for the improvements with MSP (Maintenance Service Plan) power by the hour funds.  All current improvements would be incorporated into ATF3 engines at first return, at Garrett company expense.  This decision proved to be the best approach possible for Garrett and AMD Dassault.  The improvements by Garrett began to resolve every one of the operators complaints, and ATF3 reliability improved dramatically. 

    Every one of the operators issues were addressed and corrected, and improvements were immediately obvious to Owners and Operators alike.  Customer satisfaction with the ATF3 and AMD Dassault Falcon Jet aircraft it powered improved dramatically.  Operators attitudes toward the ATF3 Turbofan propulsion engine improved so dramatically that one Maintenance director actually told me that “The ATF3 Advisory Board was like an Exclusive Club.” 

Additional ATF3 engine design improvements identified.

    Garrett Repair & Overhaul Engineering and ATF3 Project Engineering recognized that much of the hardware in the ATF3 engine turbine section was heat distressed requiring replacement and negatively impacting engine durability and adding to the cost of repair.

Assistant Project Engineer Fred Fuller took the lead in forming a small group to address and resolve these and any other ATF3 shortcomings that could be identified.  Fred’s group consisted of three engineers, Kurt lammon (a recent University of Florida engineering graduate), Greg Hansen, and the author John C. Evans.  Many of the improvement details came from Site B Engineers John T. Huber, Jerry Steele, and Bob Lawrence.  The efforts of this team ultimately led to the “Silver Bullet Modifications.”  This name was picked “tongue in cheek” to kill the vampires still residing in the ATF3 engine.


Created on: 8/18/2008, Last Updated on: 12/28/2008

Please email me with any suggestions or corrections for this page.