Routinely recognized for its maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) work on naval aircraft, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) also stands out as the Navy’s sole source for MRO services to the LM2500 engine.
First used to power the Spruance and Kidd-class destroyers in the 1970s, LM2500 production began in 1969. The engines proved so reliable that their use expanded in the 1980s to include Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.
The engine is manufactured by the General Electric Co., and for the past 42 years, FRCSW has worked on the two types of LM2500: single and twin shank, and low power turbine.
FRCSW customers include Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and foreign navies.
“Low power turbines are treated as a separate component,” noted mechanic Lloyd Apgar. “The engines are gas generators and have a high pressure turbine in them, but that’s part of the engine itself.”
Unlike many aircraft platforms, LM2500 engines are not serviced under a planned maintenance interval; instead, they are repaired for significant cause.
“The engines are usually inducted for hot section degradation, meaning the turbine blades and turbine nozzles are starting to wear as they’re losing power or increasing fuel consumption. At that point they’re turned in for an overhaul,” Apgar said.
Mechanic Hether Troncatti said that during the overhaul procedure the engines are disassembled to their subassemblies (a total of nine components) that include two gearboxes, the compressor, stator casers, and high pressure turbine nozzle.
“We have about 20 people who work in the program. Most are mechanics, but we have four machinists who do things like the grinding of the rotor blades,” she said.
Key to a successful overhaul is the rebuilding of the engine’s compressor, she noted.
“We build the compressor in five different stages starting with the rear shaft,” said aircraft engine repairman Randy Balolong. “We have to make sure the unit is within certain specifications for installation, otherwise vibrations will cause the engine to be rejected.”
A typical engine overhaul requires approximately 3,000 manhours.
In addition to overhauls, the shop also handles service requests that cannot be completed in the fleet.
“NAVSEA may get an engine from a decommissioned ship, for example, and not want to do an overhaul, so we check and test it to make sure it’s still serviceable and it goes back into supply. Some years, we may do up to six of these,” Apgar said.
The FRCSW LM2500 program schedules about 15 engine overhauls annually.
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) engineers were recognized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) – San Diego section May 10 for their development of the F/A-18/EA-18G Cabin Pressure Test Laboratory (CPTL) last August.
The AIAA, dedicated to the advancement of aeronautics and astronautics, selected the NAVAIR CPTL under the “Outstanding Achievement by an Aerospace Organization” category during its annual awards banquet held in San Diego.
The CPTL was created to identify the root cause(s) and find solutions to physiological events (PE), or decompression sickness pilots have experienced when flying all variants of the F/A-18 Hornet airframe.
PE symptoms may include dizziness, confusion and even loss of consciousness due to hypoxia, or the lack of an adequate supply of oxygen. To date, more than 500 PEs have been documented.
NAVAIR lead engineer Shawn Alexander and Kyle Zust, F/A-18 Environmental Control Systems Fleet Support Team, formed the engineering team in September 2016 that built the laboratory in Buildings 486 and 487 aboard Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).
The lab is comprised of three major components: A 3,400 cubic feet per minute variable speed industrial pump that generates negative pressure, or a vacuum, an accumulator, and the test chamber.
Aircraft cabin pressure components are placed in the chamber and analyzed via a closed-loop electronic control system and software developed by the NAVAIR team. A closed-loop control system uses feedback signals to make adjustments to itself.
The test chamber is compatible with all single and dual seat F/A-18 variants and has the ability to simulate an aircraft cabin environment from 0 to 50,000 feet, and climb rates exceeding 50,000 feet per minute.
At a cost of approximately $1.8 million, the lab is the only one of its kind that can test cabin pressure components on a system level.
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) has earned the Secretary of the Navy’s (SECNAV) Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Energy Conservation and Water Management Platinum level award for FY 2016 environmental accomplishments.
FRCSW’s efforts recognized by the “Platinum” level category designates a “an outstanding” energy and water conservation program, with “…an exceptional year for energy project execution.”
The award is primarily based upon a reduction in utility consumption, noted FRCSW Energy Program Manager Benjamin Green.
During FY 17, the command reduced its combined use of electricity, natural gas and steam by 11.5 percent per square foot from an FY 15 baseline.
Green said that much of the utilities and energy reduction may be attributed to the formation of Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC).
An ESPC is a contract between a federal agency and an energy provider, and does not require congressional funding or up-front capital. ESPCs enable agencies to make facility improvements while simultaneously gaining reduction in energy expenditures.
Energy providers or contractors and new equipment are paid through the energy savings costs generated by the ESPC. Additional energy savings beyond that belong to the agency.
FRCSW established four major ESPCs during FY 16 which addressed lighting and lighting controls; compressed air decentralization and upgrades to the Navy Primary Standards Laboratory heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); an HVAC retrofit to the calibration laboratory; and water conservation efforts.
The ESPC lighting upgrade included a retrofit of high bay 1,000 watt lamps in the Building 466 paint complex with dual occupancy photocell sensor LEDs, and a retrofit of more than 2,300 fluorescent fixtures with LEDs and occupancy sensors in three other buildings.
Totaling approximately $1,945,661, the lighting retrofits and upgrades will save almost $200,000 annually and over 1,348,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.
Work to the Navy Primary Standards Laboratory in Building 379 included removal of a single pass water system with a new chiller and boiler system. A solar thermal system for preheating the boiler and hot water heaters was also installed.
Installation of an upgraded wind tunnel system with a variable-frequency drive (VFD) and an energy management control system was added to the lab, as well.
The compressed air decentralization ESPC will garnish more than $1,290,000 in annual savings through the installation of 19 new compressed air plants throughout the command. The consequent air use reduction will exceed 323,160 kCF per year.
A comprehensive HVAC retrofit to Building 463 included the addition of a new chiller that uses oil-free centrifugal compressors and a VFD, and the replacement of 30 rooftop air handlers and conditioners with new efficient units. The move will result in a utility savings of approximately $1,026,000 yearly, and an annual electricity reduction of more than 3,390,000 kWh.
In water conservation efforts, the hot water mixing valves used for wash racks in the paint complex were upgraded to enable adjustable temperatures and shut off capability.
Zero-bleed cooling towers were installed in Buildings 463, 469 and 472. The towers are used to remove calcium, magnesium and particulates from make-up water.
Water conservation programs will save the command over $61,000 in yearly utility savings and reduce annual water usage by 2,460 kGal.
Overall, the total utility cost savings from the ESPCs will exceed $2.4 million annually and a total energy savings of 8,613 British Thermal Units (MMBTU).
Total contract value, which includes equipment operation and maintenance costs for 13 years, is approximately $46,866,000. Guaranteed cost savings to the command is more than $47,658,000.
FRCSW was one of only eight naval commands recognized at the SECNAV Platinum level of achievement in energy and water conservation.
The SECNAV award includes $5,000 which may be earmarked toward future energy conservation efforts within the command.
Like most motorists, aircraft squadrons periodically inspect the tires on their aircraft for any uneven wear, gouges or other damage.
When service to the rims or recycling of the tires is required, they often end up in the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) wheel shop in Building 472.
Staffed by six Sailors, three of whom are Sea Operational Detachment (SEAOPDET) providing afloat maintenance service to their respective squadrons, the shop primarily services squadrons from Naval Air Station North Island, but may handle the needs of squadrons assigned elsewhere.
Tires and rims routinely serviced include those of the C-2 transport Greyhound, the SH-60 Seahawk multi-mission helicopter, and the P-3 Orion turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.
Tires and wheels of the F/A-18 Hornet fighter are handled by the FRCSW’s depot-level artisans.
“Before the rims are sent here, they undergo a non-destructive inspection by a separate shop,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Alexander Sloush, leading petty officer of the shop. “We provide intermediate-level maintenance to the tire and wheel assemblies and do our own visual inspections.”
“We order replacement parts that are determined as beyond capability of maintenance (BCM) and don’t pass inspection. When the part arrives, we’ll rebuild the assembly for reissue.”
The wheel shop processes an average of 70 tires and rims a month.
Production quality throughout the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) domain will undergo a transformation through a concerted effort from artisans to senior leadership by the end of this year.
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Quality Manager Adam Kimmerly said that a COMFRC policy (COMFRCINST 48855.1) released late last year directed the formation of Integrated Quality Teams (IQT) as part of the FRC-wide Quality Management System (QMS).
The QMS targets production quality and delivery of products to the fleet.
“IQTs are an integrated product type structure which brings people from different competencies together to fulfill a specific task. And the task is to enforce quality in our industrial production shops,” Kimmerly said.
“That will encompass everything from new item manufacturing to basically all of the depot-level production that we do here (maintenance, repair, and overhaul),” he added.
Tiers and Teams
The IQTs will be divided into three tiers:
The Tier 1 team is at the COMFRC level and manages the overall program.
The Tier 2 team is located at each FRC and is led by the quality manager and consists of top-level leadership across the production industrial spectrum, including engineering, logistics and industrial operations, industrial production and COMFRC’s industrial production, and safety and environmental compliance.
“These are the members that will manage the implementation of the COMFRC quality policy at the FRC level,” Kimmerly noted.
The Tier 3 team is aligned to the production integrated product teams.
“For example, here we’re going to have 11 IQTs. The first three we established are aligned to the processing and manufacturing side of things that includes plating, paint, machining, NDI, and heat treat — kind of building our foundation and getting our QMS implemented,” Kimmerly said.
Three IQTs were formed during the spring to manage component overhaul including avionics, hydraulics and dynamic components.
By the end of June three IQT leads will be assigned to the aircraft production lines: F/A-18 legacy, Super Hornet, and EA-18G, the E-2/C-2 and Vertical Lift.
Lastly, two IQTs will be established during the summer for all engines, the test line, voyage repair team, and FRCSW detachments.
All IQTs should be fully operational by Dec. 31, 2018.
“Each of the Tier 3 IQTs is led by an industrial engineer who has a background in process control, quality management, and continuous process improvement,” Kimmerly said.
With a focus on Lean and Six Sigma, the foundations of AIRSpeed, the engineers hold Green and/or are working toward Black Belt certifications, Kimmerly added.
The IQTs will target four operational areas identified by COMFRC to enforce production quality: personnel, technical publications, work documentation, and tooling and equipment.
Personnel issues will address staffing and training needs, and ensure artisans have the appropriate certifications and proficiency levels required for their jobs.
“We need good technical publications that are clear in what they are requiring, are available to the people who use them so they have access to the most current version of the tech pub, and are up-to-date with the latest and accurate processes,” Kimmerly said.
Creating work documentation that accurately reflects the processes in tech pubs and provides artisans with clear instructions on what they are supposed to do, will provide traceability to what work was done.
“When an operation is completed it needs to be clearly documented on paper, or electronically, in the future. This way we can tell if a landing gear component was inspected properly and what the results of that inspection were, for example,” Kimmerly said.
Reliable machinery and equipment must consistently be available to artisans for them to perform their work.
“How each of the IQTs focus on these things will probably vary a bit depending on what the major problems are on their areas of focus, and what’s hindering production and impacting quality,” Kimmerly noted.
An Overhaul On How We Do Things
“In the past, the FRCs relied strictly on our industrial quality department to manage quality,” Kimmerly said. “And after some of the quality escape experiences, it was decided that we need some degree of engineering involvement or oversight with respect to quality.”
“Typically, in the aerospace industry, there is a quality engineering department and we haven’t had that until now. So this is really a new structure and new alignment of quality to engineering.”
Kimmerly stressed that the existing Quality Assurance (QA) department will not be altered.
“We need their support more than ever to help implement this quality management system, and provide their expertise in audits and in QA and product conforming verification,” he said.
Getting a jump on the official release of the COMFRC policy, FRCSW established the first FRC IQT in June 2017 at its canopies and windscreen and flight controls shop. Since then, the shops have already seen benefits.
“In one case, the IQT identified a need for a design change to a part on an F/A-18 windscreen. The design was a little too thick causing the windshield assembly to delaminate and fail prematurely. The artisans knew that and often saw it, but that feedback never got back to engineering to trigger that change to happen. So the IQT helped to facilitate that feedback loop and helped to initiate that design change,” Kimmerly explained.
“Also, some of the windshields were getting dented because the work stands they were being stored on didn’t have the right padding in the right places. So we were causing discrepancy work orders to fix a problem that we were causing because our work stands were insufficient. That triggered a change to the work stands to reduce damage and improve the overall quality.”
Kimmerly said that IQT leads will routinely walk through the shops to identify issues and problems the artisans may be experiencing and review quality data on a monthly basis.
“This whole structure is new and it is within industry standards to have quality engineers to manage this stuff,” he said.
On the heels of creating its sheet metal artisan training program last April, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) expanded its depot-level training endeavors in January to include a paint training course.
The concept and timeline for the course, which targets workforce and production quality, was initially developed in May 2017.
Daniel DeMilio, deputy integrated production team lead for the paint complex, was joined by subject matter expert planner/estimator David Chavez, paint training crew leaders Daniel Hernandez, Donnie Kilgore, Dustin Briggs, and crew leader David Powers in developing the paint course.
The team used technical publications and drawings as guide markers to ensure the comprehensiveness and accuracy of the information contained in the course.
Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers was apprised of the paint training team’s work and requested that DeMilio evaluate a 2-D Virtual Reality Paint Training system for applicability to the course.
The evaluation led to information about a 3-D Virtual Reality system developed by SimSpray™ Industrial that accelerated the impact and scope of the course.
Based in East Hartford, Conn., SimSpray™ Industrial was in the San Diego area and brought aboard by FRCSW’s Chief Technology Officer Gabriel Draguicevich to demonstrate the unit and its potential to support the training course lab requirements.
A progress review meeting was held to request support and funding for the 3-D Virtual Reality Paint Training system. Pictures and a video of the demonstration were presented which clearly displayed how the units would enhance the course’s content.
The 3-D system reduced a variety of waste factors including over production, unnecessary motion, material movement, and inventory.
Artisans performed lab training without moving into paint bays, waiting, or using materials. This reduced the indirect cost and time to complete the course from five to four weeks.
All current artisans will attend the training course to ensure a baseline of knowledge is established. The SimSpray™ system has the capability to teach several different skills in a virtual environment including de-paint, or blasting operations, and paint and powder coating operations.
Through the virtual reality headset, and given the appropriate device for the training session (blast hose, paint gun, etc.), artisans are transported into a virtual paint booth setting with a 360-degree view of the project in front of them.
When the artisan uses the device (hose or gun), the system provides haptic feedback and sound simulating the process. Direct feedback is provided at will showing any damage, overspray, drips/runs/sags, and where the coats may be too heavy or too light.
In addition, the SimSpray™ can show the “orange peel effect” and “dry spray,” which are the leading causes of damage work orders (DWO). These are correctable in the lab without wasting time or material, and the artisans can see their improvements as the course progresses.
Significantly, the course is designed for FRC-wide implementation, and is based on advanced skills management collaboration for painters, with a focus on DWOs to ensure a broad-based approach affecting paint quality and speed to the customer.
The FRCSW Total Force Strategy and Management training department provided guidance and support in creating, updating and transferring lesson plans to the appropriate format for instruction.
A pilot class was held in October 2017 to test the instructional material, readiness of instructors, and every functional area of the training course. After compiling the results of the pilot, the team made the changes necessary to provide results by the established timeline.
To ensure the first official class kicked off in adequate facilities, engineering technician Bethany Harris added her support by refurbishing the former Fleet Training classroom in Building 466.
A Grainger® 4PL contract was used to purchase the SimSpray™ units, and during FRCSW’s reduced operating period in December, DeMilio received them while the rest of his team continued fine-tuning the course content.
Instructors received Sim Spray™ factory training on Jan. 5, and the first FRCSW depot-level paint course was set three days later.
Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) selected Aaron Vivar as its Fiscal Year 2017 Civilian of the Year and Civilian of the Quarter, third quarter.
Vivar, a financial management analyst, was recognized for his work in the command’s comptroller department where he was instrumental in identifying and processing aircraft upward obligation requests.
FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presented Vivar with the award in ceremonies Feb. 23 in Building 94.
“Upward obligation requests are actually funding requests that have been based on a certain fiscal year. These are used if more funding is needed for the following fiscal year, mostly for additional in-house funds. We used these primarily for the legacy F/A-18 Hornets that are high-flight-hour aircraft,” Vivar said.
A graduate of Ashford University with a major in organizational management and a minor in finance, Vivar developed a background in financial management while working for a credit union for three years.
In 2008 he joined FRCSW and spent two years as an F/A-18 aircraft mechanic apprentice in the fuel cell shop until becoming a journeyman mechanic. In 2014 he became a financial management analyst for the command, and in November 2017, became a supervisory financial management analyst where he oversees the work of 12 other financial analysts within the comptroller department.
The department is responsible for the allocation of financial expenditures for FRCSW and all of its sites.
Working with the FRCSW Integrated Products Team (IPT), Vivar assisted in the identification of 45 cost-reimbursable aircraft maintenance repair or overhaul procedures that required additional expired funding, and 70 planned maintenance interval actions that had suffered understated workload standards, generally applicable to the legacy Hornet airframe.
“We want to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”
“All total, these obligation requests come to about $58 million,” Vivar said. “Our goal is to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”
“We want to make sure that we have the correct amount of money for the correct work and that all of our transactions are in accordance with the law.”
Obligation requests of up to $4 million may be approved by Naval Air Systems Command. For amounts above that, higher authority like the Undersecretary of Defense or congressional approval is required. To date, FRCSW has received more than $28 million in upward obligations funding.
“I would thank our team in the 10.0 (comptroller) staff and our collaboration with the IPT side for the data calls in getting this done,” he said. “I enjoy the readiness portion of working here — from being an aircraft mechanic to working on the support side now, seeing the aircraft leave the test line and heading for the fleet — that’s the best thing about working here.”
A native San Diegan, Vivar spends much of his free time camping and hiking with his wife Desiree and their two children.
Encompassing almost 1.5 million square feet at the very Western portion of Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Test Line Support Facility is the hub for test flying the aircraft the command’s artisans repair and maintain.
The sprawling compound includes an 800,000 square-foot aircraft ramp with parking for numerous aircraft, three climate-controlled storage hangars, out-buildings, seven fabric work shelters and a main support building (785).
Unless an aircraft is trucked onto NASNI, the FRCSW Test Line is the first – and last – stop during its visit to the command.
“The squadron maintenance charts and log books are some of the first things we go through upon induction of any aircraft; it’s the first step in the process before an aircraft is turned over to its product line,” said Aviation Machinist Mate Chief Petty Officer Gabriel McConico, maintenance controller of the FRCSW Test Line.
On the reverse side of that process, the Test Line and log sell procedures include final ground checks, test flights, and a review of all documentation to ensure that the work has been completed and certified.
In accordance with Navy regulations, any aircraft completing depot-level rework is required to undergo at least one Functional Check Flight (FCF) prior to delivery to the fleet to determine the quality of work and the airworthiness of the aircraft. The FCF is the final step in Test Line procedures.
Three of the four major aircraft product lines at FRCSW bring their aircraft to the Test Line: F/A-18 Hornets, E-2C Hawkeyes, C-2A Greyhounds, and H-53 Super Stallions all must be flight checked at the flight line.
The only aircraft that doesn’t pass through the Test Line is the H-60 Seahawk helicopter; though the aircraft may be stored in facilities there on a short-term basis, McConico noted.
Returning more than 40 F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft to the fleet during fiscal year (FY) 2017, FRCSW test flies more legacy Hornets than any other airframe.
The Test Line ‘selling’ phase begins once the aircraft is transported from Building 94 where all repairs and maintenance procedures are performed.
Once under the cognizance of the Test Line staff, it is checked, prepared, test flown, and returned to the customer.
The Hornets are also weighed when returned from maintenance because modifications or repairs can affect the aircraft’s weight. The planes are weighed again after painting (prior to delivery to the customer) to make sure they’re within an acceptable limit.
Artisans assigned to the F/A- 18 Test Line program include aircraft examiners (AE) and an examination evaluator (EE).
AEs also assess the aircraft’s functions to ensure a safe and proper flight. This includes the hydraulics, fuel system, air conditioning, engines, and cabin pressure.
“AEs are the initial ones who issue discrepancies, fix discrepancies and decide when the aircraft is ready,” McConico said.
While AEs turn the avionics on, actual system checks are performed by EEs, electricians, and electronic integrated systems mechanics.
The F/A-18 Test Line artisans face few barriers they cannot overcome at the flight line to ensure a safe initial test flight.
“But on occasion certain issues can come up where we would have to return the aircraft to Building 94,” McConico noted. “If a new message is released that requires replacement of an inboard leading edge flap, for example, or if there’s a technical directive requiring an update, then we would send the aircraft back for things like that.”
In contrast to the volume of F/A-18 Hornets, only nine E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and eight C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft were inducted and returned to the fleet in FY 2017.
Artisans comprised of AEs, mechanics, electricians, and avionic artisans prepare the turbo-propeller airframes for flight at the Test Line.
During induction a series of “dynamic tests” are performed on all systems to check their condition.
Dynamic tests are those that engage the engines, hydraulics, fuel, radar, and other systems used in the flight of the aircraft.
“From the initial induction to get to the production floor is dependent on available space, and can be about three to five weeks to get to Building 460 for the aircraft’s planned maintenance interval (PMI),” McConico said.
After PMI and any repairs, the aircraft are reassembled and returned to the Test Line where another round of dynamic tests are performed to ensure they meet pre-flight inspection status.
AEs test all of the systems except the avionics, which is tested by journeyman avionic artisans.
Solely serving Marine Corps squadrons throughout the west coast including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the FRCSW CH-53 Super Stallion program returned 10 helicopters to the Corps during FY 2017.
During induction the main rotor blades are removed and the aircraft is de-fueled.
Afterward, the aircraft is transported to Building 378 to undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) that includes a variety of procedures including structural repairs to the fuselage and electrical wiring upgrades.
Work exceeding IMP specifications, like replacing engines or rotor heads that have exceeded their recommended hour or life limit, is often done by the Marines themselves to save money.
AEs are assigned to the Test Line and perform startups, systems, and electrical checks.
Unlike the F/A-18 and E2/C-2 programs, FRCSW does not have CH-53 pilots on staff. Instead, pilots from prospective squadrons are notified when an aircraft is ready for test flight and delivery.