Artisans at Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) are hard at work stripping and painting F/A-18E/F Super Hornets while collecting data to attain “declaration of capability” to establish a Super Hornet paint program.
The program will establish a set interval schedule after 20 aircraft have gone through the process. FRCSE artisans have stripped, primed and painted six Super Hornets here since the project began with the first prototype in August 2011. Another Super Hornet will undergo the process later this month.
“This is a fairly new tasking for FRCSE – restoring coatings on all exterior surfaces of the Super Hornets,” said John Bandor, FRCSE Cecil F/A-18 site manager, who is overseeing the project. “We stripped and painted our first two prototypes in fiscal year (FY) 2012 and two more in FY-13. We anticipate a significant increase of workload in the near future.”
As part of the stripping, priming and painting process, artisans are collecting data on each aircraft to help determine a required paint cycle. Fleet Support Team (FST) engineers at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) at Naval Air Station (NAS) North Island analyze the data and make paint procedure recommendations to the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Manager Air (PMA) 265 maintenance planning coordinator.
"When we get an aircraft in, the first thing we do is preserve it before towing it over to the strip ramp," explained FRCSE Materials Engineer Brad Youngers. "Then it is washed before we inspect it to document material condition of the aircraft. We look for corrosion, composite and coating damage, measure coating thickness, and record and submit all our data."
During the week of March 10-14, NAVAIR F/A-18 and EA-18G PMA-265 hosted an Integrated Logistics Support Management Team working meeting at NAS Jacksonville. The team, comprised of military, federal and industry logisticians, also chose to get a glimpse of the ongoing stripping/painting project at the FRCSE paint hangar. Paint Hangar Supervisor Rick Heffner led the tour for PMA-265 staff, FRCSW FST engineers, and Commander, Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet staff explaining the processes he manages when an aircraft arrives at his shop.
“We’re on a fact finding mission to determine what the cycle would be for striping and painting the Super Hornets,” said PMA-265 Maintenance Program Coordinator Bill Lotzmann.
He continued, "Our engineers have projected a 12-year cycle which works well with the aircraft's second planned maintenance interval (PMI) event. For every PMI on its second cycle, we would bring the aircraft in for strip and paint. We are currently collecting data on the aircraft on the East and West Coasts to see if this is feasible. This reliability-centered maintenance data is then analyzed by the fleet support team at NAS North Island to determine the best paint cycle."
"We are receiving candidates that are 11 years or older," Bandor explained. "The Super Hornets are flown into NAS Jacksonville and remain 99 percent assembled throughout the process. Our processes vary based on the type of aircraft structural surfaces that are being restored - whether it be aluminum, graphite composites, stainless steel or titanium material."
According to Bandor, responsible shops from induction to the point of delivery are striving to complete their project orders as efficiently as possible. "We started with a 45-calendar-day schedule with a goal to improve down to 30 calendar days as an effort to minimize impact of fleet readiness," he explained. "We reached that goal when we flew our fifth aircraft produced on its 30th day during the first week of March. We could have delivered it on that day if weather was permitting on the receiving end. We are going to keep trying to accomplish this goal for each and every aircraft, or at least get close to it."
He also stressed that this effort has been successful through teamwork. “Our hardworking artisans are producing quality workmanship both on and behind the scenes,” stated Bandor.
"This program incorporates all the integrated logistic elements while leveraging on existing facilities and equipment. It would not be successful without the talents and skills of hard working individuals. Kudos to a fine team of professionals who help produce and deliver this product back to the warfighting customer."
FRCSE Paint Shop Supervisor Rick Heffner echoed that sentiment. “We have an awesome, dedicated bunch of people on all three shifts, who take great pride in what they do.”
Source: Naval Air Systems Command
Date: Apr 3, 2014