Boeing Data Driven MRO at the Centre of Cecil Field Expansion

The new eight bay hanger at Boeing's Cecil Field, Jacksonville, MRO location.
The new eight bay hanger at Boeing's Cecil Field, Jacksonville, MRO location.

Boeing’s determination to keep its Government Services defence Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO) business at the global leading edge is witnessed no clearer than at its Jacksonville Cecil Field site, which is in the process of modernising its traditional facilities. The division behind this expansion is Boeing Global Services (BGS).

A 25 year lease agreement with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority has allowed Boeing to jointly invest in expanding and modernising its Cecil Field MRO facility with the construction of two hangers of four aircraft bays each, allowing it to take wide bodied military operated aircraft such as the P-8A Poseidon. One of the hangers can house fuelled aircraft for quicker turn-around times due to its incorporation of a fire control system.

Construction began in the autumn of 2021 and the opening ceremony was staged on time in February this year. The Boeing facility covers 385,000 square feet.

Boeing’s MRO business is an essential part of an on going transformation to bring digitisation to virtually every part of the MRO process which, as Torbjorn (Turbo) Sjogren explains, “will drive mission readiness for the customer.” Sjogren, who is vice president and general manager of BGS, the division of Boeing driving this ‘data driven’ direction, views it as investing in ‘capacity and capability.’

Torbjorn (Turbo) Sjogren is Vice President of Air Force (AF) Fighters and Aircraft Sustainment, in Boeing’s Integrated Logistics division of Global Services Support.

The Digital Innovation Cell has been formed to rapidly prototype and test digital solutions that are then integrated into the company’s digital sustainment packages which are offered to customers during platform sales. This is also located at the site.

“There is a heavy data background to what we do – in getting, analysing and utilising the data so that it is meaningful and actionable,” explained Sjogren. MRO is not all, as component repair also represents a significant part of the BGS business.

”The incorporation of Boeing’s new data driven capabilities into agreements covering aircraft fleets for both national and international customers…[which] allows customers to make better decisions [about MRO] and drives readiness.” The end result that Boeing is seeing is a decrease in the downtime of any platform leading to a quicker return to the warfighter/operator.

Data Ownership

Sjogren acknowledges that the ownership of data is a fairly constant source of discussions between Boeing and its U.S. and international customers, but promises that “we’re not going to allow an aircraft to stay aircraft on ground (AOG) because of data.” However, he makes the point that, “how we work those data agreements, how we work open source, and how we ensure that we can leverage that data and bring solutions forward, which is often across more than one customer and in many cases across more than one platform – well that’s critical.” Boeing invests in its intellectual property and expects a return on that investment, states Sjogren.

Taking Boeing’s recent agreement to sell CH-47F Chinook’s to Germany, like many other customers the German government will want to install its own specific systems, such as communications systems and self-protection systems, are country customer specific.  As an example, Sjogren points out: “There are execution issues. And then there are contracting issues… the integration of those components seamlessly into a solution definitely has challenges associated with it.” One of those challenges is certification. This is focused on creating “a meaningful roadmap that is agreed for the particular platform relating to the certification of the aircraft and particularly where there is a delta to the U.S. requirement.” And Boeing has a long history of working solutions with both foreign military sales (FMS) as well as direct commercial sales (DCS).

In conclusion, while the other large legacy MRO site at San Antonio still deals mainly with U.S. military aircraft including the C-17, F-15 and F/A-18s, it is Cecil Field that will be expanded beyond U.S.Navy P-8As, U.S. Air Force KA-46A Pegasus refuelling aircraft and F/A-18s, particularly aircraft flown by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels display team.