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FRCE Maintenance Professionals Assist Engine Manufacturer with Backlogs

10 August 2021

From Kimberly Koonce

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - 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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