FRCSW School Qualifies Navy Welders

Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Chase Weishaupt practices a T-weld on two pieces of stainless steel during exercises in the FRCSW welding school in Building 4.
From repairing hitches on tow tractors to transition ducts in V-22 Osprey aircraft, many shipboard repairs in the fleet require the skills of a qualified welder.

For more than 40 years the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) welding school in Building 4 has provided Sailors and Marines the instruction, knowledge and certification to handle any essential welding projects which may arise in theatre.

The two-month long course totals 320 hours of instruction and is taught by instructors Jason Rice and Alex Pimentel. Both are certified by the American Welding Society (AWS).

Rice has been a welder for 30 years, and Pimentel, a former Marine, is a 2012 graduate of the FRCSW welding school and became an instructor two years ago.

Rice said that classes are typically a mix of four Sailors and four Marines and students earn AWS certification upon graduation.

“We have students from Japan, Hawaii, Italy, just about everywhere,” he said. “The Sailors are either aviation structural mechanics or aviation support equipment technicians, and the Marines are usually welders or sheet metal mechanics.”

Students are taught welding of four different metals: aluminum, stainless steel, mild steel (wrought iron steel) and Inconel, an alloy made of nickel, chromium and iron.

“Inconel is an exotic metal and is used on aircraft exhaust,” Rice said. “It can get hot and cold many times and won’t crack and is corrosion resistant, as well.”

“One sheet of aluminum costs $150, while a sheet of Inconel is about $4,500, which is why it’s the last metal we weld because of the expense. But the students must learn to work with it because about 90 percent of the H-60s and H-53s helicopter exhausts are made this metal.”

Students are required to recertify their welding credentials yearly, either by retaking the course or submitting samples for analysis.

Instructors, as well, must recertify every five years.

The FRCSW school is one of three Naval Air Systems Command welding schools. The other two are on the East Coast.

FRCSW Teammate Develops Fixture to Improve Plating Process

Binh Huynh, work leader of the FRCSW plating shop, stands next to the spindle of a horizontal stabilizer used in legacy F/A-18 Hornets. Only the bottom, metallic appearing area of the spindle will be treated. The yellow and white areas on the spindle are wax, used to protect the remaining portions of the component.

About six months ago, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) plating shop work leader Binh Huynh was faced with a question:

Could a landing gear piston be salvaged by plating its inside?

Working with engineering and manufacturing Huynh developed a fixture for chrome plating the inside of the piston, not only salvaging the component, but foregoing the approximate $100,000 replacement cost, as well.

The piston, or bottom cylinder, acts as the bottom portion of an aircraft’s shock struts where it is attached to the landing gear. The top cylinder is attached to the aircraft.

“We never had the capability of plating the inside diameter of the piston with chrome,” he said. “The inside is tricky, but the outside is easy. We tried it first on a dummy piston and it worked.”

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, the 44-year-old Huynh relocated to the United States at the age of 15 in 1988.

“My dad served with the south Vietnamese military and that’s how we came here, as refugees,” he said.

Having worked for the Boeing Co. for two years, and then six years operating a machining shop in West Covina established by his brother, Huynh developed the skills that qualified him to begin work as a contractor in the plating shop in 2012.

“I worked as a contractor for three years and then converted to a federal employee, and was promoted to the plating shop lead last year,” he said.

Located in Building 472, he oversees the shop’s 10 electroplaters who service the nose and main landing gear piston of the F-18 and E-2 Hawkeye C-2 Greyhound airframes.

All of the pistons are plated with chrome, cadmium and nickel.

“The pistons have approximately a four-inch diameter. We grind them to about 20,000th under size, then plate them and then they go to the machine shop for processing. It’s really like painting, except we use metals,” Huynh said.

The plating process is a lengthy one, requiring roughly 50 hours for the metallic application alone.

“At each process you have to bake them to release hydrogen which takes about 23 hours. And after you bake, you have to mask it because the piston is an L-shape and you only plate the barrel,” Huynh noted.

During his visit in late June Commander, Naval Air Systems Command Vice Adm. Dean Peters recognized Huynh’s innovation and the plating shop for its role in the landing gear overhaul and refurbishment program that marked its highest quarterly throughput of 20 landing gear in two years.

“We all have the same goal here, and that’s to support the fleet,” Huyhn said.

FRCSW Services E-2/C-2 Landing Gear

Aircraft mechanic Eric Fountain strips the nose landing gear of an E-2C Hawkeye to verify the components serial and part number.

The maximum gross take-off weight of the E-2 Hawkeye surveillance airframe and its sister C-2 Greyhound transport is more than 52,000 pounds. Combined with landings, perhaps no other part of the aircraft absorbs as much pressure as its landing gear.

Located in Building 472, the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) landing gear shop is the sole FRC for overhauls and repairs to the Hawkeye and Greyhound nose and main landing gear.

“Landing gear are brought in for cause, like hard landings or fluid leakage, and now they are also brought in under aircrafts the planned maintenance interval (PMI) cycle,” said aircraft mechanic David Pearson.

“Whenever an aircraft (E-2/C-2) comes in from Building 460, they remove the landing gear and the drag braces and bring them here for either a repair or overhaul.”

Approximately seven years ago, the landing gear became part of the airframes PMI-2, a substantial disassembly of the aircraft which also includes removal of the wings, engines, and tail.

Landing gear are evaluated, reassembled and tested. Most are re-issued to the E-2/C-2 program in the Building 460 hangar.

Kits containing about 100 internal and external landing gear parts are used to streamline any overhaul process.

Pearson said that about 90 percent of all landing gear work is PMI, and of that, about 50 percent are repairs.

“For repairs we order the parts we need and reassemble the unit,” said aircraft mechanic Rupert Linberg. “Depending on the repair it usually takes a couple of weeks.”

Within the past three years, the landing gear shop increased its staff to 11 which includes contractor personnel.

Pearson noted that most of the repair and overhaul services to legacy F/A-18 and Super Hornet landing gear is done by private contractors and intermediate-level active duty personnel.

Meanwhile, the shop produced 20 landing gear last quarter, the highest throughput in the last two years.

“Our success is based upon the assistance we receive from our production control folks, engineering and quality assurance people and our supervisor,” Pearson said.




FRCSW Site Camp Pendleton Inducts Last AH-1W Super Cobra

Artisans at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Site Camp Pendleton marked the end of an era July 18 with the induction of the last AH-1W Super Cobra to undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP).

The H-1W is being retired and replaced with the newer H-1Z Cobra.

“The technology is more advanced in the Z than the W,” said Site Camp Pendleton manager Cary Mocanu. “It has better engines, and the airframe is more rigid and stronger. The W is primarily sheet metal where the Z is more cast aluminum parts.”

Manufactured by Bell Helicopter, the H-1W Cobra twin-engine attack helicopter was created for the Marines. For the past 32 years it has primarily been used in ground support missions and special operations.

The IMP was developed to keep the aircraft mission-ready by targeting the integrity of the airframe through two assessment events: Planned Maintenance Interval-one (PMI-1) and PMI-2.

Mocanu said that the H-1W PMI-1 occurs every 50 days at which time the aircraft are disassembled and evaluated.

Prior to PMI-1, the squadron removes the aircraft’s blades, and the site’s artisans remove the intermediate and tail gear boxes, panels, engines and the transmission and inspect those areas.

“The fuel cells and crew seats are removed and all of the oil, fuel and hydraulic systems hoses are also changed during PMI-1,” Mocanu said.

The H-1W PMI-2 cycle is held every 78 days with inspections similar to those of the PMI-1, except the aircraft are also stripped using a particle media blast (PMB) and painted.

The Site Camp Pendleton staff of approximately 40 artisans and 12 contractors have a paint and PMB facility which provides a faster return of aircraft to the squadrons.

Damages outside of the IMP scope are reported to the squadron and are ordinarily repaired as in-service repairs (ISR).

Mocanu said that H-1W ISRs averaged about 140 per year.

“A lot of those aircraft had the same discrepancies such as the transmission pylon channels, stub wing lugs, 214 bulkhead repairs, and landing gear supports. Many of these issues were the result of hard landings or fatigue to the airframe,” he said.

The H-1W IMP is scheduled for completion by the end of September when the aircraft will be returned to its squadron: Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 775, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.

Meanwhile, the artisans of Site Camp Pendleton will remain busy continuing IMP procedures to the H-1 Z and the UH-1Y Super Huey.

“We have plenty of work. We have Y and Zs coming up and should be putting out 40-50 aircraft a year within the next couple of years,” Mocanu said.

The last AH-1W Super Cobra helicopter to undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP) at FRCSW Site Camp Pendleton awaits further processing outside of the hangar. The aircraft was inducted July 18 from Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 775 (HMLA-775), and is scheduled to complete the IMP by the end of September and return to the squadron.

New Vacuum Furnace Heats Up FRCSW LM2500 Engine Program

FRCSW teammates who were instrumental in the procurement, installation and acceptance of the Seco/Warwick Group furnace are, from left, materials engineers Michael Schutt and Jessica Porras, CIP project manager Martha Hoffman, metrology calibration Hung Pham, and material engineers David Arenas and Blake Whitmee.

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest’s (FRCSW) LM2500 engine program will get a bump in production thanks to the recent installation of a new vacuum furnace in Building 379.

The LM2500 turbine is used by the Navy to power Spruance and Kidd-class destroyers, Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates, Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The $1.9 million furnace will be used to “stress test” LM2500 parts. The unit can heat up to 2,800 degrees. After heating and the engine’s metallic components contract, technicians can look for any cracks or flaws and conduct further testing as needed.

It will not be used for the heat treating or plating of LM2500 parts.

Manufactured by the Seco/Warwick Group, the furnace was purchased via FRCSW’s Capital Investment Program (CIP) which invests in new technologies and equipment to improve production efficiencies.

“The furnace was custom made for our use and took almost a year to manufacture,” noted (CIP) project manager Martha Hoffman. “The equipment arrived May 15, and the sign off (acceptance) was July 2.”

The furnace chamber may accommodate components up to 60 inches in diameter and height. It is operated through a Program Logic Control (PLC) interface system that will log and archive events through date, time and duration. The console will also notify the operator if the unit is faulting and location of the fault.

“The PLC is user-friendly. The operator will input the amount of time and temperature for the heating process and if or when the part needs to be turned,” Hoffman said. “The computer will retain that information. So when another part comes in for treatment, the operator will just enter that part number or identifier and will be ready to go. This minimizes the room for error.”

The furnace operates under a chill water and closed-looped system.

“We have a secondary tank for the water and one for the argon (cooling). It’s all regulated by the PLC and the pump so the pressure is the same every time the furnace is used,” Hoffman said.

In addition to maintaining consistent pressure, other safety features include an automatic shut down if the unit exceeds a set temperature or if the argon level falls below a set threshold or its flow is interrupted, and railings and walkways with harnesses for fall protection.

In June, approximately 20 FRCSW personnel completed a 48-hour training session conducted by the manufacturer.

The new unit replaces a model that was more than 50-years old with a four-year history of sporadic operation. Difficulty in maintenance and increasingly obsolete replacement parts often resulted in a 60-80 percent down time, causing some LM2500 work to be contracted out.

Hoffman said that the new unit will save the command about six months in turn-around time per part vice contracted workload, and that 12-15 components will be tested weekly.

FRCSW is scheduled to overhaul about 15 LM2500 engines annually.

FRCSW Environmental and Safety Complete ISO, British Standard Audits

To ensure its procedures are the best possible in its environmental and safety programs, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) recently completed an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and British Standard (BS) audit, respectively.

The audits were conducted by Intertek, which issued certificates of registration on June 7.

The ISO 14001 is the standard specification FRCSW follows for its Environmental Management System (EMS). The Intertec audit was an upgrade from the ISO 14001:2004 standard to the ISO 14001:2015.

The BS Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 180001 (BS OHSAS 18001:2007) is the standard the command follows for its safety management systems (SMS).

FRCSW established its EMS in 1999 and registered to the ISO 14001 environmental standard that same year as part of its efforts to improve environmental performance on a continual basis. The move distinguished the command as the first federal facility to register to the ISO 14001.

“The EMS is required in a lot of Navy installations, but it is Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) who is asking us to maintain our EMS to that 14001 standard,” said environmental engineer Shelli Craig.

She said that the 2015 standard requires continual improvement and that performance is measured and now reported to management.

To achieve the upgrade from the ISO 14001:2004 to the 2015 standard, auditors examined all work shifts comprising three years of data and looked for indications of continual improvement over that period. For the upgrade, the data had to indicate and prove that all of the elements of the standards that were previously set as goals were acquired.

“A big change between the 2004 and 2015 standard is now that top management owns the whole system. That includes the commanding and executive officers, the senior civilian and the executive steering committee. So, there’s a lot more buy-in at all levels within the organization,” Craig said.

Other changes reflected in the 2015 standard expands the EMS coverage and scope; requires interactions with external parties; and new documentation, legal compliance, and operational control requirements.

EMS extended staffing includes approximately 30 material management specialists with environmental collateral duties, 10 environmental reps, 17 members of the Environmental Program Office, and six chemical handlers who collect and dispose of hazardous waste.

The EMS oversees six different programs including air, water and pollution prevention. Four environmental protection specialists monitor the EMS in 20 command locations.

“Two of the four walk the entire site every morning on a daily basis,” Craig noted.

Craig said that a recent chemical spill that required the EMS to ensure corrective actions had taken place.

“Chemical handlers collect liquid waste from various parts of the plant and transport it in large tanks to the industrial waste water treatment plant run by contractors here,” she said. “We had a mishap that was contained, nothing escaped to the environment, but the contractors were also ISO-certified required by Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC).”

“During the follow-up, I was told they would now lock off some of their connecting hoses so nobody could come to their site and offload waste without knowing about the waste profile. They are contracted for five other sites and made corrections there, as well.”

Craig said that the EMS was cited for one major and three minor discrepancies during the Intertec audit. A few opportunities for improvement (OFI), or recommended actions to prevent findings in the future were also noted.

“Our facility gets continued and repeated high marks for housekeeping,” she said.  “This is a hugely meaningful strength in that the corners are clean, no hazmat all over the place, trash and hazardous wastes are clearly labeled, marked and separated. Good housekeeping speaks to many overlapping areas and gives auditors a sense of a tight ship.”

The OHSAS 18001:2007

Like the ISO 14001:2015, COMFRC created an instruction directing FRCSW to follow the OHSAS 18001:2007 standard. From 2014 to 2016, the command has worked to meet the directive.

Certification and conformance to the OHSAS 18001:2007 is overseen by the command’s Safety Management System (SMS) which was formed in 2014.

The SMS operates under three primary components: An internal audit group which includes a second party auditor from National Technology Associates (NTA) for the evaluation of command spaces; an implementation team comprised of wage grade employees, managers, supervisors, and the same top management personnel who oversee the EMS; and a third party (Intertec) verification and registration to the standard.

The SMS established the criteria used in its internal audit.

“When we meet these criteria, we report up to COMFRC and advance through one of three levels. We’re currently at the Bronze level,” said occupational health and safety specialist Chris Gibson.

“We have about 30 people who manage various FRCSW buildings. They are called ‘champions.’ They meet with the safe site leads who are often wage grade employees that serve as shop safety representatives as a collateral duty to monitor the white communication boards throughout the plant that any employee can express their concern on to help clear any road blocks. And if the champion can’t clear it, he’ll go to the CO,” Gibson said.

Gibson noted that the CO holds a monthly SMS meeting which includes an open forum for wage grade artisans to express their issues and concerns.

A successful SMS or EMS rely upon employee compliance within their daily operations, he said, and that conformance to a standard cannot be achieved without it.

“There’s the specialists, managers and supervisors ensuring compliance. The conformance part comes in if the manager or supervisor is absent or transfers, and the employee acts as if they are still there getting that same message across every day.”

Intertec’s recertification visit consisted of five auditors for a day and a half who cited the SMS for one major and four minor discrepancies.

“I’ve updated some internal policies and procedures to address the findings,” Gibson said. “And also changed policies and procedures of how I interact with the second party auditor and that her actions within the FRC are consistent with what the third party (Intertec) is looking for on their visits. The others were routine like updating a form.”

“We needed to prove to them with audits, metrics, graphs and all documentation that we are doing exactly what we say we are going to do,” Gibson added.

Within three years, the SMS must transition from the BS OHSAS 18001:2007 to the ISO 45001.

Meanwhile, both the EMS and SMS are adapting to the ISO’s new Annex SL, a generic outline applicable to all management systems. With its 10 common clauses addressing issues that include operation, support and improvement, the annex is intended to increase consistency within management system structures.

The next Intertec audit for the EMS and SMS is scheduled for April 2019.

Occupational health and safety specialist Chris Gibson, center, inspects an automated external defibrillator in Building 249 as part of the FRCSW Safety Management System’s internal audit program while National Technology Associates auditor Jeanell Bausback and electrician Ruel Dionisio look on.

NAVAIR, FRCSW Hold Annual Diversity and Inclusion Day

Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) celebrated its annual Diversity and Inclusion Day June 15 aboard Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) to recognize the heritage and many cultures which comprise its active duty and civilian workforce.

Keynote speaker Claude Koehl of Intercultural Services, an organization that helps develop cross-cultural communication and leadership, spoke of the importance in keeping an open mind when developing first impressions.

“We need to go beyond the ‘what we see is what we get’,” she said. “Visual clues and auditory clues need to be questioned because we tend to be a surprising mix of characteristics, interests and experiences.”

“For example, former heavy weight champion Mike Tyson’s hobby is raising pigeons, the very symbol of peace. And NFL running back Herschel Walker practiced ballet as a means of training during his career,” she said.

Koehl concluded her remarks by encouraging the audience to create a dialogue with others as a means to learn about the other person.

“There is no other way to go beyond first impressions and development an accurate three-dimensional read of our social partners unless we ask questions about who they are, how they see themselves and what they like to do,” she said. “If we don’t ask, we won’t really know if they are actually similar or dissimilar to us.”

Afterward, teammates enjoyed West African music and dance by the Teye Sa Thiosanner African Drum and Dance Company. The Hung Vuong Sports Club followed with a traditional Vietnamese lion dance and a kung fu exhibition. The Portuguese American Dancers of San Diego concluded the cultural presentation of the event.

Other festivities during the 90-minute program included a wide range of food from barbeque to Asian and Mexican cuisine and a classic car display.

This year’s event was sponsored by the FRCSW Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee and NAVAIR’s Diversity Advisory Teams, and held at FRCSW’s Building 325 tarmac.




Teye Sa Thiosanner African Drum and Dance Company perform during Naval Air Systems Command’s annual Diversity and Inclusion Day June 15 aboard Fleet Readiness Center Southwest.

FRCSW LM2500 Engine Program Surpasses 40 Years of Service

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.



Aircraft engine repairman Randy Balolong uses a dial indicator to check the balancing of an LM2500 engine compressor in Building 472 aboard FRCSW.

NAVAIR Engineers Honored by AIAA-San Diego

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.

Aerospace engineer Nathan Cox operates the pressurization test lab control station while fellow aerospace engineer Duy Nguyen, foreground, monitors the inside of the test chamber.