frc east

F35 Rapid Response Team Mechanics Prepared to Deploy

January 08, 2020

 
Photo of FRC East F-35 repair team

By Heather Wilburn, FRC East

CHERRY POINT — When issues arise with an F-35 Lightning II, a team of highly skilled aircraft maintenance professionals stands ready to rise to the challenge and get the jet back in the fight.

Whether the aircraft requires in-service repair or battle damage needs mending, the F-35 Rapid Response Team is ready to pack up and go, according to a recent release from Fleet Readiness Center East.

“Anything that happens outside the depot – for the Navy, Marines or Air Force – anywhere around the world, they call us and we can deploy these RRT team members at a moment’s notice. We go out to wherever that site may be and perform that repair,” said David Thorpe, F-35 branch head at FRC-East, where the team is headquartered.

The RRT consists of expert, cross-trained artisans who hold journey-level, expert status in at least one trade, and no lower than skilled, worker-level status in others. Having team members with multiple skill sets allows for flexibility when determining which configuration of the team to deploy, Mr. Thorpe said.

“The F-35 Rapid Response Team is like a maintenance and repair special operations force,” he explained. “The concept is that we can send fewer people and they can help each other do the work.”

The flexible configuration means the team can pick and choose which artisans to deploy to a mission, based on what the technical requirements will be. Some jobs require more expertise in certain trades than others. For example, a recent RRT mission to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., called for a dedicated low observable coating technician and a painter. Those skills sets aren’t required for every mission but were necessary in this instance because the repair required high expertise in reapplying the coating.

“Sometimes the team is not just the airframer, sheet metal mechanic and electrician. Sometimes we send the painter, or the LO technician,” Mr. Thorpe said. “We also have quality assurance specialists who are ready to go when depot-level quality needs are required to incorporate the repair and sign it off.”

Richard Lee Stiver Jr., an RRT airframes mechanic, agrees cross-training plays a large role in the team’s success.

“You have to know the airplane,” he said. “I’m airframes, sheet metal, and LO-qualified. We have to have the drive and understanding to do the things we’re tasked to do, and we also have to be able to retain the knowledge from all the trades across the board that we need to know. That plays a huge role in our success as a team: knowing each other’s jobs, and the ability for us to work together.”

The recent mission to Edwards involved a repair in a location that presented accessibility challenges and therefore also required expertise in low observable coating and paint restoration. The team had to remove a large panel from the aircraft in order to complete the repair – a panel that was not designed for removal under normal maintenance action, Mr. Thorpe said.

“A lot had to work in concert to get that aircraft back to a mission-capable status. We’ve got a lot of experience in taking off these big panels and putting them back down, but there are often complications involved in that,” he said of the repair, which involved an aircraft in the F-35 initial testing, operation and evaluation program with Navy Test and Evaluation Squadron 9, Det. Edwards.

“There were a lot of unknowns, because this particular skin removal hadn’t been done previously, but we were able to get the job done without many complications,” Mr. Thorpe continued. Engineers supply the team with the appropriate technical data prior to the mission, and that provides a solid jumping-off point; however, work doesn’t always go as planned, especially with first-time repairs.

“We ran into hiccups, just like with anything that’s never been done before, and we worked through them,” he said. “It was pretty difficult, but we wanted to keep our foot on the gas. Our team worked long hours and weekends to produce a quality product, safely and as quickly as possible, to support the warfighter and meet the mission – and we got really good reviews on the finished product.”

The unknowns of each mission are part of what drives the team to work harder, Mr. Stiver added.

“Not knowing what you’re getting into, and being able to push through it, stand back at the end and say, ‘That was a good time,’ is one of the most rewarding aspects of the job,” he said. “This feels a lot better than going somewhere for 30 days and doing a mundane fix. We thrive on the challenge.”

Source: CarolinaCoastOnline.com

 

GOVERNOR ROY COOPER TOURS MCAS CHERRY POINT AND FRC EAST

November 13, 2019

 

From Carteret County News-Times
November 12, 2019

CHERRY POINT — Gov. Roy Cooper paid his first visit as governor to Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to tour the depot’s facility and discuss workforce development Tuesday.

FRC East is the maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider for Marine and naval aircraft aboard Cherry Point. With around 4,200 employees, it is the largest industrial employer in the region, generating more than $720 million in annual revenue.

As part of his tour of the facility, Gov. Cooper met members of FRC East’s first class of apprentices under the National Apprenticeship Program. The four-year program, which welcomed about 40 apprentices in August, offers participants a combination of education and on-the-job training. The apprentices receive free schooling and work as full-time federal employees with pay and benefits, and will be offered jobs at FRC East upon successful completion of the program.

“Some of them (apprentices) are veterans who retired and decided that they want to come back and do this kind of work. There are people who just graduated from high school and are working in an apprenticeship to get the kind of credentials that they need for a good paying job,” Gov. Cooper said during his tour Tuesday. “I’ve talked to people who started out here as artisans and have worked their way up to managing a lot of employees, so there’s clearly opportunity for advancement here, and I think there’s a lot of pride in the work that they do because of the importance of it, but also they’re grateful to get this kind of training that gives them the support they need for their families.”

John Olmstead, public affairs officer for FRC East, said if the first year of the apprenticeship program proves successful, the depot will consider continuing it in future years. More than 380 applicants vied for 40 spots in the program, and 37 apprentices are now receiving education and training.

The governor spoke highly of FRC East, especially as it relates to job creation and supporting economic development in eastern North Carolina.

“This is a hidden gem in eastern North Carolina for good jobs for everyday people,” he said. “…These are the kind of jobs we want North Carolina families to have, where you can make a good living. But it also requires some expertise, and this is why we’ve got to continue to invest in education across our state, because making sure that this workforce is ready, not only for commerce in our area, but this workforce is ready to defend our country. That is critical, and it’s exciting the work that’s been done here.”

Calee Holmes is one of the participants in the National Apprenticeship Program and said the fact Gov. Cooper has taken an interest in FRC East validates the work she and her fellow apprentices do aboard the air station.

“It makes me feel great that I’ve made it this far and that people are actually appreciating what we do,” she said. “…We’re being taught a trade that, unless you’ve been in the military, you’re not going to learn, so me being a stay-at-home mom and being brought out here and being taught from the ground up is unbelievable.”

Gov. Cooper also spoke on the state’s recent investment of $5 million for development of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft at Cherry Point. The F-35 is the military’s next-generation fighter aircraft with three distinct variants, and FRC East is the primary repair and maintenance depot for the F-35B variant. It can also service the A and C variants, and last year, FRC East achieved a milestone when it serviced and returned all three variants of the aircraft.

“I was a strong supporter of that effort for the state of North Carolina to come in and to provide funding because we needed to close the gap and make sure that it was happening here in North Carolina,” Gov. Cooper said. “I think you’re going to see the rest of the country, also private business, looking to FRC East to provide help for them. They know they can get great work here done on time, so I think having this facility here, it’s a small price to pay for what we’re getting back in economic investment in eastern North Carolina.”

Gov. Cooper said he is proud of the state’s role in national defense and he hopes to continue to support the work FRC East does to further that mission.

“To make sure that this is a successful endeavor, that we have one of the best places in the country for repair and renovation of aircraft and that we are ready as a country to defend our people and that North Carolina can play such a big part in that,” he said. “We are indeed the most military friendly state in the country, and we are going to do everything we can to uphold that reputation.”

 

OSHA recognizes safety excellence at FRCE with VPP Star Site designation

October 11, 2019

 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. —

OSHA recognizes safety excellence at FRCE with VPP Star Site designation

FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto, second from right; FRCE Executive Officer Col. Thomas A. Atkinson, right; Compliance and Quality Director Amy Morgan, second from left; and Acting Safety Director Brian Snow, left, proudly display a VPP Star Site banner designed to congratulate FRCE for the achievement. (Photo by John Olmstead, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs)

Fleet Readiness Center East’s commitment to safety has earned the depot designation as a Star Site in the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). The recognition makes FRCE one of fewer than 60 facilities across the entire Department of Defense to hold Star Site status, and the only Naval Air Systems Command facility to earn the distinction.

“This achievement reflects the commitment of the entire FRC East team to safety in our workplace,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark E. Nieto. “We are now part of an elite group of organizations that set an exemplary standard for occupational safety and health protection that serve as role models for safety management.”

An OSHA VPP team recommended the depot’s VPP Application Areas Charlie and Golf for the OSHA Star Site designation following a rigorous evaluation in March. Inspectors rated FRC East on 133 criteria in four subject areas: hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; safety and health training; and management commitment and worker involvement.

The five-day evaluation started with a review of the FRCE’s safety management system, after which the VPP team conducted employee interviews with 10 percent of the application areas’ workforce population. Following the evaluation, inspectors submitted their recommendation for Star Site status to the OSHA Regional Administrator’s Office in Atlanta, which concurred the evaluation was successful and sent the report for approval to the Labor Department in Washington, D.C.

“This has occurred due to all members of FRC East pulling together to improve safety across the command. Nearly a decade of sustained, focused work has gone into leading to this achievement,” said FRCE Compliance and Quality Director Amy Morgan. “It has not been easy nor fast, but it has made a tremendous difference in the workplace for all our FRC East employees in that they have a safer, cleaner workplace in which to produce critical Navy and Marine Corps aviation products to support fleet readiness.”

Achieving Star Site status at application areas Charlie and Golf gives FRCE a new goal: broadening that status to include all nine VPP application areas at the depot, which was too large to apply for Star Site status as a single entity. The command qualifies for Star Site status as a whole, but OSHA had to separate the facility into application areas to make the review process manageable.

“Earning this recognition is not the end of our journey to safety excellence,” Nieto said. “We must continue to maintain the high standards we have established and look for ways to continuously improve safety at FRC East. Our goal is to also get the other application areas of the command to the same level, so that we can bring the evaluation team back and achieve the same results for the remaining areas.”

“We can’t let up. We have to keep our foot on the gas,” Morgan agreed. “Historically, the press has been on production, on turning out more product – but when you get in a rush and you hurry, you get hurt. With new initiatives focusing on increasing production throughput, we have to be more aware than ever. We cannot take the focus off safety.”

OSHA approves qualified VPP sites to one of three programs: Star, Merit or Demonstration. Star Sites, the highest ranking, excel at hazard prevention and control, and have successfully implemented a health and safety management system. Star Site status is not just about achieving the standard – it represents an organization greatly exceeding the standard. On average, a VPP Star Site has maintained a days away, restricted or transferred (DART) case rate 52 percent below the industry average for at least three consecutive years.

At its core, VPP promotes effective worksite safety and health. The program recognizes employers and workers who have implemented effective safety and health management systems and maintain injury and illness rates below average for their industries, with average defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

FRCE began participation in VPP in 2010, with three goals: reducing workplace injuries, improving perception of the depot’s safety systems among leadership, and creating a safe workplace with improved quality of life for all of the organization’s employees.

“I think VPP has created a cultural change. People are much more conscientious and aware, and more likely to think before taking action,” Morgan said. “This program has been a huge success, because it engaged everyone to participate and they had ways to communicate concerns that they didn’t have before.”

Under Voluntary Protection Program, management, labor and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses through a four-pillar system. Success depends on the ability to effectively demonstrate hazard prevention and control; worksite analysis; training; and management commitment and worker involvement. VPP encourages efforts to reduce the number of occupational safety and health hazards at a site, and spurs sites to perfect existing health and safety programs while finding new ways to provide safe and healthful working conditions.

“I attribute our success to a combination of things implemented over the last decade,” Morgan said. “The first would be top leadership’s commitment to make a change with FRC East’s safety culture, in order to make the workplace safer and reduce injuries. Command leadership has had a strong presence, speaking to the importance of safety, walking the talk, and financially supporting changes made to large safety programs within the command.”

The command’s positive record of accomplishment is a testament to the depot’s long-standing commitment to safety. In 2018, FRCE received the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Safety Award in the Large Industrial Activity category – the Navy’s top safety award – which recognizes commands with the best overall command safety programs. The North Carolina Department of Labor recognized FRCE in both 2017 and 2018 with Gold Awards and Million Hour Awards for maintaining a DART rate at least 50 percent below the industry standard, and also for accumulating multiple increments of 1 million employee work hours with no injuries or illnesses involving days away from work.

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(from Navair.navy.mil)

 

FRCE helps Marines boost readiness with composite repair course

September 24, 2019

 
Marines at repair course at FRC East Cherry Point, NC

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C.

A training program recently offered at Fleet Readiness Center East prepared service members to make aircraft and component repairs at the squadron level, which will increase flight-line readiness by reducing aircraft downtime.

Five Marines graduated from the Cross Platform Advanced Composite Repair course, a three-week program led by trainers at FRCE. These Marines now have the ability make local repairs and modifications to aircraft components made of composite materials – advanced materials used on newer aircraft that are lighter and stronger than metals – rather than having to send the parts or aircraft back to a depot for service. This on-site capability speeds up the repair process, which keeps more aircraft ready for the nation’s warfighters.

“We’re increasing fleet readiness,” said Charles Taylor, the composite fabricator training leader at FRCE. “The Marines who come through this class have a better understanding of exactly what goes into a structural composite repair. The class gets them more comfortable with the process, thus improving the quality of repairs they do.”

“It’s going to be very useful, because 90 percent of the material we use on the new aircraft are all composites, whether it be fiberglass or carbon fiber. It’s the future,” added Staff Sgt. Christopher Bruns, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. “As long as we have the materials with us at the (squadron) level, we can get the repairs done more efficiently, using the knowledge we just learned, and get the birds back in the fight.”

Organizational-level maintenance, performed by operating units, includes repairs and minor adjustments that do not require shop facilities, or the removal or installation of components. Because advanced composite repair addressed subjects and skills not taught in the basic course, graduates will be able to complete more repairs at the O-level, Taylor explained.

“The previous class covered basic fiberglass, and filling and drilling holes,” Taylor said. “This course covers a wider range of composite repairs on multiple aircraft.”

Students spend a week reviewing the essentials of composite repairs, including facility requirements, tools, and fasteners, and key repair methods. Once the students have refreshed their basic composite skills, they spend the next two weeks learning to perform double vacuum debulk repairs on V-22 and F-18 aircraft. The Navy developed the technique as a way to strengthen composite materials by removing air during the curing process.

“The biggest challenge in composite repair is how to get the air out of the material to make it stronger,” said Rob Thompson, a materials engineer specializing in composites at FRCE. “There are a bunch of different techniques for doing this, but the double vacuum debulk process is unique because it can be done out in the fleet without having some of the specialized equipment we have at the depot.”

It’s important to have these advanced repair capabilities available in the field because construction of the fleet’s newer aircraft relies heavily on composite materials. Functional components like those in the engine or gearbox aren’t likely to be made of composites, but the materials are widely uses in aircraft structures.

“On the V-22, most of the exterior of the aircraft is composite,” Thompson said. “Some of the structural pieces inside are composite, the rotor blades are composite – any part of the aircraft that’s carrying a load can be composite. If it’s not moving on the aircraft, there’s a good chance it’s made of a composite.”

The most common composite repairs include patching holes in an aircraft fuselage and fixing chafing or chipping damage on the edge of an exterior component. The techniques learned by the students can be applied to any aircraft component made of a composite material.

The wide range of topics covered means the training can seem difficult, but the varied curriculum makes the course especially beneficial, said Lance Cpl. Joseph Pascale, assigned to Marine Attack Squadron 542 at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.

“I learned how to do all sorts of repairs that, up until now, I had no experience with,” he said. “Some of what we covered is stuff we don’t see all the time, so it’s harder to find a situation in which we’d get on-the-job training for that. By doing it here, when the situation comes up, we’re ready for it.”

Providing hands-on experience is important, because it ensures there’s someone ready and able to complete these types of repairs, Taylor explained. The additional experience also increases the quality of the repairs, which boosts aviation readiness.

Fleet Readiness Center East provides depot-level maintenance in support of Naval and Marine Corps aviation. Depot-level maintenance at industrial facilities like FRCE supports the O-level and intermediate-level activities by providing engineering support and performing maintenance that is beyond the capabilities of the lower levels.

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot serves as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(from Navair.navy.mil)

 

New F-35 Modification Facility Brings Strategic Capability to Fleet Readiness Center East

August 22, 2019

 
Laser Shock Peening Facility at FRC East.

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — A recently-completed facility will bring a new strategic capability to Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) and the F-35B Lightning aircraft line next year. When the new F-35 laser shock peening facility is fully operational in 2020, FRCE will be one of two sites in the world that will use laser technology to strengthen F-35 structural components.

Construction of the $6 million facility wrapped in July, and the contractor providing the laser shock peening service will take occupancy in early spring, said Donald Jeter, portfolio manager of the F-35 aircraft line at FRCE. Under that timeline, the first F-35 aircraft inducted for laser shock peening would arrive in June to undergo the validation and verification process, and then the depot will begin work on the remainder of the F-35 fleet that requires the laser shock peening modification.

“This facility is a big get for Fleet Readiness Center East,” Jeter said. “It’s very exciting. Being able to perform this laser shock peening process adds a huge strategic capability to our depot. With it, we’ll be able to provide a critical support element to the F-35B program and act as a force multiplier for the fleet and the warfighter.”

The 16,000-square-foot facility comprises two bays, where the actual laser shock peening process will take place, and a connected area that will house the laser generator. The state-of-the-art laser shock peening process will allow FRCE to conduct heavy structure modifications that will strengthen areas of the F-35’s airframe without disassembling the entire aircraft, said Matthew Crisp, the F-35 Joint Program Office site lead at FRCE.

The process strengthens designs without adding additional metal or weight, which increases the aircraft’s life and reduces maintenance costs. It has been used on the F-22 Raptor and in manufacturing aircraft components including engine blades, Crisp said, but has never been employed for the F-35. Now, FRCE will use the technology to help Marine Corps aircraft reach their full life limit.

Aircraft maintenance professionals at FRCE will conduct prep work and some structural modification on the F-35s inducted into the depot, then turn them over to the contractor running the laser shock peening operations. The contractor will complete the process to strengthen the bulkheads and airframes, and FRCE will put the jets back together, perform all the flight test functions and get them back out to the fleet, Jeter said. The end result is aircraft that have been reinforced without adding additional weight, which would reduce the fighter’s capabilities by limiting its fuel or weapons carrying capacity.

Shot peening is not a new process, Crisp said, but laser shock peening is unique in that it produces a uniform result across the surface being treated. In laser shock peening, the surface of the media is first coated with an ablative layer and covered with a water tamping layer. A high-energy laser beam is fired at the metal, which creates an area of plasma on the metal’s surface. The impact creates a shock wave, which travels through the metal, and compressive residual stresses remain. This compression helps improve the metal’s damage tolerance, fatigue life and strength.

“(Shot peening) has been done for decades,” he explained. “It’s where you take a solid media, like glass beads or some kind of metal, and you hit the surface of an item – kind of like sandblasting. You just randomly throw it at the surface, and it creates all these surface dimples. What you get is a very inconsistent surface profile, because it’s not controlled.”

With laser shock peening, the process is very controlled, Crisp said.

“They create a laser beam that’s actually square, and the intensity is consistent across the entire laser beam – it’s the exact same at the very edge of the beam as it is in the middle,” he said. “They come up with a grid pattern and stack the squares up right beside each other, so the entire surface of the part is completely uniform. You don’t have the weak spots in between these areas that would then induce cracking later.”

Jeter said he expects laser shock peening to be a main focus of the F-35 line for the next four to five years. Once the first two aircraft have undergone the validation and verification process, it will be a sprint to the finish to complete modifications on the remainder of the F-35B fleet that requires this treatment.

“After that val/ver event, the aircraft will basically be nose-to-tail,” Crisp added. “We’ll completely fill every aircraft stall that’s here, and for the next five years, when one leaves another will come in. That’s critical, because this process has to be done on every single airplane that requires it.”

The workload does not include every F-35 ever produced, although it does include B and C models, and also encompasses F-35 aircraft owned by partner nations. FRCE will focus solely on the B variant, while Ogden Air Force Base in Utah will work on the F-35C models and take any F-35B overflow.

After the first round of laser shock peening modifications, what comes after that is still to be determined, Crisp said.

“I’m sure there will be some follow-on work,” he said. “And beyond the F-35 program, this is a little bit exciting, because this really is cutting-edge technology and we have it here at FRCE. I think maybe within the engineering community here, as people find out more about it, they may open additional discussions about how we could implement this on other aircraft lines. We might find a future capability we want to look at.”

FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,200 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $720 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and Naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

(source: www.dividshub.net)