FRC East supports fleet through Sikorsky H-53 partnership as depot exceeds backorder goals

Glenn Roberts, a pneudraulics mechanic in the Fleet Readiness Center East hydraulics shop, assembles an H-53 primary servo cylinder. The primary servo cylinder is one of the items FRC East repairs as part of its H-53 public-private partnership with Sikorsky. (Contributed photo)

By Heather Wilburn, Fleet Readiness Center East

CHERRY POINT — A partnership between Fleet Readiness Center East and Sikorsky is helping meet the fleet’s needs for critical parts for CH-53E Super Stallion and MH-53E Sea Dragon heavy-lift helicopters.

Under a public-private partnership, the depot’s artisans provide the skilled labor required to repair and overhaul certain H-53 components, while Sikorsky provides the parts and logistics support. In fiscal year 2021, the partnership successfully reduced high-priority component backorders to help boost aviation readiness.

The partnership has proven successful even through a challenging production environment complicated by material constraints and pandemic-related considerations, according to David Rose, acting director of the maintenance, repair and overhaul production department at FRC East.

“Our team has done a great job in mitigating not only the normal challenges to production, but has done so during uncertain times,” he said. “We managed to deliver the product and we pride ourselves on that. At the end of the day, it’s all about meeting the commitment we made to get the warfighter what he or she needs, and our performance in this program allows us to do that through the partnership with Sikorsky.”

FRC East helped Sikorsky meet the fleet’s needs by prioritizing workload to fulfill high-priority backorders, also known as Issue Priority Group 1, or IPG-1. An item becomes an IPG-1 based on a force activity designator, which is a classification assigned based on several factors including the requesting unit’s deployability.

“If you look at the last year, I think the big takeaway is that we were able to continue meeting our production goals on time despite the challenging environment, and bring down those fleet backorders to progress to the point that we promised our customers,” said Jamie Byrd, an industrial specialist in the public-private partnership management branch.

One example of FRC East meeting a stretch goal set by Sikorsky occurred in the H-53 blade shop producing almost three times its usual monthly output to close the fiscal year. In an average month, the blade shop produces about 15 main rotor blades; in September, Sikorsky requested 31, said John Miller, the public-private partnership branch program manager.

“They set some pretty lofty goals for FRC East to meet,” Mr. Miller said. “Not only did we meet that, but we exceeded it and produced 42 blades for the month of September. Doug Ford and his team in the blade shop never cease to amaze me. In August 2019, Sikorsky had more than 50 unfulfilled requisitions for H-53 main rotor blades; as of today, Sikorsky has zero unfulfilled requisitions and ample stock on shelf.”

The hydraulic shop provided another recent example of a team going the extra mile to meet the needs of the fleet through the Sikorsky partnership. The hydraulic and paint shops came together, Mr. Miller said, to produce nine primary servo cylinders in under a month.

“The hydraulic shop, the paint shop, quality assurance – they all came through when we needed them to,” Mr. Miller noted. “Everybody was really hustling and bustling to meet this goal.”

In addition to filling the IPG-1s, FRC East also managed to reduce turnaround times on critical items such as the H-53 main rotor head, one of the most complex components worked at the depot in terms of the number of sub-components and parts comprising the finished product. FRC East began servicing the main rotor head as part of the Sikorsky partnership in 2019.

 “The turnaround time we quoted for the rotor head was a year – that’s how long it takes to get it processed, repaired, and back out to the fleet,” Mr. Byrd said. “And now the shop is doing it in seven to eight months. They’ve managed to reduce the turnaround time for that component in under two years.”

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