FRCSW Revamps Super Hornet Windscreen Production

A project in the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) canopy shop that began in June 2017 to address occurrences of delamination in some windscreens of F/A-18 Super Hornets has come to an end.

Components production manager Jakob Grant said that fleet back orders for the windscreens had reached about 40 last year prompting FRCSW artisans and engineers to apply their expertise and ingenuity to craft a solution.

“Working together with the sheet metal artisans in the canopy shop, the machinists, painters, and the evaluation and examination teams, engineering embedded itself into the paint and sheet metal shops and worked side-by-side with them to develop local engineering specifications (LES) to measure the coating that is used on the windscreens and to streamline the process,” Grant said.

To improve the paint process, materials engineers determined the requirements for measuring the density and thickness of the low-observable coatings that are applied to the windscreens.

An initial LES for the repair and replacement of the transparencies (the actual glass which is made of polycarbonate and acrylic plastics) was also developed.

“The coating process in the painting area was our main development and deviation from our regular procedure, and because of the additional requirement to measure the density and thickness of the coating, it went from a 13-day process to averaging a 26-day process in paint,” Grant said.

“This also caused some of the backlog because it was taking us twice as long to meet the engineering requirements which had become more stringent, and to still meet fleet requirements.”

Nevertheless, team efforts enabled the canopy shop to produce 31 windscreens during the first quarter of fiscal year 2017. The shop is on track to produce the same amount for the second quarter.

“For three months we worked to streamline procedures, and in early October, we were able to meet fleet demands of 10 windscreens per month. During that time, we had to work with engineering under temporary instructions to get those 30 windscreens done,” Grant noted.

Windscreens are turned in from the fleet as repairable units. Upon induction they are cleaned and prepared for disassembly by the shop’s artisans in Building 250.

“We remove the fasteners and sand and prime the windscreens,” said sheet metal mechanic Loc Yu. “Afterward, the windscreen is placed in the fixture where we install new glass and seal the seams. All of this takes about five days. Then it moves to paint in Building 472 before being reissued to the fleet.”

Canopy shop work leader Eugene Ellis noted that the shop uses continuous process improvement measures on windscreens and Hornet canopies.

“We have a single piece flow system that results in less waste of materials and sealant, and fewer defects. In turn, this increases our production quality and results in less rework. Our ultimate goal is to extend the service life of the windscreens and improve production to the fleet,” he said.

FRCSW is the only naval facility that refurbishes Super Hornet windscreens.

Sheet metal mechanic Pierre Nguyen removes fasteners from an F/A-18 Super Hornet windscreen. Fastener removal is one step of the disassembly phase which includes removal of the windscreen’s glass.






















                                         FRCSW senior civilian Michelle Gomez presents the command’s Golden Wrench Award to David Phillips, E-2/C-2 foreign military sales (FMS) support, Jan. 16 in Building 6. Phillips was recognized with the award for his work in providing exceptional service to FMS customers.

Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, right, discusses use of the recently installed computer-controlled cadmium plating furnace to materials engineer Howard Whang, center, and equipment engineer William Castillo in the FRCSW plating shop in Building 472. The new plating furnace offers a higher component capacity than its predecessor and can complete the cadmium coating process in approximately half the time.

FRCSW Fires Up New Cadmium Plating Furnace

To help ensure its cadmium-plated aircraft parts are manufactured under the highest possible standards, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) replaced its 45-year-old cadmium plating furnace with a new computer-aided design (CAD) model.

The new furnace, which arrived in the plating shop in Building 472 on Dec. 5, can accommodate parts as small as bushings to components of up to 5 feet in length by approximately 2 ½ feet in width.

Unlike its predecessor, the new furnace has two holding racks: one stationary, and the other with an option of motion that ensures a more even coating process.

“Not only does this new one have a higher component capacity, but it can complete the coating process in approximately 50 percent less time,” said Martha Hoffman, Capital Investment Program (CIP) project manager. “The old furnace required the operator to remove and turn the components as part of the coating process, which can add up to an additional 30 minutes to the overall procedure.”

FRCSW artisans underwent a five-day operator training seminar by Tito Visi, president of V&N Advanced Automation Systems, manufacturer of the furnace.

Training included the use of the unit’s 500-gigabyte computer/control panel to input production commands and print reports. The CAD system is user-friendly, operating through common programs like Microsoft Word™ and Excel™.

A successful cadmium coating procedure is dependent upon a variety of requirements, Visi noted.

“The fewer molecules of air you have in the chamber, the better coating you are going to have. So for this, we have a mechanical pump and a booster pump which brings the atmosphere to a regulated air pump (RAP) vacuum,” he said.

“We bring the pressure down and when we hit the base pressure needed for the coating, we are able to evaporate the material (cadmium) to stick to the part. That takes around 20 minutes. Then, argon is introduced to cool down the part which eliminates any contamination. We don’t use oxygen or air, because the part could oxidize.”

When complete, the part is removed and moves on through the plating process.

Costing approximately $990,000, the new furnace will not only be used to coat F/A-18 Hornet and E/2-C/2 aircraft parts, but LM2500 engine parts, as well.

AIRSpeed: Solving Problems to Increase Efficiency

Aircraft mechanics Mike Chi, right, and Dang Nguyen replace the fuel cell of a legacy F/A-18 Hornet in Building 94. The fuel cell shop had recently undergone a Green Belt project to increase and improve the flow of its production system.


Systems analysts James Brown and Marty Hernandez are looking to change things. Things like work place cultural and how to effectively solve problems that get in the way of aircraft production.

Brown and Hernandez are assigned to the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) training department. They are two of seven “Black Belts,” or those who have achieved an advanced skill set in the continuous process improvement program they teach: AIRSpeed.

AIRSpeed was introduced to the Navy in the early 2000s, and first taught here about 13 years ago at the then-Naval Aviation Depot North Island (NADEP).

AIRSpeed, itself, has not changed. But the way it’s used, and its perception at FRCSW has:

In the past, Brown said, people were having AIRSpeed “done to them.”

“An AIRSpeed team would come out to a work center and tape out production areas. Now the whole point is project management. AIRSpeed is used to find out what the customer thinks his problem is, and then dissecting that to see what is causing it,” Hernandez said.

“People simply see the issues in front of them. They don’t know what caused them, they just know they’re there.”

New employees learn the value the command places in AIRSpeed within their first 90 days of reporting here, as they are required to attend “Yellow Belt,” or basic skills AIRSpeed training.

The course covers the process improvement tools of “Lean,” or identifying waste (time, material, etc.) in a production process and developing remedies to find efficiencies and reduce time, and Six Sigma which strives to improve production and services by eliminating variation in a process.

During Yellow Belt training, employees move through production areas to see examples of existing and previous AIRSpeed projects and applications. Training is augmented by charts, explanatory digitals and films, Hernandez said.

“By going on the floor and then showing them the films, it clicks better. We’ve seen a difference especially with the last class, they got it a lot faster; so visual representation, and instruction along with film gets them to the `Green Belt,’” he said.

The Green Belt course is one-week long and is the intermediate level of AIRSpeed. It teaches the Theory of Constraints which is used to identify restrictions to processes, and targets eliminating organizational conflicts to optimize a system flow.

Green Belt training, unlike Yellow Belt, is not required by the command. Instead, employees must request the training through their supervisors and have a definitive problem or project they wish to address.

Participants receive hands-on training and learn the sequences of AIRSpeed to resolve and conclude the project.

“Once people start understanding the methodology and how to look for issues, they start looking below the surface for the root causes that are causing problems,” Brown said. “What was done in the past was just band aids put on the problems, but we show them how to get to the root cause, and how to mitigate that to eliminate it. This is essential to project management.”

“If you know what it is you’re going to fix and what causes it, then you have to know how to manage it,” Hernandez noted.

Concentrating their efforts within the F/A-18 Hornet production line in the Building 94 hangar, Hernandez and Brown cited the Hornet fuel cell shop as an example of how a Green Belt project resolved production barriers and improved readiness.

Because there was no established schedule for them, the shop’s artisans had to wait when servicing the fuel cells that are located behind the cockpit on top of the aircraft. Only the hours to perform the work were allotted.

“If you don’t schedule a process to be done and give it the time it needs and it’s spread all through the overhaul of the aircraft, the continuity or the loss of continuity could cause something to be missed,” Hernandez said.

Fuel cell personnel must be finished with the aircraft before it continues through assembly. Power runs, checks and operations are not possible with an artisan working in the cell.

To remedy the issue, a work schedule was set and other improvements within the shop were made.

“We have a schedule of 14 days now to complete work on the five fuel cells in the legacy Hornets. And we have our own designated area for installation that includes storage,” said Vidal Nuno, fuel cell work leader and one of the Green Belt project participants.

“We also received new fuel stands about eight months ago which don’t require harnesses, and one more set is on order,” he added.

Prior to their relocation to the hangar floor, the shop was located in the building’s mezzanine. Artisans had to walk seven to 10 miles a day to carry their gear to aircraft work sites. It now takes them about 40 steps to gather what they need.

“Anytime you have to walk to do something it’s a waste because it’s taking time away from doing your job,” Brown said. “When you walk a process that someone says takes about 10 minutes to do, you often find they may stop to get a tool they need, or stop to get rags or hazmat, and it can turn into an hour. This is what we look to mitigate.”

Meanwhile, the mezzanine has been converted to the shop’s kitting area.

“Material storage cages are used in the kitting area. Before, the shop couldn’t pull its inventory. Now they know exactly what they’re supposed to have, can track it, and when they are supposed to have it by compartment on the aircraft,” Hernandez said.

Artisans enter the fuel cell through a 17-by-12-inch hatch where they remove and install the fuel bladder and work among the cell’s components.

“Parts that are removed have to be dispositioned. They go through an evaluator and examination (E & E) to determine if they can go directly to kitting, or are good but in need of slight repair, or if they need to be scrapped out and a new replacement part ordered,” Hernandez said.

The recent addition of E&E and production control personnel have significantly increased the efficiency within the kitting area and the shop’s timeliness in meeting other requirements, Nuno noted.

Procedure turn-around time (TAT) is another factor commonly evaluated through an AIRSpeed project.

“With TAT we are looking at time available divided by customer demand. That gives us an idea of how much time we have to work on something,” Brown said.

TAT also serves in determining work center staffing requirements based upon the number of people needed to complete a procedure in an allotted amount time.

If or when a process fails, it may usually be attributed to either training, communication or accountability, Brown noted.

“We continuously validate the processes to make sure they are still working. That’s part of the continuous process improvement, because the Theory of Constraints (restrictions to processes) will always move. Theory of Constraints works well in a manufacturing environment, but here, because we have different configurations of aircraft, we have different requirements like a Planned Maintenance Interval 1 and 2, so it depends on the hours on the aircraft,” he said.

Though AIRSpeed is the vehicle to efficiency in program readiness, the changing culture of the FRCSW work force is the catalyst to its implementation.

“The biggest change I’ve seen in this group (F-18) and others is the ability to walk them through an area in work or completed in work and let them ask the questions: `how, why, when, who, where and what,’ and then show them through the training how it all connects,” Hernandez said.

“There are cultural barriers, but what makes this program successful for the F-18 is that Marty and I are out there all of the time, and now that the work force knows we are there to help them, someone may stop us and say, `Hey, I’ve got an idea,’ whereas that really wasn’t happening before,” Brown said.

“People are seeing the value in the training and we pack a class of 30 people every session for the Yellow Belt, and we have people waiting to get in to the Green Belt training,” he added.



FRCSW Empolyee Celebrates 30 Years of Service

                                                    FA-18 IPT Military Lead Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Vernallis and FA-18 testline supervisor Jesus Padilla present aircraft examiner Nick Onners, left, with a 30-year pin for recognition of his service to FRCSW and the United States Military.

NAVAIR Engineers Win 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge

Materials engineers Andrea Boxell and Justin Massey, right, are joined by Deputy Commander Fleet Readiness Centers Martin Ahmad as they receive the 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge award during the DOD Maintenance Symposium Dec. 5 in Salt Lake City. Massey and Boxell, along with NAVAIR materials engineer Rob Thompson, won the award for their work with the Diffuse Reflectance Infared Fourier Transform (DRIFT) portable spectrometer, a Non-destructive Inspection (NDI) tool that detects chemical changes to composite materials that have been exposed to excessive heat.

FRCSW HRO Attends Artisan Recruiting Drive

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest human resources specialists Jeanette Cortez, left, and Hannah Nickless attend an artisan recruiting drive Nov. 30 at the Scottish Rite Center in San Diego. The drive is part of Naval Air Systems Command’s efforts to replenish its workforce throughout the Fleet Readiness Center domain.

FRCSW Earns FY 2017 SECNAV Platinum Level Energy Award

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) has earned the Secretary of the Navy’s (SECNAV) Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Energy and Water Management Platinum Level Award for FY 2016 environmental accomplishments.

Presented annually and divided into 15 major categories (10 shore and five ship) the SECNAV award is the highest level of recognition within the Navy’s energy programs.

FRCSW’s efforts recognized by the “Platinum” level category designate “… an outstanding energy program and an exceptional year for energy project execution.”

Three shore-based commands, including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and four ships joined FRCSW in the “Platinum” level of accomplishment.

One measure of a successful energy conservation program is by meeting compliance with executive order 13423 (EO 13423). Signed in January 2007, EO 13423 directs federal agencies to improve energy efficiencies by reducing water consumption, electricity usage and greenhouse gases by three percent per year.

The new executive order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, started in the beginning of FY16 which created the new baseline of FY15 and a yearly energy reduction of 2.5% moving forward to FY2025.

Investing more than $42 million in energy reduction projects since FY 2012 to FY 2016, FRCSW managed a 28 percent reduction in energy consumption, and a drop in energy intensity by 32.91 British Thermal Units (MMBTU)/thousand square feet (KSF) MMBTU/KSF.

MMBTU is an energy measurement for steam, electricity or natural gas.

During the same fiscal four-year period, water consumption was reduced by 21.7 percent, and water intensity by 2.48 thousand gallons (KGAL/KSF).

FRCSW uses an index of energy consumption called “energy intensity,” which is based on BTUs, vice industrial floor space.

A similar index, called “water intensity” is used to measure thousands of gallons of water instead of industrial square feet.

The command’s Building Energy Monitor (BEM) Program promotes energy awareness not only on the work floor, but throughout all levels of management.

FRCSW has 12 BEMs who monitor energy systems in their respective buildings.

Metering data is graphed and distributed to FRCSW managers and BEMs monthly.

Funding for FRCSW’s energy programs originate through various sources including utility Energy Service Contracts (UESC) and Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC).

Authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, UESCs are a limited-source contract between a federal agency and its serving utility for energy and water efficiency improvements and demand-reduction services.

An ESPC enables federal agencies to partnership with energy service companies to achieve reduction goals or create improvements to existing energy systems.

FRCSW has a current $24 million ESPC that targeted LED lighting retrofits in nine buildings, decentralization of compressed air, HVAC retrofits to two different calibrations labs, zero-bleed cooling towers, and water conservation steam mixing valves at multiple wash racks.

The contract also includes operations and maintenance of the equipment installed for 14 years which will help sustain the equipment to its maximum lifespan.

Furthermore, the command is forming a second ESPC to decentralize all buildings from base steam. Steam boilers will be used for industrial process buildings, while the remaining buildings will be converted from steam to heating hot water boilers, gas fired unit heaters, or heat pumps.

Natural gas will be supplied by a new Navy-owned gas main.

In other cost saving initiatives, FRCSW disabled steam to roof top air handlers in Building 472 resulting in approximately $500,000 in annual savings, and by reducing winter irrigation at Building C-100 more than $6,800 will be saved annually.







FRCSW Selects Hollie Shaw for Nov 2017 Golden Wrench Award

                                                                                   Fleet Readiness Center Southwest Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents the November 2017 Golden Wrench Award to technical data writer Hollie Shaw. Shaw was recognized with the award for her work within the F/A-18 and EA-18G Technical Data Team where she identified all technical publication deficiency reports on more than 1,200 Naval Air Technical manuals, including their status within the process and the required engineering. She completed the task in days — well ahead of the anticipated schedule —- enabling the technical data team to formally incorporate hundreds of backlogged technical publication deficiency reports which are currently being delivered to the Fleet.

DRIFT NDI Method Used to Evaluate MV-22 Wing

Materials engineer technician Steve Pacheco uses the DRIFT portable spectrometer to determine if the wing of a legacy F/A-18 sustained any heat damage. DRIFT is a Non-destructive Inspection (NDI) tool that detects chemical changes to composite materials that have been exposed to excessive heat. Photo by Jim Markle


An assignment to access the integrity of an MV-22 Osprey wing at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina earlier this year resulted in the validation of a non-destructive inspection (NDI) method that stands to save the Navy and Marine Corps millions of dollars in maintenance and repairs to the primarily composite-based airframe.
“The Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform (DRIFT) is a portable spectrometer that can determine if a composite is heat damaged. We developed it to serve that purpose,” said Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) materials engineer Justin Massey.
“It was originally invented for geological surveys, then we (modified) it with the help of Boeing to determine chemical changes in composite materials to find out if they are heat damaged or not.”
The handheld DRIFT detects chemical changes, such as those induced by heat, to composites on a molecular level. Weaken or damaged composites typically result in cracks or de-laminates to the component.
“Boeing initially developed DRIFT for its 787 platform. Our team lead, Ed Harris, came up with the idea of developing it for the F/A-18. The development period was from 2012-2015, and it was officially adopted as an inspection method by NAVAIR in 2015 where it has been used on the F/A-18,” Massey said.
The DRIFT NDI procedure was qualified by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) in 2015 to detect heat damage in F/A-18 composites using an Agilent Flexscan 4200 spectrometer.
The following year, a national team that included staff from FRCSW, FRC Southeast, FRC East, and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) was assembled to modify the DRIFT NDI for use on other airframes, including the V-22 Osprey.
“With the national team, we took this technology and developed it for the V-22. It usually takes about two to three years to do something like this, but we got it done in two months to be able to inspect the V-22 wing (at MCAS New River),” Massey said.
“The wing was thermally damaged from an engine fire, and there was no inspection technique to determine if it could be saved or not.”
Massey and NAVAIR materials engineer technician Steve Pacheco were joined by FRC East materials engineers Rob Thompson and Andrea Boxell, and with the help of the materials group and Fleet Support Team at Cherry Point, completed inspections and assessments on the V-22 wing after two days.
“This was a onetime deal in that we got authorized through their program office,” Pacheco said. “It was an emergency because the aircraft was taking up an entire hangar bay, so they needed to know if they could fix it and fly it again, or part it out.”
The wing was recoverable, saving approximately $10-$12 million in replacement costs.
“We’ve already saved about $20 million in aircraft parts over the past few years,” Pacheco said.
The DRIFT spectrometer cost about $60,000, and development costs were approximately $400,000.
“Composites are high value assets, and the return on investment is relatively quick on this kind of technology,” Massey noted.
“Prior to the development of DRIFT, visual inspections and standard NDI methods were used on composite parts. Generally, if the paint showed any discoloration, it was the removal and replacement of the part under analysis. Which is what would have happened on this V-22,” Massey said.
“We’re currently the only branch in the military that can detect heat damage on composites,” he said. “We see this use expanding to every aircraft that has composites. People have reached out to us from the Air Force, to the Army and the prime contractors. Everyone has caught wind of this and wants to know how to get this for their aircraft.”
A joint project by Massey, Thompson and Boxell entitled “The Use of DRIFT for Composite Heat Damage Evaluation of the V-22 Wing,” was submitted to the 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge. It is one of six finalists from a field of 77 submissions. A winner will be selected at the DOD Maintenance Symposium in Salt Lake City Dec. 5.