In the fall of 2007, after leaving Iraq as an instructional designer on the LOGCAP III project for KBR, I packed up and moved to Jacksonville, NC to work as an instructional designer on the MV22 Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft. When I arrived at the training department in Jacksonville, honestly, the MV22 was on the chopping block in Congress. Dick Cheney was adamantly opposed to the MV22. The month I arrived Time Magazine wrote a 9 page article lambasting the aircraft. Part of my job was to find out what the heck is really going on (root cause analysis) with the Enlisted Aircrew training. So everyday, I asked questions of Subject Matter Experts about all the relationships in the various systems and the MV22 had many integrated systems. It was a futuristic VTOL tilt rotor helicopter that was the precursor of everything coming out 20 years later in the world of drones.
The question is this, did anything I and my cohorts do to provide a return on investment for all the money spent in training? According to the early detractors, every dollar spent on my salary and many other’s salaries, from pilots, to educators, to the aircraft itself was indeed a waste of money. So 15 years is a pretty lengthy time to get a closer idea without actually having all the data required to make a sound analysis. But the indicators for the past 7 years are a lot different than was was being said in the Fall of 2007.
LINK to the original article obtained by Wayback Machine. No you can not re-write the past as much as Google would like to with its search algorithms and thanks to Wayback Machine we know what was said.
Gone are the days of calling for a quick demise to the MV22. Yes billions of dollars has been spent on the aircraft, but if people vote with their feet, people are voting for the V22, at least some are.
V-22s in Iraq’s Anbar province were used for transport and scout missions. General David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, used one to visit troops on Christmas Day 2007; as did Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign tour in Iraq. USMC Col. Kelly recalled how visitors were reluctant to fly on the unfamiliar aircraft, but after seeing its speed and ability to fly above ground fire, “All of a sudden, the entire flight schedule was booked. No senior officer wanted to go anywhere unless they could fly on the V-22”. Obtaining spares proved problematic. By July 2008, the V-22 had flown 3,000 sorties totaling 5,200 hours in Iraq. General George J. Trautman III praised its greater speed and range over legacy helicopters, saying “it turned his battle space from the size of Texas into the size of Rhode Island.” Despite attacks by man-portable air-defense systems and small arms, none were lost to enemy fire by late 2009.
So yes many people have come to appreciate the MV22, but has it provided a return on investment or is it antidotal commentary on an expensive program?
We know that prior to all revisions in the MV22 training curriculum that were completed in the spring of 2009, there was more than just bad publicity about the program.
Development was protracted and controversial, partly because of large cost increases, some of which were caused by a requirement to fold wings and rotors to fit aboard ships. The development budget was first set at US$2.5 billion in 1986, increasing to a projected US$30 billion in 1988. By 2008, US$27 billion had been spent and another US$27.2 billion was required for planned production numbers. Between 2008 and 2011, the V-22’s estimated lifetime cost grew by 61%, mostly for maintenance and support.
In October 2007, the month I arrived in North Carolina, Time magazine in the article linked to above and curated on this site so it never goes away, condemned the V-22 as unsafe, overpriced, and inadequate; the USMC responded that the article’s data was partly obsolete, inaccurate, and held high expectations for any new field of aircraft.
By 2012, the USMC reported fleetwide readiness rate had risen to 68%; however, the DOD’s Inspector General later found 167 of 200 reports had “improperly recorded” information. Captain Richard Ulsh blamed errors on incompetence, saying that they were “not malicious” or deliberate. The required mission capable rate was 82%, but the average was 53% from June 2007 to May 2010. In 2010, Naval Air Systems Command aimed for an 85% reliability rate by 2018. From 2009 to 2014, readiness rates rose 25% to the “high 80s”, while cost per flight hour had dropped 20% to $9,520 through a rigorous maintenance improvement program that focused on diagnosing problems before failures occur. As of 2015, although the V-22 requires more maintenance and has lower availability (62%) than traditional helicopters, it also has a lower incidence rate. The average cost per flight hour is US$9,156, whereas the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion cost about $20,000 per flight hour in 2007. V-22 ownership cost was $83,000 per hour in 2013.[73
So, beyond an outlandish budget that none of us in the program had any control over, is there any evidence that training has an effect on improved Return on Investment no matter the investment? In 2011, the controversial defense industry supported Lexington Institute reported that the average mishap rate per flight hour over the past 10 years was the lowest of any USMC rotorcraft, approximately half of the average fleet accident rate. In 2011, Wired magazine reported that the safety record had excluded ground incidents; the USMC responded that MV-22 reporting used the same standards as other Navy aircraft.
This type of incidents are directly related to training and experience. This is established by independent research.
Using a cross-sectional model, this paper analyzes the relationships between occupational injury rates and worker safety training, workplace safety practices, and health-oriented employee benefits in the United States. We merged U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics establishment-level data on employee training, benefits, and rates of occupational injuries and illnesses with days away from work, obtaining a data set on 2,358 establishments, 62% of them with at least 250 employees. Weighted two-stage regression models were used to provide a rare look at the effect of training, benefit packages, and workplace practices on occupational injury rates. The results suggest that safety training increases the reporting of injuries and illnesses but also has real safety effects on days-away-from-work incidents, especially in smaller firms. While overexertion incidents were resistant to safety training, toxic exposure events were reduced in manufacturing establishments with a formal safety training program. Wellness programs and Employee Assistance Programs were associated with lower days-away-from-work injury and illness rates and costs in large firms where they are more common. Workplace innovations like total quality management significantly increased the reporting of days-away-from work injuries and illnesses.
So why was I hired the same month that Time Magazine came out with their 9 page article a Flying Shame? Using the standard philosophy that that training does in fact reduce incidents, through reverse engineering the previous decade of training, we can identify where incidents and system faults might be related to training. This is a type of root cause analysis. By clearing valid training and reorganizing questionable training to make it clear to the end user, it stands to reason that through this root cause approach, our revisions of training would have a direct impact on lowing incidents. This theory was supported by the 2011 report that showed incidents had not only been reduced but the MV22 had become the safest aircraft in the Marine Corps.
So if we fast forward to 2017, what are the industry pundits saying today? For that we turn to this report:
Versatile V-22 Osprey Is The Most Successful New Combat System Since 9-11.
Determining Return on Investment from Training is not always an easy thing to do in a given time frame because we must have a causal link between what was trained and results desired (data). For true ROI the desired results should be linked to a dollar figure that comes from a Key Performance Indicator for the company or organization. But it is possible to show causal link to a non currency KPI. For example, reduced incidents or mishaps. What is the price of a dead crew member? While Insurance companies and so forth might put a price on that situation, the truth is that it is not acceptable. Safety as a KPI is not linked to income loss or gain it is linked to well being of the workforce and therefore is a valid KPI regardless of the cost. At any rate, it is all based on data. The flow of the data is explained here.