Engineering a bridge to the future
World Engineering Day has provided a unique networking opportunity for Defence and industry alike at RAAF Base Richmond.
March 4 was declared ‘World Engineering Day for a Sustainable World’ by the World Federation of Engineering Organizations last November.
RAAF Base Richmond celebrated the day on March 5 with a forum at the Sergeants Mess, attracting 70 engineers from across the base.
It brought together Australian Defence Force members and public servants along with counterparts from Airbus Australia Pacific, Northrop Grumman, and Standard Aero.
The majority of RAAF Base Richmond’s engineer community is engaged in supporting Defence’s air mobility fleet – in particular, the C-130J Hercules and C-27J Spartan aircraft.
The forum on March 5 allowed engineers to share insights into their work with their peers.
Presentations included Airbus Australia Pacific outlining the recent installation of an augmented crew station and Litening sensor pod on the C-130J Hercules, increasing the aircraft’s utility on disaster relief operations.
A presentation by Northrop Grumman also examined the use of 3D-printed components as a source of spare parts for aircraft.
Chief Engineer for Air Lift Systems Program Office (ALSPO) Wing Commander Herman Wong was one of the drivers behind the forum.
“We wanted a networking event to strengthen the collective engineering community of practice that contribute to Defence capability across RAAF Base Richmond,” Wing Commander Wong said.
“My hope is that these kinds of networking events will be a regular occurrence at RAAF Richmond.
“They would be a focal point where Air Force, Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG), and industry can freely exchange ideas and innovations.”
Engineers have been a key part of the base’s workforce since its establishment in July 1925, with its first dedicated engineering unit – No. 2 Aircraft Deport – formed in 1936.
RAAF personnel comprised much of the engineering workforce until the 1990s, when many engineering functions were transferred to Defence APS or industry partners.
Most recently, an ‘air mobility enterprise’ arrangement has been struck between Air Force, CASG, and industry partners.
This arrangement sees industry hold greater responsibility for engineering and sustainment of RAAF-owned airframes.
The nature of this enterprise makes networking opportunities like World Engineering Day all the more important.
Wing Commander Wong said the forum took the theme of ‘Integrated engineers’ environment at Richmond – key to effective outcomes’.
“This was to highlight that engineering was core to delivering safe capability effects that were fit for doing the job needed,” Wing Commander Wong said.
“The increasingly challenging environment we are operating within means that engineers need to work closely with each other and with all capability stakeholders.
“That includes operators, logistics, and commercial and program elements if we are to achieve the outcomes at the required speed of relevance.”
Air Mobility Group operates 42 airframes across six different aircraft types, meaning it needs to have a diverse view of how the wider fleet is being sustained and developed.
“We can best achieve this by breaking down our entrenched organisational stovepipes which can inhibit information exchange, collaboration and innovation across networked and seamless combat air mobility platforms,” Wing Commander Wong said.
Air Mobility Group Director Logistics Capability Group Captain James Badgery presented at the March 5 forum and was encouraged to see the mix of ADF, APS, and Industry members present.
“When I looked around there was about 60 to 70 engineers in the room and that’s a good number to create a good number of ideas from a diverse range of backgrounds,” Group Captain Badgery said.
“Engineers can get into the trap of managing relationships by email; these kinds of forum encourages them to see one another.
“It encourages dialogue about the sharing of ideas that otherwise might go silent.”
Group Captain Badgery, an aerospace engineer with 25 years of experience, presented his vision for engineers at RAAF Base Richmond going into the future.
“The base is also drawing from the Western Sydney region, which brings with it a very diverse range of experiences and background,” Group Captain Badgery said.
“The base still tends to have a singular focus in delivering combat air mobility, with the C-130J Hercules but to a lesser extent the C-27J – so there’s still a common purpose there.
“It’s my hope that engineers in Western Sydney are going to continue to be critical to Air Force capability, and it was great for this event to bring together a large group of people [who are] committed to that same shared vision.”