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Yuma Fleet Readiness Center personnel work to keep station Harriers flying

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | September 17, 2009

A group of 30 Department of Defense civilian employees at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., are dismantling AV-8B Harriers for repairs and modifications to keep the Harrier fleet flight-ready.

Fleet Readiness Center mechanics, electricians, sheet metal artisans and inspectors, as well as Boeing contractors, are all working together to disassemble, update, overhaul, repair and reassemble Marine Aircraft Group 13 Harriers in MCAS Yuma's hangar 224.

The center here is a permanent detachment on station from FRC Southwest, headquartered in North Island, Calif.

Specializing in making major structural and electrical modifications to aircraft, the FRC goes beyond what can be done by the individual squadron’s maintenance personnel.

The FRC’s personnel are trained to perform advanced maintenance, while the squadron personnel are trained to perform organizational maintenance, troubleshooting, minor repairs and replace flight controls and avionics, said Rick Marinez, aircraft production manager.

One of the FRC’s current projects is to reinforce the framing that surrounds the central fuel cells of the station’s Harriers, said Kenny Ausdemore, sheet metal mechanic.

The airframe was prone to stress and fractures that often went unnoticed until preventative maintenance interval inspections were performed. If not fixed, the fractures could cause the frame to break and strike the fuel cell in flight, resulting in a possible explosion.

The sheet metal mechanics strengthened the frame by doubling the amount of metal footings to reinforce it, said Ausdemore.

The FRC personnel here work on three Harriers at a time, each for an average of 90 days, and are scheduled to work more than 48,000 hours of labor this fiscal year, said Marinez.

"Most of us are veterans," said Floyd Vialpando, FRC foreman. "We know the value of having these aircraft working out in the fleet, so we work hard to make sure they work right."

The FRC is responsible for servicing every aircraft in the entire Marine Corps’ air fleet, said Vialpando.

The center also supports the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course on station, performing maintenance to any aircraft that has sustained operational damage, said Vialpando.

The FRC supports deployed units as well. The Yuma FRC recently sent a team to an amphibious assault ship to perform maintenance while the ship was underway, said Vialpando.

When the F-35 Lightning II enters the fleet, the center will also be responsible for its maintenance needs.

"We are a Department of the Navy asset," said Vialpando. "We’ll work on anything and everything."

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