NAVAL AIR STATION JACKSONVILLE, Florida –
More than 40 artisans with Fleet Readiness Center Southeast (FRCSE) were deployed to Naval Air Station (NAS) Kingsville, Texas, during a year-long effort to assist Rolls-Royce in meeting the fleet demand of 145 ready-for-issue (RFI) F405 engines powering the T-45 Goshawk.
“A shortfall, due to a 2019 engineering issue, created shorter intervals between turbine removals, which resulted in a backlog of engines,” said James Bock, FRCSE MRO Business Office Engines Lead. “Because of an urgent need to meet the RFI goal, we were able to execute the initial Commercial Service Agreement in less than one week and get personnel onsite in record time.”
The T-45 is a vital training aircraft for Navy and Marine Corps pilots, and the shorter turbine blade removal intervals impacted the fleet’s ability to maintain them, ultimately leading to a push from then-Commander, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Vice Adm. Dean Peters to reach 145 RFI engines by January 2022.
Rolls-Royce needed help getting from 128 RFI to the new goal, and the personnel from FRCSE were eager to step up at the request of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, the Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program Office and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.
“FRC Southeast is rich with personnel who are dedicated and ready to go the extra mile when called upon,” said FRCSE Commanding Officer Capt. Grady Duffey. “When the engineering issue created a shortfall that threatened engine throughput, many of our members were quick to volunteer. Some artisans spent months at [Naval Air Station] Kingsville away from their families, helping to get things back on track. We couldn’t be more proud of our augmentation team and the herculean effort it took to reach the RFI target.”
Seventeen engines might not seem daunting, but the turbine blade removals reduced the on-wing time from 2,000 to 1,050 hours, decreasing the amount of time the F405 could be operational and ultimately doubling the workload.
“This particular partnership was different than any we’ve done in the past because we sent people to a commercial site for support instead of conducting labor at our facility,” Bock said. “We had 43 people deployed and 15 personnel locally supporting the effort. The main FRCSE work was conducted at NAS Kingsville, but the overall effort included both NAS Kingsville and NAS Meridian, Mississippi.”
While recruiting FRCSE personnel to step up and assist wasn’t difficult, getting caught up and organized was a tall order. The complexity of the scope of work had to be executed in phases and also required assistance from Fleet Readiness Center East, which primarily supported the efforts in Meridian, Mississippi.
Phase one of this effort took less than two months and was all about taking stock of materials, paper-pushing and creating an organized plan of attack.
Once completed, it was time to kick off phase two, all about manpower, skillsets and labor, which required two augmented efforts to support F405 production, as well as other efforts like Non-Destructive Inspection (NDI) and assembly and disassembly.
Finally, phase three utilized an exit strategy. Because the company had suffered significant workforce losses, FRCSE wanted to ensure it gave Rolls-Royce plenty of time to hire, train and get through probationary periods. Command personnel began departing in late March when they were certain Rolls-Royce had enough skilled staffing to maintain production.
“FRC personnel brought in new concepts that Rolls-Royce has been able to learn from and incorporate,” Bock said. “This includes efficient cell set up, faster and more effective ways of cleaning and inspecting parts and even standardizing logs and records processes. This effort is a great example of how quickly FRCSE can react and work collectively to exemplify our mission as an unparalleled aviation maintenance solutions provider that epitomizes flight line readiness.”
With plenty of workload back home, FRCSE operates engine production lines supporting five other engine programs. While the Goshawk’s F405 isn’t a completely unfamiliar engine, it has never been supported by command personnel—that meant tapping into the original equipment manufacturer’s expertise to get FRCSE’s artisans up to speed.
“While our personnel didn’t have any F405 experience, they routinely work on these types of power plants, so it didn’t take long for the team to have the F405 mastered,” said FRCSE Supervisory Planner and Estimator Barron Clark. “The mechanics of jet engines are typically very similar for the most part, so the majority of the learning curve was Rolls-Royce nomenclature, process, tooling and other company-specific procedures.”
As of May 5, not long after all FRCSE personnel finalized the last steps of phase three and hopped on planes to head home, Roll-Royce reported that they had successfully reached their 145 RFI target.
While the achievement was celebrated at both Rolls-Royce and FRCSE, the most significant accomplishment wasn’t hitting the target, but instead was developing a productive partnership that subsequently resulted in more available trainer aircraft to support fleet demand.