By Kimberly Koonce, Fleet Readiness Center East
CHERRY POINT — Aviation maintenance professionals at Fleet Readiness Center East do their work by the book. Mechanics are required to consult maintenance manuals as they perform their repair and overhaul tasks on military aircraft, and it’s critical those manuals contain only the most current information.
Keeping these paper and electronic manuals up to date is top priority for the data management technicians and librarians in FRC East’s Technical Library. Between production lines, machine shops and engineering offices, more than 7,600 manuals and 440 computer-based systems are used daily to ensure maintenance procedures are followed correctly.
It’s up to the 10-person library staff to make sure those manuals, drawings and portable electronic maintenance aids are current. The librarians take that responsibility seriously, according to Technical Library supervisor Melisa Jones.
“We try to instill in the librarians that every day when you do your job, you need to do it accurately, correctly, and in accordance with all guidelines, processes and procedures that we have in place,” Ms. Jones said. “The safety and quality of our products depend on it.”
Publication updates can take the form of technical directives, airframes changes, engineering bulletins, drawings or other input. Data managers in the library are notified by the Naval Air Technical Data and Engineering Service Command, or NATEC, about required changes and updates on any of FRC East’s many aircraft platforms.
Some librarians work in close proximity to their assigned aircraft programs, while others can log several miles a week traveling between aircraft lines to update materials. A data manager travels weekly to the FRC East detachment at Marine Corps Air Station New River, and the Technical Library also supports MCAS Beaufort, S.C, and will support future H-1 work in Kinston.
The facility has about 440 laptop systems known as portable electronic maintenance aids, or PEMAs, which hold digital copies of the technical manuals. PEMAs are stored in large electronic cabinets, and information can be pushed to up to 21 units at a time while they are connected to the cabinet.
“We put our personal identification numbers into the cabinet and check out a PEMA, just like a tool,” Alexander Elftmann, V-22 work leader, said. “We bring it out, pull up the task we’re assigned to, and follow it, step by step.”
Ms. Jones said the H-1 and V-22 programs have used interactive electronic technical manuals, or IETMs, for several years. She said the H-53 program should be converting to electronic manuals sometime next year, while the F-35 program is using a hybrid of paper and electronic manuals. The AV-8 production line is expected to continue using paper manuals through the life of the aircraft program.
The technical library is conducting a pilot program in some shops that use PEMAs to reduce the number of paper manuals in the shops. Artisans say they appreciate the immediacy of the electronic manuals as long as a paper copy is available in case of a technical glitch.
“The best thing about electronic manuals is you’ve always got the most up-to-date copy,” said Robert Durst, test cell artisan in the Pneudraulics Branch. “You pull it off the computer, that’s the most current which is available. That’s the best thing you could ask for. The down side is if the system’s down, you have nothing. That’s the double-edged sword.”
According to Patricia Barr, data management specialist, the technical library staff is working with supervisors to find the mix between paper and digital information that works best for each individual shop.
Technical librarians acknowledge the conversion from paper to digital is an ongoing process. Data managers in the technical library say they appreciate the responsibility they have to ensure all technical information used at FRC East is correct.
“The mechanics on the floor refer to the copies as their bible. They don’t do any work without it being open,” data management technician Brandon Fone said. “Essentially if they’re not working off the correct data, they’re doing incorrect work, which has a direct result on the safety of the aircraft.”