NAS Oceana Sailors and Marines impress at Boots-on-Ground event

Mar 20, 2017

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NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Va.   Roughly 100 senior U.S. Navy officials gathered here March 14 at for a Boots-on-Ground event highlighting efforts by Sailors and Marines at Fleet Readiness Center (FRCMA) Mid-Atlantic to enhance naval aviation readiness.

The event included a tour of FRCMA’s facilities and several briefs from maintainers on recent initiatives aimed at saving time and money when repairing aircraft parts, principally for the F/A-18 Hornet and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

“As I walked around today, it was great to see young Sailors who had some innovative idea, or some ingenious way to attack a problem or approach a process that didn’t cost us a penny, and in some cases the return on that investment is huge. That is the value of doing these events and really the value of the innovative, smart, young Sailors we’ve got in the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE),” said Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander, Naval Air Forces.

FRCMA Commander Capt. Charles K. Nixon said before the event that it had been planned as a “day in the life of an F-18.” Sure enough, beginning with a visit to the Commander, Strike Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CSFWL) and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 hangar, the 10-hour tour then proceeded to Oceana’s avionics, airframes, armament, power plants and aircraft divisions.

In total, FRCMA civilian employees and contractors worked more than 395,500 hours in fiscal 2016 repairing aircraft. Nearly 60 percent of that work went toward planned maintenance intervals (PMIs), while in-service repairs (ISRs) accounted for 20 percent.

FRCMA Aircraft Department Head Chris Rice discussed ISR management, stating that aircraft that otherwise would be flyable absent the need for specific repair work, as opposed to planned maintenance, receive priority in his shop. His team handled 1,900 ISR work orders last year, Rice said.

Among other things, a manual detailing common repairs and formal training for aircraft examiners would boost efficiency in getting F/A-18s out of the hangar and back on the flight line, Rice said. Training deployed Sailors and Marines how to better spot and prevent corrosion would also reduce the number of aircraft downed for repair work.

“Whatever we can do as an enterprise to facilitate the fleet taking care of these aircraft, it makes our job that much easier,” Rice said.

Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, commander, Naval Air Systems Command, said the event was one of the most interactive and informative Boots-on-Ground events he had attended.

Though he came away impressed with some of the initiatives underway at Oceana, Grosklags said the NAE needs to ensure such efforts spread elsewhere.

“As we saw things that were being done successfully here, what concerns me is our slow pace at being able to replicate those successes at other sites,” he said. “If we can’t figure out how to transfer that knowledge and learning more quickly from one organization to another then we’re missing the purpose of the NAE.”

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