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News | Nov. 24, 2020

FRCSW Test Line Ensures Quality Aircraft to the Fleet

By Jim Markle

Other than assets trucked to Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI), the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Test Line Support Facility is the first and last stop made by an aircraft to the command.

Located at the far Western portion of NASNI, the Test Line is where the command inducts aircraft for maintenance and repair, and conducts test flights prior to customer delivery.

The facility covers almost 1.5 million square feet and includes an 800,000 square-foot aircraft ramp, climate-controlled storage hangars, out-buildings, fabric work shelters and a main support building (785).

Before an aircraft is turned over to its production line, the squadrons maintenance charts and logbooks are reviewed as part of the initial induction process. 

On the flipside of that process, the Test Line and log sell procedures include final ground checks, test flights, and a review of all documentation to ensure that the work has been completed and certified.

Under naval regulations, any aircraft completing depot-level rework is required to complete at least one Functional Check Flight (FCF) prior to delivery to determine the quality of work and the airworthiness of the aircraft. The FCF is the final step in Test Line procedures.

Four of the five major production lines at FRCSW bring their aircraft to the Test Line for FCF: F/A-18 Hornets, E-2C Hawkeyes, C-2A Greyhounds, H-53 Super Stallions and most recently, the MV-22 Osprey.

The H-60 Sea Hawk helicopter is the only aircraft that doesn't pass through the Test Line; though they may be stored there on a short-term basis.

Returning 21 F/A-18 Hornet fighter aircraft to the fleet during fiscal year (FY) 2020, FRCSW test flies more Hornets than any other airframe.

The Test Line selling phase begins once the aircraft is transported from Building 94 where the majority of repairs and maintenance are performed.

Once under the cognizance of the Test Line staff, it is checked, prepared, test flown, and returned to the customer.

The Hornets are also weighed when returned from maintenance because modifications or repairs can affect its weight. The planes are weighed again after painting (prior to delivery to the customer) to make sure they are within weight specifications.

Artisans assigned to the F/A-18 Test Line program include aircraft examiners (AE) and an examination evaluator (EE).

AEs initially issue discrepancies, fix discrepancies and decide when the aircraft is ready. They also assess the aircrafts functions to ensure a safe and proper flight. This includes the hydraulics, fuel system, air conditioning, engines, and cabin pressure.

While AEs turn the avionics on, electricians, EEs and electronic integrated systems mechanics perform the actual system checks.

In contrast to the volume of F/A-18 Hornets, only nine E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning and eight C-2A Greyhound transport aircraft were inducted and returned to the fleet in FY 2020.

Artisans who are AEs, mechanics, electricians, and avionics prepare the turbo-propeller airframe for flight at the Test Line.

During induction, artisans run a series of dynamic tests on all systems to check their condition.

Dynamic tests are those that engage the engines, hydraulics, fuel, radar, and other systems used in the flight of the aircraft.

Work on the E-2/C-2 airframe is done in Building 460 and is typically the aircrafts planned maintenance interval (PMI).

After PMI and any repairs, the aircraft are reassembled and returned to the Test Line where another round of dynamic tests are performed to ensure they meet pre-flight inspection status.

AEs test all of the systems except the avionics, which are tested by journeyman avionic artisans.

Solely serving Marine Corps squadrons throughout the west coast, the FRCSW CH-53 Super Stallion program returned six helicopters during FY 2020.

During induction, the main rotor blades are removed and the aircraft is de-fueled.

Afterward, the aircraft are transported to Building 378 where they undergo the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP)that includes structural repairs to the fuselage and any electrical wiring upgrades.

Work exceeding IMP specifications, like replacing engines or rotor heads that have exceeded their hour or life limit, is often done by the squadrons to save money.

AEs at the Test Line perform startups, systems, and electrical checks.

Unlike the F/A-18 and E2/C-2 programs, FRCSW does not have CH-53 pilots on staff. Instead, pilots from prospective squadrons are notified when an aircraft is ready for test flight and delivery.

FRCSW performs PMI services to MV-22s assigned to west coast squadrons.

On September 23, the command returned its first PMI-2 Osprey to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (VMM-161), under the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Miramar.

FRCSW is scheduled to induct three MV-22s for PMI-2 in FY 2021.

Sept. 26, 2022

FRCSW Navy’s Sole Maintainer of Rotodome Radar

A primary tool of the Hawkeye’s defensive posture is the rotodome radar system, maintained by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).

Sept. 19, 2022

FRCSW Paraloft Shop Oversees Flight Line Gear

The shop is manned by four Aircrew Survival Equipmentman (PR) sailors who track, update, inspect and test a variety of the aircrew’s equipment including life preservers, water bottles, radios, and medical kits.

Sept. 12, 2022

FRCSW Comptroller Department’s Plan Improves Fiscal Health

To better achieve NWCF goals and overcome ongoing financial issues stemming from various external factors, FRCSW created this “Get-Well Plan” in 2019.

Aug. 30, 2022

Vital Aircraft Parts Restored at FRCSW Metal Processing Shops

Once inducted, components are stripped to their metallic structures through blasting and cleaning methods and inspected for indications of corrosion or unusual wear. About half undergo a non-destructive inspection (NDI) to determine the cause of defects found during visual inspections.

Aug. 19, 2022

Navy Primary Standards Laboratory Operates From FRCSW

Assigned to Buildings 469 and 379, the lab is the Navy’s highest level for metrology calibration (the science of measurements) and provides technical assistance and training to shore metrology and calibration program personnel.

Aug. 12, 2022

FRCSW Generators Shop Serves Multiple Naval Airframes

Among the generators serviced are those of the F/A-18, P-3 Orion, V-22 Osprey, H-53 helicopter and the AV-8B Harrier.

Aug. 8, 2022

FRCSW Fleet Support Team: Naval Aviation’s Problem Solvers

Comprised of approximately 500 engineers, logisticians, chemists and scientists, the FST has served as the Navy’s in-service support provider for engineering and logistical solutions for more than 20 years.

Aug. 1, 2022

FRCSW First Depot to Tackle Super Hornet Service Life Modification

Once again the command is at the maintenance forefront of the F/A-18 airframe, this time taking the lead as the only FRC currently assigned to perform the Service Life Modification (SLM) to the Super Hornet E and F variants.

July 25, 2022

FRCSW Supports Marine Corps CH-53E Helos

The command’s CH-53 program operates in Building 333 where fiberglass and component work is completed, and Building 378 where the remaining airframe work is done.

July 6, 2022

FRCSW Repairs Damaged CMV-22 Osprey

The right-hand inner composite skin of the $75 million aircraft sustained a six-foot by three-foot crack with other, but minor, composite damage.