FRC East team receives NAVAIR commander award

The Fleet Readiness Center East T64 engine team poses for a group photo with FRC East Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieto, front and center, to commemorate the team’s win in the Best Performing Fleet Readiness Center Shop category of the 21st annual NAVAIR Commander’s Awards, announced March 31. (Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East Public Affairs photo)

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East

CHERRY POINT — A marked decrease in turnaround times earned Fleet Readiness Center East’s T64 engine production team recognition during a Naval Air Systems Command ceremony March 31.

NAVAIR Commander Vice Admiral Dean Peters presented FRC East with the NAVAIR Commander’s Award for Best Performing Fleet Readiness Center Shop during a virtual event livestreamed from NAVAIR headquarters in Patuxent River, Md. This year marked the 21st annual observance of the awards, which recognize teams that improve speed and readiness within naval aviation.

The winning teams and individuals, Mr. Peters said, exemplify NAVAIR’s two primary mission areas of delivering advanced capability in a timely manner and sustainment of the equipment delivered by the command.

“In other words, speed and readiness,” he said. “These are our North Star mission areas, and they drive our long-term vision, they drive our day-to-day resource allocation.

“Ultimately, the value we provide to naval aviation is through our most valuable resource, which is our people,” Mr. Peters added. “This is about outcome, with the understanding that each and every person has the ability to positively and meaningfully impact mission success.”

FRC East’s nomination, chosen as the winner from 52 total submissions, detailed the T64 team’s reduction in engine turnaround times in fiscal year 2020. The shop lowered turnaround times for the T64 engine, which powers the CH-53 Super Stallion and MH-53 Sea Dragon, to 298 days from the negotiated 472 days. In cutting turnaround times, the shop also met its fiscal year production goal of 54 engines despite challenges presented by facility and material constraints and the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s incredibly satisfying to see our T64 engine program recognized for their extraordinary efforts, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team of professionals,” FRC East Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Nieto said. “For them, the real reward isn’t in the recognition – it’s in seeing the impact their work has had on the H-53 program and naval aviation readiness, and knowing that what they’re doing has a direct effect on our nation’s warfighters. That’s what really drives the team to get in there and give their best effort every day.”

The gains made by the T64 team have contributed to H-53 readiness, and the reduction in cycle time has resulted in a lower cost-per-engine labor expenditure than in prior years, making the program more affordable for the fleet. Improvements continue and current turnaround times consistently hover in the 250- to 275-day range, with FRC East posting a record turnaround time of 223 days in March – an improvement of 18 days over the previous best.

The combined efforts of the H-53 propulsion integrated product team and the FRC East T64 engines team have resulted in the highest level of ready-for-issue T64 engines in seven years, said Roy Harris, executive director for Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, as he announced FRC East’s win.

This success comes as the result of several years of effort, said David Rose, director of the Engines and Dynamic Components Division within FRC East’s Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Production Department.

“The culture and the mindset of the shop's aviation maintenance professionals has not changed,” Mr. Rose explained. “These are the same people now producing engines and breaking records every time they sell one – the difference is they have the support and tools they need to accomplish the mission.”

Various improvements helped drive the T-64 team’s success, but the bulk of the credit goes to the dedicated aircraft maintenance professionals who show up and give their best every day, Mr. Rose said.

“Our people are what make the difference at FRC East,” he said. “They have the knowledge, they have the skill and they have the motivation – we just needed to remove the obstacles and let them do what they do best. They’re the key to the success of the engine program.”

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