FRCSW Repairs Heat-Damaged Blue Angels Hornet

Blue Angels Number 7 F/A-18D Hornet is delivered via flatbed truck to MCAS Miramar on May 5. The aircraft underwent an ISR for heat damage to its aft keel, PMI-2, and cockpit modifications.
(U.S. Navy photo)

Blue Angels Number 7 F/A-18D Hornet is delivered via flatbed truck to MCAS Miramar on May 5. The aircraft underwent an ISR for heat damage to its aft keel, PMI-2, and cockpit modifications. (U.S. Navy photo)

Sep 5, 2017

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NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, CA - At their Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake air show in March, the Navy’s elite Naval Flight Demonstration Squadron (NFDS) ---- the Blue Angels ---- realized something was amiss with their Number 7 aircraft during one of its flight demonstrations.

The Blue Angels have 11 jets, but the Number 7 aircraft is one of only two, two-seat F/A-18 D legacy fighter Hornets the squadron uses during its rigorous nine-month air show schedule.

To troubleshoot and repair the airplane, the Blue Angels called upon the expertise and resources of Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).

“This aircraft sustained heat damage to its aft keel section,” said Charles Miller, FRCSW Customer and Field Service Department Program Manager. “Unfortunately, the damage was too severe for a field repair because of the lack of required fixtures and the magnitude of logistical requirements. The initial inspection wasn’t too promising with more than a 50 percent chance that major structural components would have to be replaced.”

After the aircraft was released by the mishap board in April, it arrived via flatbed truck May 5 to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar where FRCSW inducted it as an In-Service Repair (ISR).

FRCSW Site Miramar artisans disassembled the Hornet’s damaged area and provided their engineering counterparts with the information they needed to determine the extent of damage and type of repair that would be required.

Miller noted that on-site support team members planner and evaluator Andrew Zablocki and estimator Larry Walker worked closely with the squadron and structural engineer Jacob Weintraub to identify and inspect all damaged components and areas that were exposed to the heat damage.

Initial assessments indicated potential replacement of the Y590 and Y598 formers, structural components of the aircraft’s fuselage.

“With the help of our engineering group and the artisans it was determined that there was less damage than what we had thought and the repair would just be to the Y598 former. We also decided to add planned maintenance interval two (PMI-2) and some modifications that were required in the cockpit,” Miller said.

“Not having to change the Y590 former was a huge win as it not only represented a tremendous cost savings both in terms of labor and a materials savings of about $250,000, but it also allowed our team to complete the PMI-2 and mods and the ISR 30 days ahead of the projected sell date of Sept. 15.”

“The decision was to be able to expedite the repair of this aircraft in order to return it to the squadron who, unfortunately at one point this year, had no back up aircraft and counted on every single aircraft to support their flight demonstration for the remainder of the season,” he said.   

Approximately 10 FRCSW Site Miramar artisans from a variety of trades ranging from sheet metal and aircraft mechanics to machinists removed the damaged former, skins and associated components to complete the work in 102 days; totaling more than 6,000 manhours.

“Materials lab engineer team representative Heather Stoll was also instrumental in the success of this repair as she handled all the necessary inspections on short notice. Furthermore, our weight and balance team performed the weighing of the aircraft prior to fueling and running the aircraft as part of a five-year interval requirement that was noted by the squadron and requested on short notice,” Miller said.

Once weighted, the aircraft underwent the inspections phases by the squadron maintenance personnel. The Blue Angels’ Number 7 Hornet passed all of its ground checks with zero discrepancies and its test flight on the first try.

“This aircraft came to us in boxes on May 5 and left MCAS Miramar flying back to Naval Air Station Pensacola on Aug. 25,” Miller said. “So, the next time you go to a Blue Angels air show and see Number 7 flying, you can tell your friends and family that FRCSW played a part in returning that aircraft to its squadron. It’s a reminder that FRCSW is ready, willing and able to support our fleet at any time or any place.” 


FRCSW is commanded by CAPT Craig Owen



FRCSW Public Affairs
(619) 545-3415

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120506-N-ZI635-242 PACIFIC OCEAN (May 6, 2012) An F/A-18C Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25 launches from the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 are deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman George M. Bell/Released)

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