A Noble Cause

Erickson’s Quality Assurance and Inspection departments offer in-depth services to internal and external customers 

In a conversation with Erickson’s Quality Assurance and Inspection departments, it is easy to hear the pride in the voices of the five department leaders. But it is not boastful pride. It is the type of pride that comes with confidence in understanding and knowing that you are doing your best job in everything you do. 

When you think of an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) like Erickson, it is easy to understand why it is essential to have thoroughly vetted and secured products and services in place. The very lives of pilots and crew members are at stake in everything offered by these departments. 

As an OEM, Erickson and its 800 employees are responsible for saving lives and property both in the Pacific Northwest and worldwide. They are tasked with ensuring that when parts go out to a customer or are added to an S-64 Air Crane® helicopter for aerial firefighting and other missions, that everything goes well. There is no room for error in aerospace, and this team practices rich enforcement of rules and procedures to ensure the best for everyone. 

Stringent adherence to the rules may be one reason the organization can maintain multiple industry certifications. The following are primary examples:  

  • FAA Repair Station Certificate, Part 145 
  • FAA Production Approval Holder (PAH), Part 21 (Multiple Production Certificates)
  • FAA Air Carrier and Operator, Part 135 
  • FAA Rotorcraft External Load Operators, Part 133 
  • European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Part 145 
  • Transport Canada Repair Station, Part 145 
  • Quality Management Systems – Aerospace Standard – AS9100D
  • Quality Management Systems – Aerospace Standard – AS9110C
  • Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) 8210 
  • Aerospace Welders Certifications – AWS D17.1 

Certifications are essential

“In a nutshell, we maintain certifications in the art of doing business in these areas. Without the majority of these certifications, we would not be able to provide maintenance, manufacturing, or distribution of parts. You must maintain a regulatory compliance platform that is certificated and audited by the FAA and other regulatory bodies to be open/operating.”

Director of Quality, Wes Hurless

They also have a Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS), another group of certified auditors who conduct routine global surveillance of all external service providers for the 14 CFR Part 135 operation. 

What does success measurement look like for the leadership team? 

There are 50 inspectors, internal auditors, calibration technicians, supplier quality auditors, CASS auditors, Airworthiness Compliance analysts, and more with the department heads. Some are direct members of the QA (Quality Assurance) team, and some have other roles and have collateral duty responsibilities to quality and auditing. 

The team must inspect machined parts, components and products coming in from suppliers, and ensure that aircraft are ready for service after maintenance is performed. 

They all measure success differently.

Wes Hurless, director of quality assurance, has been with the company for three years. 

His job is to:

  • Ensure quality support to the business unit leaders across the Erickson organization.
  • Provide the quality department with the leadership and clear direction necessary to remain strategically aligned with corporate goals and vision.
  • Continue to seek and build upon the individual strengths of each team member through opportunities, training, and progressive challenges. 

Success measurement for Hurless is defined by the aggregate successes of his team. It is imperative that the quality team is always working toward continuous improvement. And that they are actively learning and discovering throughout the auditing and inspection processes. Having a well-balanced methodology to continue to improve processes, products, and culture is all-important to Hurless.

Other important players in the Quality and Inspection departments

Aerospace Internal Auditor, Wendy Acup, has been with the company for 19 years. 

She manages the internal audit program and conducts audits with a team of auditors for compliance with FAA Regulatory (PC, RS/EASA), certificate (AS9100/AS9110), company and customer (DCMA, Sikorsky, Bell) requirements. 

Success measurement for Acup means being able to identify areas that require improvements and coach and mentor employees. Taking the coaching approach has educated employees and made the discoveries and solutions more successful.

Sr. Quality Manager and RS Accountable Manager, Chris Erickson (no relation to founder Jack Erickson) has been with the company since 1981, for 40 years.  

He is most proud of “Erickson’s certification of products worldwide through EASA and Transport Canada along with the FAA – (it) enables us to manufacture and repair items that are acceptable anywhere in the world.” 

Manufacturing Quality Manager, Pete MacNair, has been with the company for 25 years and has six direct reports. 

He has been a big player in the Composite Main Rotor Blade program (CMRB) that Erickson launched about ten years ago.

He said, “Our composite main rotor blade, design, development, and FAA approval is a huge success story.”

According to Pete’s peers, he lives and breathes this program. They all agreed that this is a milestone accomplishment for the company. 

Another point of success, MacNair said is, “the Supplier Quality Auditors, inspectors who travel the country, take on and tackle some of the more complex issues for conformance, that our suppliers are having when they manufacture parts or run into quality-related issues; they are experts in the field who work with suppliers and internal departments to hammer out issues to ensure parts conformance to type design.” 

Maintenance Quality Manager, Kevin Howell, has been with the company for 28 years and has six inspectors and two calibration technicians reporting directly to him.   

He feels that certifications are necessary because “It allows us to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations; creates a higher level of quality in an organization.” He is proud that “we can issue domestic and export 8130-3 certifications under our production approval holder certificate (PAH). Also, other departments look to Quality for their ability to “answer their questions, depending on what they are about (FAA Regulations or customer requirements that they are trying to comply with).”  

He also added that “Implementing corrective action plans are running at 12 days, which shows the successful effort and implementation of process changes in the organization.” Hurless noted that in many instances it used to be several months before the process owners submitted corrective action plans. However, due in part to the continued emphasis on developing an internal customer-centric culture, process owners are routinely responding within an average of 12 days. This response time is one of the Quality team’s KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) that is measured and is meeting and exceeding the goal. 

In summary

Overall, the Quality Assurance and Inspection teams are working in collaboration with each other and their internal and external customers. There is no room for error in this work, and they must be thorough, procedural, and strict with adherence to all certification standards. 

This work is mission-critical to Erickson, Inc., and allows pilots and crew to go out successfully in the world to solve big problems. They also ensure that quality and safety standards are met for customers who purchase aircraft, products, and services from Erickson. This team of people offers a good fit and is a noble cause for the company.