AIMD Oceana:If They Can’t Fix It, It Ain’t BrokeB y J O 1 J o s h u a M . H u d s onaval aircraft aredesigned to fly hard, fastand in the worst conditions, and squadronmechs work hard to ensure thatthey perform at 100 percent.When the components of thoseplanes need repair or maintenance, that s where the localAircraft Intermediate MaintenanceDepartment (AIMD) comes in.Servicing all of the Navy s F14 Tomcats , East Coast F/A-18Hornets and 11 aircraft carriers,the NAS Oceana, Va., AIMD isone of the busiest in the Navy.The department is more like acommand, with almost 1,500Sailors and civilian contractorsworking in three shifts to keepthe aircraft they support up andflying. More than 450 of theAIMD s military personnel comprise a sea-going detachmentthat acts as a deployable portionof the workforce to augment themaintenance skills aboard thecarriers.Squadrons perform routine aircraft maintenance and replacefailed parts at the operationalJO1 Joshua M. HudsonNlevel. When acomponent is broken, it goes tothe intermediate maintenancelevel for repair and then isreturned to the squadron. Majorairframe repairs are usually handed over to a depot-level maintenance facility.Squadrons do not handle intermediate-level maintenancebecause the equipment neededto test and evaluate, repair andreplace components is too largeand personnel intensive. Instead,the AIMD provides localsquadrons with a one-source service center for intermediate andsome organizational- and depotlevel repairs and maintenance.Nearly 50 percent of the repairsare performed on removableavionics electronic componentboxes. However, the AIMD alsoworks on ground support equipment, weapons racks, pa r achutes, pilot safety gear and aircraft frames.AIMD OceanaThe Oceana AIMD has 65 workcenters, organized into 8 divisions:personnel, supply, avionics, powerplants, airframes, the paraloft, armaments, and ground support equipment. More than 200,000 aircraft partsper month run through the department. Having an item repaired andback to the squadrons as quickly aspossible requires a lot of parts sharing. You can t stock everything. So ifwe have two components that are broken, we can make one working component using the parts from both. Wedo what we need to do to get planesflying, said Aviation Storekeeper FirstClass (AW) Mark House, material control manager.The AIMD provides a fast turnaround of parts, spreading out theworkload in assembly line fashion sothat no one shop is busier thananother. An avionics box that mighttake one person a month to repaircan be fixed in a matter of days orhours with a team of specializedworkers. In addition, the paperworkprocess is streamlined. A part isinventoried and a form is generatedand stored in the computerized NavalAviation Logistics CommandManagement Information System,AMS2 Pedro Prieto examines the progress of a structural repair on an F/A-18 Hornet wing.The use of heatlamps reduces the time required for nonmetal composites to harden.Naval Aviation News March April 200011

For every hour a pilot flies, 10 hoursof maintenance are required.ADCS (AW) Mike Balcamwhich follows the part throughout therepair process, accounting for thework done on it as well as gatheringa history of the part stroubles and usability.Aviation MaintenanceAdministrationman Senior Chief IsaacCalvin explained, We service all thesquadrons and the naval air station,including ordering all parts. We ta k ecare of 28 squadrons, as well as whatever the carriers can t handle, and weprocess 400 to 500 pieces of gear aday.AvionicsInside a labyrinth of workspa c e s ,the Avionics Division keeps a constantflow of electronic components, radarparts, transmitters and other equipment moving from bench to bench.Three-inch cords coming out of theceiling plugged into behemoth 1970svintage diagnostic computers rununderneath a blanket of deafeningnoise from the cooling fans,comprising the Hybrid Test System(HTS). In this shop everyone is anaviation electronics technician, AT2Daniel Parker noted. We test F-14and F/A-18 systems gear thatsquadrons can t repair, decide what isBelow, AT3 Marc St. Denis inspects an avionics box after it hasbeen tested for errors by the Hybrid Test System. Opposite page,AS3 John Carson works on the electrical system of a piece ofground support equipment.wrong with it and get a work center torepair it. Then we test it again to see ifit s fixed, and send it back to the fleet.Many of the components that don tgo to the HTS bench are tested bythe state-of-the-art ConsolidatedAutomated Support System (CASS).AT1 (AW) John Bucci, who works inthe CASS shop, said there s a goodreason why some of the test equipment isn t top of the line. It hasn tbeen cost effective to transfer everything from the older systems. In thenear future, the older diagnostic testgear will be out of the fleet andeverything will come through here.CASS has the ability to run evaluations on multiple types of equipment.The system has been so effectivethat the Navy has started using it forsub and surface fleet applications. Itis a more user-friendly systembecause junior Sailors don t need tohave an extensive electronics background to run the equipment, Bucciexplained. But you still have to be atroubleshooter. Experience is necessary to keep up with the workload.12One of the most intriguing facilitiesat the AIMD is the test cell section ofthe Powerplants Division. Rebuilt F-14and F/A-18 engines are put to the testbefore being sent back to the fleet.Flames shoot from the jet nozzle andfuel changes from yellow to blue like agiant blowtorch, often raising the temperature of the cavernous room to 400degrees, while the ground shakesfrom the thundering power of theengines.The core of the division is far moresedate. In a large, separate hangar,an assembly line of engines at variouss tages of repair and maintenance waitto be worked on or to be returned toNaval Aviation News March April 2000JOSN Amy L. PittmannJO1 Joshua M. HudsonPowerplants

JO1 Joshua M. HudsonAD3 Leon Romo reassembles an F/A-18 Hornet’s F404 engine.the squadrons. Yellow lights in thehangar enable an easier transition onthe eyes from the darkness of theflight line at the end of the day for thetechnicians who are often too busy totell sunrise from sunset.Approximately 250 aviation machinist s mates (AD) and contractors workthree shifts, seven days a week, to14perform maintenance on 40 to 50engines at any given time. About halfof the engines come to the division forroutine maintenance, and the rest aredamaged by foreign object debris.AIMD Oceana repairs F110 and TF30Tomcat engines and the F404 Hornetengine, as well as auxiliary powerunits. The work is broken down intothe various sections of the engineswith teams working in an assemblyline, performing operational- and intermediate-level maintenance on eachsection.Contractors complement theSailors to help ensure a level of experience that is difficult to retain in themilitary. Many E-5 and E-6 ADs leaveNaval Aviation News March April 2000

the Navy for more lucrative civilianwork, leaving the division s militarywith less-experienced mechs to do thework. It s a real strain, said ADCS(AW) Mike Balcam. It s getting moredifficult to keep senior mechs than it isto find repair parts for F-14s. Headded, The only thing that hasremained the same about the shop sbusiness is that we pull and repairengines. As technology changes, sodoes the playing ground we work on.But it s OK. We do more with less, andwe do it well.AirframesFOD may ruin an engine, but thereis no end of stresses and obstaclesthat can damage an aircraft s frame.The Airframes Division is responsiblefor the repair of all structural components. Jobs like changing the glass ona canopy can take up to three days.This body shop for fighter jets workson hydraulics, makes composite andmetal structural repairs and evenchanges tires. More than 170 peoplein this division work within variousspecialized cages with turnaroundtimes that could give Maaco a run forits money.Two specialized shops handle different airframes. The composite shopdoes the structural repairs for nonmetal pieces, which make up 75 to 80percent of the F/A-18 Hornet s airframe. Graphite strips are bonded todamaged areas like papier-m chØ,then sanded and shaped to precisespecifications. The F-14 Tomcat, onthe other hand, requires metal work inthe structures shop. There is always abacklog of jobs, keeping workers cons tantly moving. Aviation StructuralMechanic (Structures) First Class(AW) Richard Winters explained,Since F-14 parts aren t made anymore, we are doing everything we canto keep this airplane up and running.It s a real challenge.The hydraulics shop is whereAirframes personnel work on thehydraulic-pneumatic components of F14s and electrohydraulic componentsof F/A-18s. Personnel use diagnosticequipment to test parts such as spoilers and directional lift controllers onthe aircraft.The stress of takeoffs and landingsfalls mainly on the landing gear andstruts. More than 120 brake and strutsystems come through the strut shopeach month for repair and replacement, and an average of 18 tires arereplaced on the aircraft at NASOceana every day.The Airframes machine shop isunique because it is the only area ofthe AIMD in which no aviation-ratedpersonnel work. Blackshoe Navymachinery repairmen determine thetolerances of parts that are sent tothem for evaluation. When necessarythey make aircraft parts fromscratch, using metal lathes and highend power drills to meet exactings tandards. The computer numericallycontrolled mill can create parts fromspecifications sent via the Internet bythe manufacturer, transforming solidblocks of metal into vital aircraft parts .ParaloftWhile the rest of the AIMD keepsthe aircraft flying, the Paraloft smission is to keep the aircrew alive.This division is tasked with checkingand packing critical items such asJOSN Amy L. PittmannMR3 Chad McGee uses a high-end power drill with exacting precision to produce a hard-to-find piece.Naval Aviation News March April 200015

JO1 Joshua M. Hudsonparachutes, life rafts, life preserversand seat survival kits. It also fits pilotsfor some of their flight gear, includingdry suits that are tailored for eachpilot.Since survival equipment acts a sthe aircrew s lifeline during an emergency, the Paraloft packs parachutesfollowing strict procedures. Differentaircraft have different types of pa r achutes, and personnel must followexact specifications from a specificmanual for each type. Some pa r achutes can take at least two days topack.The ejection seat contains a life raftstocked with survival items. Navy liferafts, which are shaped like a big slipper to decrease exposure, provide 24hour survival capability. After that, aircrews must rely on their ownresources.The division also tests regulatorsfor emergency oxygen supply bottlesand liquid oxygen converters. Liquidoxygen is extremely combustible andrequires specialized technicians tohandle it.Although the Paraloft is the smallestdivision in AIMD, it is one of the aircrew s most valuable friends.ArmamentsThe aviation ordnancemen (AO) inthe Armaments Division exclusivelywork on all Navy F-14 and East CoastF/A-18 armament equipment. TheyNaval Aviation News March April 2000JOSN Amy L. PittmannOpposite, the traditionalyellow color of groundsupport equipment is beingchanged to lead-free white.Right, PR2 Ricky Dodrill,PRAN Charles Garner andPR2 Mark Gunnoe worktogether to ensure pilotsurvival gear is packedaccurately.maintain everything from bomb ejectorracks and missile launchers to TacticalAir Reconnaissance Pod Systemracks, ensuring that bombs willrelease on demand.Sixty percent of the division s workis scheduled maintenance. For example, A bomb rack is on a regularinspection cycle, explained AOC(AW) Kim Williams. Every 210 daysthat rack comes across this testbench and is torn apart. We makesure that everything is working correctly and that there is no excessivecorrosion. Then we put it backtogether within tolerances, and sendit out the door. We ensure that thefleet has the best.Ground SupportEquipmentWhen squadrons need supportequipment on the flight line, they getit from the Ground SupportEquipment (GSE) Division, whichmaintains and repairs more than2,000 pieces of what is commonlyknown as yellow gear. Although thewell-known, bright-yellow equipmentis changing color to white (it wasdetermined that the lead-based yellow paint was unhealthy), its job isstill the same: tractors tow the aircraft, air conditioning and electricalunits provide necessary cooling andpower when squadrons test systemswithout powering up the planes, andairstart units supply airflow to startengines.With the skills of highly trainedmechanics, GSE not only issues2,000 pieces of gear but maintains itfor operational-, intermediate- andoften depot-level maintenance.Outside contractors perform anymaintenance that cannot be done inhouse so that no squadron is deniedcritical gear.NAS Oceana s AIMD has atremendous job to do in today sNavy. New technologies and methodologies increase performance andefficiency, but present newchallenges. There is an exponentialleap in technology these days, saidMaintenance Officer Commander BillBergin. Automated test equipment isthe only way that we are going to beable to keep up. Fortunately, theNavy is moving toward machinesbeing connected to multipurposeequipment such as CASS, which willhelp us do our job.Naval Aviation enters the 21st century with a blend of old and newequipment, personnel and missions.Whatever new technology may come,the human factor will always beessential to keeping planes flying. AsCdr. Bergin summed up, Keepingplanes in the air is the name of game.And at AIMD Oceana, everybodyplays.17

Aviation Maintenance Administrationman Senior Chief Isaac Calvin explained, We service all the squadrons and the naval air station, including ordering all parts. We take care of 28 squadrons, as well as what-ever the carriers can t handle, and we process 400 to 500 pieces