Materials engineer Alyssa Zamora holds the repair patch used on the F/A-18 Super Hornet engine bay door (Door 68). The cutting template used in the repair is pictured in the foreground, and the 3-D printed layup tool lies behind it. (U.S. Navy photo)

NAVAIR Engineer Wins 2019 Lasswell Award for Fleet Support

Alyssa Zamora, a Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) materials engineer assigned to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW), is the recipient of the 2019 A. Bryan Lasswell Award for Fleet Support.

Sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the award recognizes individuals who provide exceptional support to the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard forces based in San Diego.

Zamora joined FRCSW in 2015 following graduation from the University of San Diego, and earned the Lasswell Award for her work in the FRCSW Materials Engineering Laboratory supporting composite repair development. She previously worked with low-observable coatings and specialty paint coatings.

Earlier this year, the F/A-18 Fleet Support Team (FST) and the F/A-18 program office requested an updated repair developed to resolve a recurring problem found last fall during inspections of F/A-18 Super Hornet engine bay doors.

A corner section of the bay doors was being damaged --- causing delamination --- during removal to perform repairs or as part of the aircraft’s maintenance program.

A double-sided repair was developed that required special equipment and specialized composite certification, limiting the repair procedure to approximately 20 depot-level artisans within the Navy. Repair capability was not possible through fleet personnel.

Furthermore, the repair suffered an inspection failure rate exceeding 50 percent, resulting in rework times from a few weeks to six months depending upon material and artisan availability.

The problem intensified to the extent that in March, three Super Hornets assigned to Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) were grounded for lack of consistent repair capability.

Zamora was assigned to an engineering team to assess and update the repair. In what is typically a six-month to yearlong process, she led the development of a three-part solution in less than three months that resolved both short and long-term issues, as well as potential solutions for fleet repairs.

“These doors (Super Hornet) are composite, the legacy are aluminum. The original repair was very complex and required us to custom make two patches for the inner and outer mold line,” Zamora said.

“We found issues with the patch fabrication process, and those issues were causing the non-destructive inspection (NDI) and quality assurance (QA) failures. The interim solution was to improve the double-sided patch repair process to mitigate the issues of porosity that we were seeing and improve the NDI and QA success rate.”

Testing for the short-term modified repair was validated during March and April at the materials engineering lab, and was performed at NAS Lemoore and on USS Stennis. Repair times were reduced by approximately 30 percent, and the failure rates to less than 10 percent.

“Our long-term solution is to make a tool that would include a cutting template that can remove the damaged area. Then a single-sided, pre-made patch by the depot that’s already gone through QA and passed NDI would be bonded on with an adhesive,” Zamora said.

Testing for the long-term repair procedures are ongoing, but expected to be completed and released for use in the next six months.

“The repair method may be used on other airframes. This repair is called a step repair, where you shave off a part in a step, the method of cutting out steps in a laminate. As it is now, there’s F/A-18 level one and two and V-22 level one and two. So, we’re trying to consolidate the level to be multi-platform, or universal.”

To handle repairs to the engine bay door and other composites in the fleet, Zamora led the formation of a six-month pilot program that certified an intermediate-level Sailor for the work.

The program began in November 2018 in conjunction with FRCSW training, the NAS Lemoore maintenance officer and the Materials Engineering program.

“Composite repair for the depot requires a level one and level two certification, and NAS Lemoore needed more level-two hands. They looked into someone from the fleet and that helped us initiate our effort,” Zamora said.

“Level-two certification qualifies for complex repairs. They don’t have this certification process in the fleet. Instead, they go through A and C School for introductory information on composite repair, but nothing is in place to go beyond that.”

“Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Michael Hammer was our `Guinea pig’ to see if the fleet could have level one or level two maintainers; if there was enough time for them to go through the training process, and if they’re able to practice those skills regularly.”

This past May Hammer had completed all training requirements including on-the-job training, and having passed all tests and exams, became the first Sailor to earn level-two composite certification on the Super Hornet airframe. In two months afterward, he amassed approximately 80 hours of level-two component repair work saving $4 million.  

“Our efforts are to see how we can update A and C School to get them up to a depot-level one certification.  In the future, we would incorporate level-two training into the fleet training certification program,” Zamora said.

To date, the new repair procedures have saved approximately $7 million in replacement costs of Super Hornet engine bay doors.

Zamora received the Lasswell award October 8 at the Town and Country hotel in San Diego.

Marine Corps Maj. A. Bryan Lasswell was a translator and cryptologist, who in 1942, worked relentlessly to decipher the communications of the Japanese navy. His efforts were instrumental in the American victory at the Battle of Midway Island.


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