March 18, 2007:
The Norwegian Coast Guard got
screwed when it decided to save some money and get the "standard" spare parts
contract for its Lynx helicopters. That meant you had to buy a minimum number
of each part ordered, and wait up to six months, or more, to get your order.
Well, that seemed to work, on paper. But the Coast Guards six Lynx helicopters
(a British design widely used by European navies) developed more problems than
expected. This five ton chopper is similar to naval versions of the American
UH-1, and has been in use for over three decades. The Norwegian helicopters
developed problems with some components that failed more frequently than
expected. Currently, there are only enough spare parts on hand to keep two of
the Lynx's flying. The manufacturer, Westland, cannot deliver spare parts
quickly enough. As a result, only two of the
Lynx's are capable of flying, while the others serve as a parts supply.
The British armed forces are also having problems getting spare parts, in a
hurry, for their Lynx helicopters. You can get such parts in a hurry, if you
sign up for the more expensive "express parts" service. Commercial users of the
Lynx often do this. Time is money and all that. But military users are usually
constrained by government regulations that call for the least expensive source.
Or, as the saying goes, "the low bidder."