FRCE Assist with Hornet Readiness at Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex

April 27, 2020 – When coronavirus-related workforce shortages impacted Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) stepped up to take on a component workload and ensure continued readiness for the F-18 fleet.

FRCE was initially scheduled to begin working with the F-18 cabin safety valve later this year while the Oklahoma City ALC’s test chamber underwent scheduled maintenance. That timeline moved forward when, as a result of the pandemic and associated risk mitigations, the facility at Tinker Air Force Base saw a significant reduction in the number of available artisans. Because FRCE had already been making preparations to accept the workload, the handoff occurred with no interruption to the fleet.

“The original intent of bringing this workload to FRCE was to support Tinker Air Force Base through a major support equipment rework effort,” said Mary Linton, an aerospace engineer working with F-18 environmental control systems on the Gas Turbine Compressor-Pneumatics Fleet Support Team at FRCE. “All of the great effort that went into establishing this capability proved even more critical to maintaining the readiness of the F-18 fleet as we navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.”

The cabin safety valve is an integral part of the aircraft’s environmental control system, explained Linton. The valve, present on both Legacy Hornets and the newer Super Hornets, acts as a backup to maintain proper cabin air pressure above 23,000 feet in the case where the cabin air pressure regulator fails to function. It also serves as a supplement to the cabin air pressure regulator in regulating cabin air pressure when the aircraft is in a rapid dive, and it assists the cabin air pressure regulator in emergency relief dumping of cabin air pressure.

FRCE was set to begin repairing, checking and testing the valves in May, to shift the workload from Oklahoma City ALC, said John Miller, a planner and estimator with the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Logistics department at FRCE. Inductions would start at 20 per month and lead to the full induction rate of 40 per month by July, he explained.

“Originally the plan was for FRCE to slowly ramp up production to give the shop time to gain experience on the component and to ease into the additional workload,” Linton added. “FRCE was challenged to ramp straight up from no workload to 20-40 a month to support the F-18. The fact that they were able to do is a testament to the hard work and dedication all of the personnel at FRCE have to support the warfighter.”

The artisans in the engine driven compressor/gas turbine compressor shop at FRCE did require some additional training to prepare for the new component, but that didn’t delay the depot’s response to the fleet’s need, Miller said.

“We were still able to hit the ground running,” he added. “And now we are repairing or check-and-testing each valve that meets certain criteria by engineering, via temporary engineering instruction.”

To date, FRCE has turned around 18 of the 40 units inducted so far, with plans to induct 10 more soon. After that, more “F” condition valves, which are unserviceable but reparable, must arrive at the depot to keep the workload constant.

“The availability of components is still in flux due to COVID-19 and other factors, but the transition should move smoothly,” Miller said. “FRCE can handle the workload, as long as the support elements are 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 $835 million. The depot generates combat air power for America’s Marines and naval forces while serving as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.

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