FLEET READINESS CENTER EAST

Since 1943, Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, has played an important part in national defense.  Our workforce has earned a reputation of excellence in providing world-class maintenance, engineering and logistics support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation, as well as other armed services, federal agencies and foreign governments. Our skilled workforce uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that FRCE is without equal in providing quality, cost-effective support. Our employees take great pride in their work, and this professional spirit is evident in the high quality products they produce.

Our mission is to maintain and operate facilities for and perform a complete range of depot level rework operations on designated weapon systems, accessories, and equipment; manufacture parts and assemblies as required; provide engineering services in the development of changes of hardware design; furnish technical services on aircraft maintenance and logistic problems; and perform, upon specific request or assignment, other levels of aircraft maintenance.

FLEET READINESS CENTER EAST

Since 1943, Fleet Readiness Center East aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, has played an important part in national defense.  Our workforce has earned a reputation of excellence in providing world-class maintenance, engineering and logistics support for Navy and Marine Corps aviation, as well as other armed services, federal agencies and foreign governments. Our skilled workforce uses state-of-the-art technology to ensure that FRCE is without equal in providing quality, cost-effective support. Our employees take great pride in their work, and this professional spirit is evident in the high quality products they produce.

Our mission is to maintain and operate facilities for and perform a complete range of depot level rework operations on designated weapon systems, accessories, and equipment; manufacture parts and assemblies as required; provide engineering services in the development of changes of hardware design; furnish technical services on aircraft maintenance and logistic problems; and perform, upon specific request or assignment, other levels of aircraft maintenance.

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Sep 2, 2021

FRCE takes on new V-22 workload

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) opened a new chapter of service Aug. 11 as it completed work on the first of the fleet MV-22B Osprey aircraft flown by the Marine Corps squadron tasked with helicopter transport of the president of the United States.

FRCE has conducted modification and Planned Maintenance Interval (PMI) events for Navy and Marine Corps V-22 aircraft since 2009, when the depot inducted its first Osprey. Now, the facility will provide that same support to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1). The HMX-1 “Nighthawks” fleet includes a number of “Green Top” MV-22B aircraft, which are all scheduled to receive PMI-2 service at FRCE in the coming months following the successful completion and early return of the first aircraft.

“These HMX-1 V-22s are national assets, performing a very visible and important mission,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Col. Thomas A. Atkinson. “I’m very proud of the V-22 PMI line and our paint shop for a job well done and done so quickly; the aircraft looked really good and we delivered it a month ahead of schedule.”

The new V-22 workload continues FRCE’s long history of service to HMX-1, which is also the primary operational test and evaluation unit for Marine assault support helicopters and related equipment. FRCE first began working with the presidential helicopter in 1967 and, in the past, the depot has serviced CH-46 and CH-53 helicopters for the squadron, as well as the T58-400B engine that powered the presidential VH-3D Sea King and the “White Top” VH-3D itself, also known as Marine One. The VH-92 Fleet Support Team, based at Fleet Readiness Center East, provides engineering and logistics support and assistance for the new VH-92A White Top platform, which is scheduled to serve as the new Marine One.

When FRCE artisans wrapped maintenance on the first HMX-1 Osprey inducted into the facility, the depot beat the requested turnaround time by 28 days – returning the aircraft in just 122 days when the initial goal was set at 150, said Andrew Rock, the depot’s V-22 branch head. The V-22 line was able to move from induction to functional check flight (FCF) within 74 days, which represents a hugely successful effort that played a major role in FRCE beating the turnaround goal, he noted.

“For the aircraft to go from landing for induction to us flying it and having it deemed an FCF aircraft in 74 days is absolutely incredible,” Rock said. “I think this really shows what the team at FRCE is capable of.”

According to Rock, the initial plan was to conduct the HMX-1 Osprey PMI-2 events at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, which presented several logistical challenges for the V-22 line at FRCE – including the prospect of sending Cherry Point-based artisans to Quantico for an extended period of time. Leaders reached an agreement to send the first V-22 to FRCE with a targeted turnaround time of 150 days; if FRCE could meet this goal, the depot could conduct the required maintenance on the remaining HMX-1 Ospreys at Cherry Point.

“It was a prototype, essentially,” Rock said. “There’s a certain schedule that has to be met. We didn’t initially have an estimate on what the actual turnaround would be, because we had no idea what the aircraft was going to look like when it came in. We didn’t know what we were going to find when we started disassembly for the PMI.”

A planned maintenance interval is a period of time prescribed for the execution of a maintenance event. In a PMI-1 event, artisans disassemble the aircraft; evaluate its condition; perform required maintenance; update systems; and reassemble the aircraft. PMI-2 events include new paint for the aircraft in addition to the services provided during PMI-1. In both events, the aircraft fly into and out of the facility at FRCE. PMI events comprise the Navy’s Integrated Maintenance Program, which targets the structural integrity of the airframe.

Maintenance and inspection conducted by the squadron at the organizational level (O-level) doesn’t turn up the same issues found at the depot level because O-level maintenance does not, by design, address the same needs.

“A lot of the things we find here at FRCE will only be found during PMI,” Rock explained. “For example, at the squadron level, they’re not going to take out the sponson fuel cells and look at the frames in there. We will do that, and if we pull that sponson fuel cell out and find a bad frame inside, that could add weeks to the turnaround time.”

The HMX-1 aircraft currently in process turned out to be especially “clean,” meaning there were minimal hidden issues, Rock said. That contributed to the remarkable speed with which the team took the V-22 from induction to FCF, a performance he considers a great success. The next V-22 from HMX-1 is already scheduled for induction this fall – with the possibility of moving that induction date up, because the team completed the initial Osprey so far ahead of that initial 150-day goal.

“There was a lot of concern regarding the ability to complete a 150 day turnaround time at FRCE, so it’s good for everybody out there to see us perform,” he said. “We did it, and we did it well, and that’s exactly what the (commanding officer) wants to show.” 

The short turnaround from induction to flight check represented a point of pride for Rock and the V-22 artisans at Cherry Point, he said. There’s also the prestige that comes with providing services to the Marines who support the president, he added.

“I’ve said it all before: There’s been a lot of attention on the V-22 line, but really everything that happens is due to the artisans and the support staff,” Rock said. “They have gotten behind every initiative that’s been thrown their way and they have supported it and followed through.

“That shows in the results we’re getting,” he continued. “We have the skills, we have the abilities – and when the logistical elements line up, I believe there’s nothing we can’t do.”

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

Sep 1, 2021

FRCE aces quality management surveillance audit with zero findings

Every industry has certifications that indicate standards of excellence achieved through the use of best practices. At a restaurant, diners may look to health inspection scores as a signal of safety; when it comes to vehicle repairs, consumers might seek a mechanic that is Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified.

In the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul industry, Aerospace Standard (AS) 9110 serves as the benchmark for excellence. Following a recent third-party surveillance audit, Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) became the first aviation depot within Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) to pass an AS9110 audit with no findings.

The result represents years of hard work and collaboration between many of FRCE’s internal departments, including Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) Production, MRO Logistics, MRO Engineering, Facilities and Infrastructure Management, and Compliance and Quality.

“As the first Fleet Readiness Center to complete an AS9110 audit with zero findings, it’s clear that our team’s hard work is paying off,” said Tina Rowe, MRO Production director at FRCE. “We are becoming the benchmark for the enterprise in how we do business; now, we need to keep the momentum going and sustain our standings so our customers continue to send work and to entice new customers and their potential workload.”

AS9110 assesses the processes, procedures and efficiencies of an organization’s quality management system. Conformance to the AS9110 standard is voluntary, and represents an above-and-beyond commitment to quality, said David Spencer, director of the Standards Division within FRCE’s Compliance and Quality Department.

“Customers can bring their business here knowing that our services are going to meet or exceed the intent of industry certification standards,” he explained. “Because we maintain this industry standard, our customers don’t need to come into our depot and do their own review of our processes. They can rest assured knowing that we're certified, that our systems are going to be right and tight, and that we’re going to get the job done with their products.”

Having the AS9110 certification makes FRCE an attractive choice for potential industry customers and helps the command retain existing customers, added FRCE Quality Manager Jeffrey O’Connell. 

“In the public-private partnership environment that we’re in, a lot of private industry weighs the AS9110 certification heavily in considering where they go for work,” O’Connell said. “For some of the companies that work with us, having this certification makes it easier for them to partner with us than it would have been without it.”

The AS9110 standard, developed by the International Aerospace Quality Group, is not prescriptive – it doesn’t provide an organization with specific instructions to do the things required for certification, Spencer noted. Rather, it provides an outline of the requirements and certification to this standard assesses conformance to those requirements through a series of audits. A full recertification audit takes place every three years; in between, annual surveillance audits like the one conducted this summer take place at certified facilities to ensure continued conformance to the standard.

Whether assessing parts control and traceability, artisan training, product safety or a top management review, the standard doesn’t tell an organization how to do something, Spencer explained. “Instead, it breaks down the things you need to have, and the different layers of the organization that do those things. It’s really an external set of eyes that can come in and give us a good scrub.”

In addition to being the first FRC to complete AS9110 certification or surveillance with no audit findings, FRCE also became the first depot to earn certification from fence-to-fence, geographically speaking, rather than working to earn certification in individual buildings or lines. The cross-disciplinary, top-down approach toward quality management required to achieve whole-depot certification also helped FRCE shine in its most recent audit.

Daily meetings with MRO Production leadership provide a venue in which the team can rapidly address and resolve any quality management issues identified, Spencer said. The Facilities and Infrastructure Department head often sits in these meetings, as well, providing another level of support. Weekly meetings that also bring in MRO Logistics, MRO Engineering and the Compliance and Quality Department, offer opportunities to solve higher-level issues.

“This is not a triage meeting,” O’Connell explained. “We’re not trying to find and address a specific issue – we’re trying to determine why an issue occurred and whether we can get a process in place to address it. We’re dedicating some time to problem-solve, rather than simply triaging and firefighting, because firefighting never ends.”

The commitment from top management to addressing quality management issues at the root level has made a huge difference in the team’s ability to address concerns, which in turn leads to better performance in audit situations and improved throughput and cost efficiency.

“It’s management that’s gotten us to the point we’re at,” O’Connell said. “We could be here 20 hours a day and, without that management support, we would still be nowhere near the level we’re performing at now.”

Confidence in the depot’s quality management systems led the team to implement a new approach when the auditors arrived; instead of having a set tour schedule, Spencer and O’Connell let the auditors guide the process.

“It was completely open: This is our business, and this is how we’re doing it. If you see things to improve, we want to know because we want to improve it,” O’Connell said.

Spencer said the level of performance required to be comfortable with this free-range approach took years to achieve.

“If the auditors wanted to go see a process at the materials lab, we’d call the materials lab. They asked when the auditors wanted to come over, and I’d tell him they’d be there in five minutes,” Spencer said. “And then it was, what would you like to see next? And the auditors had entourages of leadership, from the senior to junior levels, guiding them around throughout the entire process. That’s indicative of a remarkable commitment to the program and level of support, and it has taken years to get here.”

In addition to leadership commitment, an organizational restructuring to a mission-aligned organization, which took place at FRCE and across the Naval Air Systems Command enterprise in 2019, has helped improve results.

“Each department’s goals are more aligned to a single end goal then they have ever been,” O’Connell said. “In the past, if an audit turned up a finding, the team would work to define whose problem that was. Now it’s everybody’s problem because if it’s a quality issue, that’s going to hamper all of us in getting to the end goal. People are engaged, and we fix it.”

The changes in the way quality issues get addressed represent a culture change within FRCE, Spencer added.

“We now attack issues and get them resourced, make them manageable and get them under control before they become problems,” he said. “We’re seeing excitement in a lot of people, not just the leadership but throughout the workforce and the people who are the customers of these processes. The rapid execution is helping with morale, it’s helping change the culture, and it’s impressive.

“This certification is a big deal, and the leadership commitment and support to the program has put us light years ahead of where we’ve ever been,” Spencer said.

Aug 27, 2021

Automated parts storage system improves efficiency at FRCE

Military airplanes and helicopters are made up of thousands of parts, and when those aircraft come in for maintenance or repair, somebody has to account for each and every one of those parts throughout the entire rework process. At Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE), that organizing challenge is being managed using a new software application called WISK, short for Work-in-Process Inventory, Storage and Kitting.

The WISK application provides parts accountability, auditing, inventory control, accumulation of parts as production assembly kits, online queries, and report capabilities. WISK went live at FRCE June 4, replacing the previous Automated Storage, Kitting and Retrieval System (ASKARS) software that had been used for years at FRCE. Leonard Domitrovits, director of the Components Division within FRCE’s Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Production Department, said the improvements in efficiency created by replacing ASKARS with WISK should result in better service for fleet customers.

“The customer wants to bring more work in at a reduced cost, because they can only afford so much,” Domitrovits said. “Every efficiency that we can get gives the customer an opportunity to generate increased readiness. Giving them more for less cost should be our goal.”

The various parts of WISK can be found all over the FRCE plant, from the main production hangars to the component shops to a large warehouse built for long-term storage. Production controllers – who manage the flow of parts and labor within the organization to ensure production lines run smoothly and efficiently – call up parts on their computer terminals. Once the system receives these instructions, robotic arms zip along rows of storage bins nearly 40 feet high to find the requested items, returning them to the controllers in less than a minute. The system includes nearly 10,000 bins to house parts of all shapes and sizes. 

The WISK system gives production controllers a place to track and store parts, but it also allows them to create “full kits” – signaling when all the parts required to reassemble a component or aircraft are available in WISK, whether they have been repaired, purchased or supplied. When a full kit is ready, planners can schedule that component for rework in the production shop, according to Rick Haskett, WISK Production Control supervisor at FRCE. 

“The computer knows where all the parts are stored, and once all the parts are accounted for in WISK, then it signals we have a full kit,” Haskett said. “At that point, the planner decides when to pull the parts from the system and schedule the work back into production.”

WISK provides the same massive storage capacity as its predecessor ASKARS. When using ASKARS, however, most of the tracking and record keeping was performed manually by production controllers, according to Domitrovits.

“I’ve heard it called mandraulics. Things you have to do manually, things you’re always trying to track with lists and spreadsheets and everything,” he said. “Now WISK has the capability to do all those things for you, which makes it much more efficient.”

The Naval Air Systems Command’s three depot-level Fleet Readiness Centers have been planning for WISK implementation for about five years. Cynthia Hargett, FRCE production controller, has been involved in the planning for the last three years. She said the communication and teamwork between the three FRCs contributed to the quality of the WISK system.

“A lot of people might have thought we were alone in implementing WISK, but the enterprise really came together,” Hargett said. “We may do things a little differently, but when it comes down to the basics, we’re all in the same system and we’re trying to accomplish the same goals.”

Software support is part of the WISK system. Production controller Jordan Lewis said the development team listened to the quality of life suggestions from WISK users, and it’s evident in the resulting product.

“They keep updating our software, which makes it easier for us and for the people on the floor who are going to use these reports,” Lewis said. “We’re coming more into the modern day with WISK. We see some improvements for sure in the new version, and life’s good.”

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

Aug 9, 2021

FRCE maintenance professionals assist engine manufacturer with backlogs

An eight-person Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) team recently received high praise for deploying to Naval Air Station (NAS) Meridian, Mississippi, to support Rolls-Royce in production of the F405 engine used in the T-45A/C Goshawk jet trainer.

Since June, the team of mechanics, production controllers, aircraft examiners, and logs and records personnel has assisted Rolls-Royce with the backlog created when an engineering investigation into cracks in low pressure turbine blades reduced the on-wing time for F405 engines from 2,000 to 1,050 hours. This change significantly reduced the amount time the engine can be used in an operational aircraft and essentially doubled the production line’s workload. Rolls-Royce quickly fell behind in meeting its goal of 145 ready-for-issue (RFI) engines by January 2022. 

The FRCE mechanics and examiners are working to disassemble engines and inspect the parts, while the support team is backing up Rolls-Royce personnel with parts handling and records keeping. A similar team from FRC Southeast in Jacksonville, Florida, was dispatched to NAS Kingsville, Texas, to alleviate the F405 workload there. 
Leaders at the engine manufacturer have voiced their appreciation for the support. Phil Novak, Rolls-Royce F405 site manager at NAS Meridian, expressed his praise for the work the FRC teams are doing for the program.

”This joint venture is continuing to exceed our expectations,” Novak said. “The fact that the maintenance, warehouse, and logs and records support we are receiving has been almost seamless is a testament to the quality of their expertise and skill set. I had no idea this would work as well as it has turned out.”

Naval Air Systems Commander Vice Adm. Dean Peters, along with Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Rear Adm. Joseph Hornbuckle and FRCE Executive Officer Capt. Jim Belmont, recently visited the F405 line at NAS Meridian to recognize the team members for their efforts.

Belmont said the team’s work is reflecting positively on FRCE as a whole.

“The team members are happy,” Belmont said. “They’re welcoming the work, and they actually want more work. The things they’ve done in just the short time they’ve been there is outpacing what Rolls-Royce was hoping for. They’ve made the FRC East family look good.”

Members of the FRCE team were experienced in working on the Rolls-Royce F402 engine, which powers the AV-8B Harrier, but none of them had worked on the smaller F405 before volunteering to go to NAS Meridian. A trainer from Rolls-Royce assisted the team, and their prior knowledge of the company’s manuals and procedures soon had them up to speed with the F405 engine.

“The shop was good to give us their main engine builder, who has been our trainer,” said FRCE team lead Dale McCombs. “The shop has welcomed us with open arms, and we were able to learn as quickly as we could be taught.” 

The FRCE team’s quick learning, along with the experience they brought to the table, paid off when an engine that had been identified as ready to return to the fleet had to be reworked due to the recalibration of a tool that had been used in its production. The team had to disassemble the engine so the parts affected by the calibration could be reinspected. The speed and skill with which the team accomplished the task was noteworthy, said David Rose, director of the Engines and Dynamic Components Division within the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Production Department at FRCE.

“You’re even more delicate with a ready-for-issue engine. It’s not like you’re just stripping it down and everything gets routed out to be reprocessed,” Rose said. “This had to be treated with kid gloves because it was going to be put back together and sent to a test cell as soon as the discrepancy could be identified and corrected.” 

This degree of disassembly on the F405 engine typically takes between eight and 12 hours to complete. However, engine mechanics Dakota Martin and Steven Murray, and examiners Dale McCombs and Wes Randolph were able to complete the task in about two and a half hours. McCombs said the fact the FRCE artisans were trusted with the disassembly showed that Rolls-Royce had faith in the quality of their work.

“Generally, they don’t put people on an RFI engine who don’t know what they’re doing,” McCombs said. “So that speaks very highly of the team that Rolls-Royce felt we knew enough to handle it with care but still do it quickly.”

“Basically, we turned to and were able to go above and beyond their expectations and disassemble that engine,” agreed aircraft examiner Wes Randolph. “In a matter of hours, it was being reassembled by Rolls-Royce personnel,” facilitating an on-time delivery back to the fleet. 

The FRCE artisans are expected to finish their 120-day rotation in October. Belmont said the rotation opportunity may be extended to other artisans if additional support is needed in Meridian. 

“Talking with our folks in particular, they are enjoying the work they are doing, and said they would stay longer if they could,” Belmont said. “We’re in the process now of seeing what the right timeframe is to get the job done.”

FRCE is North Carolina's largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.
 

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