frc east

COVID-19 Update from ACT Board President

March 27, 2020


We want you to know that ACT and its professional team continue to press hard for Cherry Point. The Air Station and FRC East have been the subject of several conference calls and discussions with Congressional staff and local leaders over the last ten days.

1. The latest federal COVID relief bill, what the media and politicians are calling the CARES Act, should be signed by the President later today. It is a huge 880 page, $2.2 TRILLION package with something for most everyone. For our purposes right now, we are focusing on how it impacts the Defense Department and military contractors.

a. Representative Mac Thornberry, former Chair of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), current senior Republican on the HASC, and friend to ACT said about the CARES Act: “This stimulus package includes provisions important to our men and women in uniform and their families. It pro-vides re-sources vital to the Military’s efforts to assist in pandemic response around the country, from deploying hospital ships to the search for a vaccine. It also provides resources needed to care for those in the military community who are infected with COVID-19. We need to give our military the resources it needs to get on with their important work.”

2. MCAS Cherry Point Slocum and Main gates remain open. However, additional ID checks are being conducted along with strict enforcement of military and retired access only to the commissary; most gathering spots are closed. All visits to base should be limited to an essential purpose. The message from the USMC is to protect our Marines from COVID-19 so they can train and do their duty.

3. FRC East remains fully operational. Those who can telework are doing so, but most employees are on the job in the FRC East buildings. Supporting the warfighter remains their top priority and so far COVID has not stopped their mission.

Please continue to follow CDC guidelines and adhere to any guidance issued by federal, state and local authorities as they are implemented for the health and safety of our community.


Will Lewis
ACT Board President


FRCE to Begin Accepting Applicants for Paid Apprenticeship Program

March 16, 2020

Members of FRC East's 2019 apprenticeship program attend class at Craven Community College
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) will begin accepting applications for the Naval Air Systems Command National Apprenticeship Program Mar. 16.

“We’re excited to offer our community this opportunity to build a stable and meaningful career,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieto. “The program benefits the community and allows FRCE to strategically plan our future workforce. This is a chance for people to learn a skilled trade, contribute to the defense of our country and get paid while they do it.”

This unique work-study program offers participants the opportunity to work as full-time federal employees, receiving pay and benefits, as they pursue a combination of education and on-the-job training. Tuition is paid by FRCE. Apprentices will learn and work in FRCE’s production department, training in trades including machinist, pneudraulics, sheet metal, and aircraft mechanical parts repairer.

Those who successfully complete the four-year program will earn an academic certificate, trade theory certificate and certification recognized by the state of North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Labor. In return, they agree to provide the depot with two years of skilled labor.

To be considered for this opportunity, candidates must complete the application process on the USAJobs website (, for job announcement number DE-10736899-20-BSJ, and pass an assessment.  There are a limited number of available slots and registration closes Mar. 20.

For more information, contact FRCE Human Resource Office at 252-464-5865/8974/9992/5152 or email:

From Fleet Readiness Center Public Affairs


FRCE Produces H-53 Fitting to Fill Supply Gaps

February 03, 2020


By Heather Wilburn, FRC East Public Affairs
Feb 3, 2020

Model maker Chris McCoy, right, demonstrates to machinist apprentice Collin Grummert how to use a FaroArm coordinate measuring machine to verify the dimensions of a 522 fitting for an H-53 heavy-left helicopter. 

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (NNS) — When supply system shortfalls led to a work stoppage on two H-53 heavy-lift helicopters at Fleet Readiness Center East, the depot’s manufacturing and engineering teams stepped up to close the gap.

Manufacturing and material procurement issues prevented the helicopter’s original equipment manufacturer from producing the 522 fitting FRCE artisans needed to continue work on the aircraft, said David Rouse, an H-53 aircraft planner and estimator at the depot. The 522 fitting is vital to the function of the H-53 heavy lift helicopter; as one of the aircraft’s main structural supports, it carries the load for the helicopter’s tail and tail pylon – about 30 percent of its volume – during flight operations.

After several attempts to acquire the part through standard channels, the H-53 line turned to FRCE’s manufacturing branch for assistance – and the team came through. To date, they have completed one of the two fittings currently needed.

“These deficiencies would have driven the aircraft into long-term work stop, thus decreasing fleet readiness,” Rouse said. “To date, there has not been another manufacturer that has been successful in manufacturing the (fittings) within tolerances.

“The collaboration between FRCE’s Manufacturing and (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) Engineering branches continually provides resolutions to barriers, and workarounds when there are issues in the supply chain” he continued. “Their efforts here at FRCE have had a positive impact to H-53 readiness, and proves to the world that, in a time of need, FRCE and its teammates can make the impossible happen.”

Keith Linton, MRO Manufacturing branch head at FRCE, said his team often receives requests to manufacture parts. The request kicks off a process that involves a cross-disciplinary team of the depot’s artisans and engineers.

“The aircraft line will establish a need (for a) a fitting or a specialized part,” Linton explained. “If they can’t get it from Defense Logistics Agency or an outside source, they’ll contact our planning department and submit a request for us to manufacture the component. There are a number of steps in the manufacturing process, and with a critical safety item like this fitting, there are some additional measures to ensure the integrity of the part.”

Requests for parts that are not otherwise in high demand or are unique often get routed to MRO Manufacturing, Linton said, because they aren’t financially viable as products for commercial suppliers. Once the MRO Manufacturing Planning Department receives the request from the aircraft line, they start the process of procuring the necessary material; once that material comes in, a lab verifies its composition and it is prepped for usage. At the same time, the team begins working with engineers to verify the part’s model or drawings.

“Then it goes to the programmers, who write the program to manufacture the part, which gets sent down to the machine – in this case, the five-axis milling machine – and we begin the process of manufacturing the part,” Linton said.

Writing the program involves the transfer of the part’s measurements and specifications from the drawings into a computer-aided manufacturing file that assigns a tool path to the milling machine, which cuts the component out of a solid block of material.

“The program could take two to three weeks, sometimes a month, depending on how complicated the file is,” Linton said. “This 522 fitting is a pretty complex part.”

Once the file is transferred to the milling machine, the project becomes the property of the machinist, who sees it through until the milling is complete. While some parts have been turned around in as little as 24 hours, the complex 522 fitting took about 100 hours of milling time. That can mean long hours and weekend work for the machinists, and the team at FRCE always rises to the challenge, Linton said.

“A lot of people don’t know how much work these guys put into the parts, and how much they can sacrifice to get these parts done, so we can get the aircraft back in the fight,” he said. “They’re a dedicated team that really takes to heart their mission of supporting the fleet.”

Once the machining process is complete, it’s time to measure the resulting product to ensure it meets the standard. The machinists measure the product, and Quality Assurance conducts a round of measurements, as well.

“With a (unique) part like this, we machine it and hope it measures up when we get done,” Linton said. “Basically, we’re proving it out, and doing a prototype on the first run. If the first part isn’t correct, we have to make another one. We’ll go back in and make adjustments, make changes to the program.

“When we assign the tool path, there’s nothing guaranteeing you the machine is going to do exactly what we want it to,” he continued. “There are so many factors – different compositions of the metal, different tools, speed and feeds – and all these things can affect how the part gets machined.”

It usually takes at least one prove-out to get the part machined within acceptable tolerances, Linton explained. When the part is approved, that program is then used to manufacture others.

The machining process is just the first step in manufacturing a finished product. Once the machinist’s job is complete, the part goes through a litany of other steps that can include cleaning, non-destructive inspection, plating, paint, labeling and more. The entire process can take up to 200 hours of work.

“This part started as a block of aluminum. When it’s complete, it will have been through a team of artisans that put their work into it,” Linton said. “It’s not just go make me a part. It’s really involved – there is a lot of effort that goes into something like this fitting.”

For machinist apprentice Collin Grummert, assisting with the manufacture of the 522 fitting provided a unique learning opportunity.

“It’s my first time working on a part this complex,” he said. ““I’ve learned the step-by-step what goes along with these parts, with making them: roughing it out, making it, checking it, working with Quality Assurance and the engineers. I had a chance to learn about everybody that’s involved, and what goes along with it.”

Grummert works alongside Chris McCoy, the model maker responsible for shepherding the 522 fittings through the machining process. McCoy said there’s a prestige involved in being tasked with machining parts that are on the critical safety item list, and he’s proud to be able to step up for the fleet.

“Every little detail has to be just right. You’ve got to be on point, because if one of these parts fail, an aircraft could fail – that’s somebody’s life in your hands,” McCoy said. “There’s a big sense of pride and accomplishment that goes along with it. There’s really a satisfaction to it.”

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 $835 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.


FRC East Hosts First US Trials for New Cold Spray Tech

January 22, 2020


From Carteret County News-Times
Staff Report, January 22, 2020

Photo of cold spray technology demonstration at FRC East Cherry Point, NC

Jessica Templeton, left, a Naval Air Systems Command materials engineer at Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, and David Stricklin of Compass Systems inspect the finished product following the first U.S. trials of a new cold spray technology application, held in late 2019 at FRC East. (Heather Wilburn photo)

CHERRY POINT —  Fleet Readiness Center East recently hosted the first U.S. trials for a new cold spray technology application and saw promising results, program officials said. If approved, the technology would help reduce turnaround times and decrease costs for repairs that were previously not possible using existing, approved cold spray systems.

Naval Air Systems Command materials engineers with the Advanced Technology Team at FRC East, along with representatives of VRC Metals Systems, completed the first U.S. field demonstration of an on-aircraft structural repair using a mobile, autonomous cold spray metallization system at FRC East in late 2019. According to a release from the maintenance and repair depot, over the course of the two-day trials, the team completed an on-aircraft repair to the windowsill of a V-22 Osprey and also conducted an off-aircraft repair to a surplus H-1 skid tube.

“The system operated better than predicted,” said Frederick Lancaster, lead for the Cold Spray Metallization Integrated Product Team at Naval Air Systems Command. “(It) worked as planned at five sites, in five different climates, at five different times of the year. Once it was programmed, the system worked without human intervention, on aircraft, and worked faster and more precisely than a human.”

The cold spray process bonds metal to metal in a relatively low-heat environment in order to deposit a coating onto a surface, or substrate. Solid metal powders are accelerated through a heated gas and directed toward a metallic substrate; the moving particles impact the surface and embed in the substrate, forming a strong bond.

The repairs completed during the pilot were consistent with those made using a stationary cold spray system, Mr. Lancaster said. Once approved, the new, mobile system will support the on-site repair of aircraft materials and increased mission readiness through rapid turnaround.

“With this program, we’re looking to bring structural repair capabilities closer to the aircraft, so you don’t have to take an aircraft apart to repair it,” said Jessica Templeton, a NAVAIR materials engineer at FRC East. “The end goal is to take the most cost-effective way of making these repairs, and make them available at the lowest level possible.”

The team has targeted parts like aircraft skins – the outer surface covering much of the wings and fuselage – windowsills and areas on the tail as ideal candidates for repair without removal from the aircraft. Being able to repair parts to standard without major disassembly can lead to cost savings that are “pretty tremendous,” Ms. Templeton said. The autonomous aspect of the unit means the work is done by a robotic arm which, after programming, requires minimal input from the workforce.

“Turnaround time is important, too. Once you start routing these parts through the shops, that adds a lot of lead time to your repairs,” she said. “With this technology, we would be able to repair existing parts to standards of airworthiness, rather than waiting for new parts.”

While the pilot testing was not conducted on an operable aircraft, and the repairs made are not yet approved procedures, the trials do give program leadership an idea of the system’s potential future capabilities for on-aircraft repair, Ms. Templeton said.

“It’s definitely where we want to go with the cold spray, and where we see the technology needing to go,” she said. “We’re trying to take this cold spray one step farther and go toward structural repairs.”

The demonstrations took place as an initial evaluation of the program, which is a joint effort between NAVAIR and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Foreign Comparative Testing Program. By using the FCT and technology already developed and qualified by the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation, NAVAIR was able to shepherd the program to an advanced phase three transition status in less than three years for under $1 million.

That represents a cost avoidance estimated at $6 million over eight years of development, had the project started with the traditional Small Business Innovation Research program, Mr. Lancaster said.

This testing represents the first in a series of demonstrations and assessments that will allow authorities to determine the airworthiness of these repairs, Ms. Templeton said. The next steps will include fatigue testing, to gauge the strength of the materials and the bond; finite element analysis, which predicts how a product reacts to real-world force and physical effects; and other evaluations that must be conducted.


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.”