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Sat, Jun 21, 2003

NAVAIR Clears Seahawks for 12,000 Flight Hours

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) air vehicle engineering department has cleared the in-service U.S. Navy Seahawk fleet of H-60B/F/Hs to continue flying to 12,000 hours. This milestone marks a major achievement for the numerous Seahawks currently supporting Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, as well as a variety of Counter Drug and Homeland Security Operations.

The requirement for at least a 12,000-hour airframe life was recognized in mid-2001 when facing two major inventory changes. First, the MH-60R multimission helicopter was changing from a remanufacture strategy to a new build strategy. The increased time for new build would mean MH-60Rs would take more time to fully field to the fleet when it commenced deliveries in 2005.

Second, the Chief of Naval Operations was to approve a new Helicopter Concept of Operations transition plan (approved January 2002). This major warfighting and transition strategy made the MH-60R/S the primary maritime helicopters for the entire Navy.

The single biggest consequence of these two changes was the formation of a gap in usable SH-60B Seahawk aircraft during the transition. There was only one possible solution that did not jeopardize either program - the service life of the Navy’s SH-60B had to be extended from the current life limit of 10,000 hours through an advanced service life extension (ASLE) program to 12,000 hours. The extension for the SH-60F and HH-60Hs would allow for flexibility to mitigate future inventory problems.

ASLE is not a new concept within the NAVAIR helicopter engineering community. Chuck Miller, an engineer with NAVAIR’s air vehicle, structures - strength engineering department, and Mike Bumgarner, NAVAIR Cherry Point, N.C., H-60 in-service support team, were given the task to develop a way forward to 12,000 hours that could be adapted to any further life increase requirements.

Both engineers’ teams worked closely with each other, using their respective talents and experience to develop a solid plan and schedule forward to meet the goal. The process targeted aircraft between 9,500 and 10,000 hours.

Through the type commander, the squadron and type wing would submit a request for inspection. The closest depot would then evaluate and document the material condition of the aircraft with specific inspections related to structural fatigue. This data was forwarded to the in-service support team at Cherry Point to review and determine corrective actions for discrepancies, as well as documenting satisfactory material condition to justify extension. These findings were then reported to the strength engineering department for review and to determine any structural fatigue trends.

After 12 aircraft were inspected and found to meet the requirements set forth by Miller, a blanket extension would be granted for the entire fleet. In April 2003, the strength engineering department released the blanket 12,000-hour service life extension message completing an effort that started in June 2001.

“This effort was expeditiously completed during a time of high national tasking for the H-60 fleet, as well as the engineering and logistics support structure for those aircraft,” said Ken Caniglia, deputy program manager for NAVAIR’s H-60 program office. “Those considerations being accounted for, the achievements of the H-60 team at NAVAIR, the depots, and the fleet are even more impressive. Battle group commanders will continue to have adequate numbers of H-60 aircraft filling critical mission tasks, and the path forward to helicopter CONOPS (concept of operations) is closer to being a reality.” [ANN Thanks Renee Hatcher, NAVAIR Public Affairs]

FMI: www.news.navy.mil/local/navair

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