FRCSW Names FY 2017 Civilian of the Year

FRCSW Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents Financial Management Analyst Aaron Vivar with the command’s 2017 Civilian of the Year and Civilian of the Quarter Award (3nd quarter) Feb. 23 in Building 94. Photo by Scott Janes

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.

FRCSW Test Line: Ensuring Quality Aircraft to the Fleet

Electrician Dana Joygrimley makes adjustments to a legacy F/A-18 flight control computer at the FRCSW Test Line. Photo by Jim Markle

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.

FRCSW Welcomes Honor Flight Vets

FRCSW teammates are joined by veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam Feb. 13 outside of Building 94. The veterans toured FRCSW facilities thanks to the Honor Flight Network, a non-profit organization founded in 2005 which provides transportation as a means to honor our nation’s veterans so they may visit points of interest including memorials that recognize their service to the country.

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.