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NAVAIR's F/A-18 Fleet Support Team help the fleet to keep 'em flying

NAVAIR News Release


By Bill Bartkus NADEP North Island

CORONADO, Calif. - The F/A-18 Fleet Support Team (Structures) at Naval Air Depot North Island here has been supporting the warfighter by providing repair procedures for damaged composite components for the fleet. At the same time, the team is saving taxpayer dollars and keeping Navy fighter aircraft in the air thereby supporting the U.S. fight against terrorism.

The Depot's FST Structures Group makes visits to a carrier's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department where they train Sailors in composite damage and repair through the Damage Engineering Disposition program.

Recently, the team visited USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) at Naval Air Station North Island while the Bremerton, Wash.-based nuclear-powered carrier was in San Diego.

"This particular training program has been ongoing since 1986 when the Depot (then the Naval Air Rework Facility) offered its services to the fleet," said Albert Nguyen, Code "And every year since then, we have communicated to the fleet stating that we offer composite Damage Engineering Disposition training help, and the ships have been most receptive in having our teams come aboard."

Many years ago, it became difficult for the ship to report damages and get the help it needed. There was a lot of time involved in just communicating the problems from the ship to the NAVAIR engineers, according to Guy Theriault, Code, F/A-18 advanced composites sub-team leader.

"USS Constellation (CV 64) was the first ship to use our services back in 1986. The ship had a damaged aircraft and was trying to describe the damage in a naval message," Theriault said. "So we devised a damage reporting process and have been using it ever since."

The objective is to allow the ship to request repair procedures for particular damage if they think they can perform the repairs aboard the ship, "even though the Structural Repair Manual states that they need to send the damaged part to the Depot," Theriault stated.

Once the fleet provides the damage description, NAVAIR Depot North Island engineers respond with a disposition - either to repair the damage on the ship based on the ship's capabilities - or, if the ship doesn't have the equipment that is necessary to make the repairs on site, to send the damaged part back to the Depot.

"Statistically, it's roughly been anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of the components staying on the ship and saving the ship Aviation Depot Level Repairable money (which can be up to $300,000 for a replacement horizontal stabilator)," Theriault said. "The ship gets to keep the part."

He said that damaged components are being kept out of the fleet for Sailors to be able to repair, rather than having the ship obtain replacement parts in the continental United States.

"This has been the selling point of the program from the offset. We're using the resources that are there to save money on repairing the component. And this happens about 70 percent of the time," Theriault noted

"The Structure Repair Manual states that AIMD can make a repair of a limited size, say eight inches in diameter. If we see other activities have what they need to make repairs of a larger size, then we will expand the SRM to include the larger size," Theriault stated. "Now, the command does not have to request repair procedures regarding damage of that size because it is in the manual. We will update the manual with what the command successfully achieved," he said.

Once the changes are made to the SRM, the intermediate level (where AIMD personnel make the repairs on the ship) does not have to spend the time to request repairs from the Depot.

"That's all gone, and Sailors are working directly from the manual," Theriault said. "We save them time and money, fleetwide. Not just that one command. Everyone benefits."

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