Innovative Fleet Air Arm ideas presented

Two innovative ideas that could save the navy millions of dollars have been pitched at the inaugural Fleet Air Arm Shark Tank at HMAS Albatross.

In a spin-off of the popular television show, Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn hosted the event as part of an innovation strategy.

The aim was to encourage ideas and input from staff at all levels.

From five nominations from across the Fleet Air Arm, two proposals - one from the Training Authority Aviation at HMAS Albatross and the other from Fleet Headquarters in Sydney - were chosen to make final presentations.

Both were based on training requirements, one for computer aided maintenance management for aircrews, engineers and maintainers and the other for flight deck marshals who guide the landing of aircraft on the sterns of ships.

Watched  four “Sharks” -  their own peers, both junior and senior sailors - and from questioning from the audience both presentations were put under the microscope.

The training authority’s presentation by Leading Seaman Shane Bell won best presentation.

The idea involves training people to manage aircraft through simulated data management, rather than with the real system.

The real system, used across the forces, is CAMM 2 (computer aided maintenance management), an important part of the system which enable planes to fly.

The system allows people to manage and track every aspect of the aircraft: from maintenance, the life of parts and even operational hours.

LS Bell’s proposal was for a separate system to allow personnel to be put through simulated scenarios as a training aid, without affecting real data.

“CAMM2 is used by anyone who works with aircraft,” LS Bell said “aircrew, maintainers, engineers. It’s used at all levels.

“We identified there was a training issue and we looked for options, speaking with Army and CAMM2 themselves, and we saw this as a possibility.

“Our proposal could put people in accurate, real life scenarios. And then evaluate their performances and ensure everything is being done correctly.

“It would allow us to throw the odd spanner into the works and see how they react.”

He said the proposal could be used across numerous forces.

“This would be a great training tool and it would be great to see something like this set up,” he said.

It is estimated it could cost $800,000 to establish the concept, but LS Bell said the program would lead to efficiency and safety.

The second presentation was of a similar nature, involving simulator training for flight deck marshaller.

Each marshal, whose job is to ensure an aircraft lands safely on a ship, has to undergo certification.

They need to perform a certain number of recoveries with an aircraft to firstly gain their qualification and must then recover a number of aircraft over a certain period of time at sea to keep that qualification current.

The presentation proposed a simulated environment where training could take place in virtual reality, with kits that could move to ships and allow currency and training to happen.

The benefits would mean less flying for training purposes, leading to a reduction in costs and wear and tear on aircraft and a freeing up of assets to allow for more mission flying.

CDRE Smallhorn praised both presentation, saying each had considerable merit.

While the CAMM2 system was favoured, he said he would now be looking for funding opportunities for both proposals.

“There are a lot of exciting things defence does, like hazard assistance and disaster relief and we help out and are tight with our local community which is important,” he said.

“But we do exist for the singular reason of the defence of Australia and in uncertain times you have to be the best.

“We have the best people Australia can offer. The best equipment . When you put them together you should have the best capability.

“The real difference between being the best is to offer the opportunity for your people to think differently,  to always continuously improve. This program is about giving people that opportunity to come up with an idea, something different and drive it up into the hierarchy of the organisation.”

He said the Shark Tank was open to the entire FAA workforce.

“It’s all-inclusive - it’s the chance for anyone to present an idea,” he said.

“It is interesting both presentations were simulation ideas –  technology the navy has used for many years in aviation and now that is moving out to the wider workforce.

“It’s all about further developing the Fleet Air Arm and the navy as a whole.”

Two or three Shark Tanks are planned per year.