Nadcap – The Gravitational Hairball


I am going back to Nadcap one last time!
In a blog post I made just a mere 2 months ago, I gave a “proper goodbye” (Nadcap – A Proper Goodbye) to the program called Nadcap – a 3rd party aerospace special process accreditation program that defined most of my career the last 15 years.  I thought, that mere 2 months ago, I would never have an affiliation with that program again.  What I forgot was that Nadcap is like this great inward sucking vortex of terror that will never let you escape it’s clutches.  I once read a book called “Orbiting the Giant Hairball”, which suggested that institutions like companies or organizations can become hairballs of rules & concepts so big they have their own gravity that sucks you in (your goal is to find a safe orbit around it).  Little did I know that Nadcap’s gravitation pull would find me when I came to JPL.

Point being … Guess who’s going to a Nadcap meeting next week?  This Guy!

There really isn’t anything in my career that I hated more, loved more, loved to hate more, or hated to love more.  Nadcap took me to the greatest places, moved me to my greatest professional heights, and taught me more that any school I ever attended.  It also was a constant source of aggravation, lead to more angry pissing matches, and at times felt like a complete drain on my energies, passions, and time.

Technically speaking – Nadcap is a certification program that allows aerospace primes (the top level companies) to rely on 3rd party auditors to evaluate and mitigate risk of the most critical processes in manufacturing.  During my 11 years at Cessna, I served 10 years on the Nadcap Heat Treat Task Group, most of it as a vice-chair of that task group.  After my ‘Alaskan Sabbatical’, I was thrust into the other side of the process the last two years at Bodycote.

So, why I am going back?   Well … that’s a little complicated.

While we recognize and accept Nadcap audits, JPL doesn’t subscribe to Nadcap — subscription means you garner greater influence through direct evaluation of the program and input on such things like checklists and auditor training.  This subscription, of course, costs money … likely more than we want to spend tax payer money on for the return on that investment.  Still, part of the reason I am going there is to collect information from the new JPL eyes on whether it would be worth our time.

More directly, I am there to present on behalf of NASA  … I am going to let that sink in on you, cause doesn’t that just sound frickin’ awesome?  It’s actually only a couple of slides on Additive Manufacturing (the fancy term for 3-D printing using metal powders).  JPL is actually an industry leader in the developed use of Additive Manufacturing in flight hardware, and we expect to launch some parts on the next Mars rover slated for 2020 (ironically named Mars 2020).  Since we will have to rely on suppliers to make those parts for us, we have a keen interest in the oversight of said processes.  So I am attending to lay out what we would want to see from a 3rd party accreditation of that process.  Attending this meeting is likely a one-time thing, but you never know with programs like this.

All of this comes down to one main subject:
I am going back to Nadcap one last time!

Ironically – the meeting is being held in New Orleans; the city I most love to hate and hate to love.



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