50 years, the Weapons Survivability Laboratory (WSL) at China Lake, California,
has played a crucial role in making naval aircraft safer and more survivable in
Since 1970, the Naval Air Warfare
Center Weapons Division’s (NAWCWD) WSL has discovered and resolved
vulnerabilities in aircraft before sending naval aviators into enemy territory.
Could a rocket-propelled grenade fired at a flying jet’s fuel tank bring the
plane down? WSL conducts tests, analyzes what happened and provides data so
aircraft designers can do their best to ensure the answer to that question, and
many more, is “no.”
“I’m always impressed with the
passion and dedication of the people working in the survivability discipline,”
said Chuck Frankenberger, WSL lead. “That passion provided a great foundation,
and it’s alive and well in the workforce today. We continue to expand that
foundation by keeping up with or ahead of new aircraft and threat technologies,
providing the most survivable aircraft to our warfighters.”
Today, WSL has five primary test
sites that can accommodate anything from small, unmanned air vehicles to
Naval Air Systems Command initiated
the Aircraft Survivability Program in 1969 after survivability issues plagued
aircraft from World War I through the Vietnam War. In particular, more than
5,000 aircraft were lost to small arms in Southeast Asia, and there were more
than 30,000 incidents of combat damage.
That same year, what was then the
Naval Weapons Center (NWC) was chosen as the lead laboratory to conduct
research and development work to understand vulnerability and survivability on
Navy combat aircraft, such as the A-4 Skyhawk, F-4 Phantom, F-14 Tomcat and A-7
In 1970, NWC started the Vulnerability/Survivability
Gun Range and completed its first live-fire test site. The A-4 Skyhawk was the
first aircraft tested, marking the beginning of a 50-year tradition of
evaluating the lethality of foreign threats against U.S. aircraft and finding potential
But it soon became obvious there were
limits to testing capabilities, mainly, that planes in flight move through the
air at hundreds of miles per hour, while planes on the ground are in still air.
Enter the High Velocity Airflow System (HIVAS).
The facility’s first HIVAS was
completed in 1975 to provide realistic conditions for live-fire testing. The
system simulates in-flight airflow conditions over aircraft surfaces or through
internal compartments or engine inlets.
Over the ensuing years, the Aircraft
Survivability Range expanded its focus, combining live-fire testing and
analysis for a model-test-model approach to identify and test vulnerabilities,
then make recommendations on how to fix them. In 1980, the name changed to the Weapons
Survivability testing, of which WSL
is at the forefront, is so vital that the Department of Defense 5000 series of
directives in 1991 mandated survivability as a critical system characteristic
when acquiring weapons systems. Also, federal law requires realistic
survivability testing be done before production ramps up.
As the times change, so does WSL. The
first HIVAS used two turbofan engines; today, WSL has a four-engine HIVAS and a
nine-engine Super HIVAS, which allows air to move at up to Mach 0.82. In
addition to blowing air over wings, the systems enable testing of aerodynamics,
flares and rocket motors, stores ejection and separations, seat ejections and
parachute deployment, among others.
By performing these tests on the
ground with remote controls and full instrumentation, WSL conducts evaluations
that would be difficult or impossible to complete safely and cost effectively.
As demonstrated over the last 50 years, WSL will continue to adapt to
ever-changing conditions to protect America’s forces from threats old and new.
by Aaron Crutchfield with Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Public
year in the making, engineers from the Propulsion Systems Evaluation Facility
(PSEF) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and engineers at the
Arnold Engineering Development Complex (AEDC) at Arnold Air Force Base,
Tennessee, will soon be collaborating on a first-of-its-kind endeavor.
In September, Leo Rubio, a test
engineer with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s (NAWCAD) PSEF at
Pax River, will join forces with engineers at AEDC to run a test and analyze
the data on a Pratt & Whitney F135, the engine that powers all three
variants of the F-35 Lightning II. What makes this particular test unique is
that Rubio will be watching and participating from the new Remote Data Room in
Maryland while the other engineers, and the engine, will be 700 miles away in
Located inside PSEF, the Remote Data
Room—which currently comprises four monitors and two keyboards—allows a test
analyst at Pax River to act as a remote team member during a live engine test
taking place at the AEDC and view the data being collected.
“One thing we worried about was the
latency when working in real time; will there be dropouts or will we see a
number of data points from a minute ago or a second ago,” said John Kelly,
branch head for Test Operations and Facilities Engineering at Pax River. “But,
so far, with just the few trials we’ve run, it’s milliseconds. Now that the
proof of concept is real, we’re pushing forward and building an actual
dedicated room with four work stations and two big screen TVs so we can see the
engine running in the test cell; and we’ll do a Skype setup so we can also see
Remote Data Room is saving time and money. In the past, if the Navy needed to
help support an engine test, they would have to pay travel expenses and send
personnel to AEDC.
“Even then, we wouldn’t be qualified
to sit and analyze data with the test team,” Kelly said. “We’d be more of an
observer, or the customer, waiting for data. But now, we’ll be more integrated;
we’re one of the test team people watching with this data room.”
That’s where Rubio plays a big part,
having recently completed AEDC’s Aeropropulsion Combined Test Force Basic-Level
Advancing Technical Skill Sets
In 2019, Rubio was sent to the AEDC
facility—which operates more than 60 aerodynamic and propulsion wind tunnels,
rocket and turbine engine test cells and other specialized units—to support the
Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray program and observe an altitude test for the AE3007N
“The goal was to work with my
counterpart at AEDC, Seth Beaman, to develop a training curriculum to get
NAVAIR personnel certified as basic-level analysts,” Rubio said. “I ended up
integrating myself well with the test team and taking on more of the training
and serving as a test analyst during all of their air periods for this test
AEDC has training standards they
follow, and the engineers worked to determine what portion of those standards
applied to Navy employees, whether they are present at AEDC or remotely
supporting a test from PSEF, Beaman said. The curriculum the team developed
will ultimately help advance the workforce and enable them to more quickly
respond to critical evolving requirements of current and future programs like
“Any engineers [at Pax River] who
will be coming down here or who will be remotely supporting will be going
through that training program at some point,” said Beaman, a test analyst and
one of 10 NAVAIR employees with the Aeropropulsion Combined Test Force who work
with the Air Force at AEDC.
Improved Speed and Readiness
With the Navy’s combined interest in
some of the engine testing being done at AEDC, the Remote Data Room offers
NAWCAD engineers the ability to access data, not only in real time while seeing
the test, but also by accessing historical data without having to call down to
Tennessee for assistance.
“[In the past], there wouldn’t have
been much communication between any type of testing [at AEDC] and what they
were doing at Pax,” Beaman said. “If they were interested in accessing data,
they maybe would’ve called a branch chief here to request it, but the lead time
required gathering, analyzing and reporting the data before sharing. Now, [with
the Remote Data Room connection] if Leo wants to access AEDC data, he just has
to log in and he’ll have access to plot any type of historical data he’d need
In a move benefitting both sides, the
analysis group in Tennessee assigned a certain objective, or portion of the
upcoming F135 test, to Rubio, who will analyze fan duct heat exchanger
“We have certain objectives we’re
trying to accomplish, and with Leo responsible for an objective, it will give
him the work he needs to gain experience while [simultaneously] offloading a
little of the work from the analysis force here at AEDC,” Beaman said. “That
gives us time to do a more thorough analysis on the remaining objectives.
Ultimately, this will yield more quality and quicker post-test reports.”
In fact, the biggest winners in all
of this may be the engineers themselves.
“This is a remarkable opportunity for
engineers at Pax,” Rubio said. “We primarily deal with turboshaft engines in
PSEF whereas AEDC deals with turbofan and turbojet engines. This allows our
folks to get a greater variety of testing experience and encourages more of a
collaborative effort. Also, rather than having data forwarded to our teams here
for an engine test they may have some stake in, they can access live test data
and perform their own analysis much faster and with some elaborate tools that
AEDC engineers have at their disposal.”
Kelly also noted another plus to
engineers comes in their role as the voice of the Navy when talking to original
engine manufacturers (OEM), such as Pratt & Whitney, Rolls Royce or GE.
“One of the best ways to get a PSEF engineer knowledgeable on an engine is through doing the testing where you can really see how it operates—the good stuff and the faults,” Kelly said. “It’s a better in-depth understanding of the engine versus just studying what the engine is supposed to do. So, if we have engineers going through this training and learning what the engine is, they’ll be much more knowledgeable at their job and work better with the OEMs.”
“It’s definitely like a ‘Field of
Dreams’ thing: ‘build it and they will come,’” Kelly said. “We know as soon as
we get it going, everyone will be saying, ‘Really? I want to see this.’ I’m
expecting it’ll keep building the more we use it.”
Even as the team starts up the Remote
Data Room, they’re certain it will generate interest beyond their own division.
Donna Cipolloni is editor of the Tester newspaper and supports NAS Patuxent River Public Affairs
Navy Test Engineers to Regain Hands-on Experience
idea of the Remote Data Room was kicked into action when John Kelly, branch
head for Test Operations and Facilities Engineering, arrived at the Propulsion
Systems Evaluation Facility (PSEF) a couple years ago. He was tasked by his
former boss Tony Miguelez, who is now the Fleet Support Team Executive/Chief
Engineer, Fleet Readiness Center Commands, to bring the room to life.
“It was his concept,” Kelly said. “Miguelez was from the generation who came through [Naval Air Warfare Center] Trenton and did a lot of testing. He came up through the ranks and I think he recognized the value of the knowledge that experience gives a test engineer.”
a Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) decision that shuttered the Trenton
facility in the late 1990s, DOD decided all turbo shaft and turbo prop work
would come to the Navy at Pax River, while turbo jet work went to the Air Force
at Arnold Air Force Base, Tennessee.
Weiss, division head for Propulsion and Power’s Test Methods and Facilities
Division, said when Propulsion and Power lost the ability to do altitude
testing in house as part of that BRAC, new engineers coming aboard lost the
ability to look at data, make decisions based on the data and really understand
the inner workings of an engine.
who’s an engineer who has spent part of their career doing flight test, ground
test or anything where you’ve really had your hands into it understands the
product much better than by just watching what others are doing,” Weiss said.
“With the Remote Data Room, I think we’ll get that back.”
also noted with AEDC’s shift from contractors toward the government workforce
taking over data analysis in reporting, the need for a highly trained
government workforce has increased.
need continues to grow, AEDC will not be able to staff up because of financial
limitations within the Air Force,” Weiss said. “This Remote Data Room will come
in to play with the Navy augmenting their ability to conduct these tests on
time and within budget. This is a great opportunity for both workforces to grow
technically and collaborate.” — Donna Cipolloni
Editor’s note: Lt. Cmdr. Howard M. Tillison, USNR (Ret.), was officer in charge of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron (Light) (HSL) 30 Det A aboard USNS Harkness (T-AGS-32) in 1982 during the incident he describes here.
We were inbound in our HH-2D
Seasprite to a promising landing zone (LZ) which was on a gently sloping
coastal plane in the lee of a mountain range that rose from sea level to 3,000
feet within a couple of miles. Inbound to the LZ from the ship at 1,500 feet we
had a 25-knot head wind, shown by comparing our airspeed and doppler ground
speed indications. When I reached a good spot to begin a straight-in landing
approach to the LZ, I started a normal descent and began reducing airspeed from
100 to 70 knots for a straight-in to final. We were attempting to land as
closely as possible to a road which ran along the base of the mountains at the
spot where they began their upward thrust from the coastal plain.
I suddenly noticed that things didn’t
feel right. I looked down to see a 1,500-feet-per-minute rate of descent on the
vertical speed indicator. My ground speed was also increasing and the mountains
were getting bigger all the time. In the space of about a mile, the wind had
shifted 180 degrees and was now dead on the tail. Instead of a straight-in to
the LZ, I ended up button-hooking around. I landed uneventfully, facing back
toward the ocean.
After analyzing the situation, my
copilot and I realized that the easterly tradewinds were spilling over the
ridge and forming a rotor in the lee of the mountains, which resulted in both a
downdraft during our approach and a 180-degree wind shift at ground level.
Luckily, we were lightly loaded, overpowered and had room to recover from a
potentially hazardous situation by making a 180-degree turn prior to landing.
If we had been heavy and failed to notice the wind shift prior to short final,
we could just as easily have been in a settling-with-power, or power-settling
(remember the tailwind) situation.
After that experience, we either had
our ground party pop a smoke flare every time we approached an LZ in
mountainous terrain, or we conducted a flyover at 1,500 feet and tossed out a
roll of toilet paper to see what the winds were doing at ground level before
commencing our approach.
Mountain flying is a different
environment, even when the mountains are right there next to the friendly ocean
and flat tropical beaches. Helo drivers should be aware of this potential
problem before attempting to land on the lee side of a mountain and ending up
with a tailwind instead of a head wind while trying to pull into a hover.
Gramps blamed the CH-53D Sea Stallion
crew in “Lava Lament” (see Grampa Pettibone, Spring 2020) for failing to
“determine the wind direction,” but it’s not always apparent when the wind has
shifted 180 degrees as it did with me and probably did to the CH-53D pilots
that day, in a relatively small space. If a Hornet is on final to a carrier and
the winds go out of limits, the air boss or the landing signal officer can wave
it off. It ain’t the same ball game when you’re in a helo trying to make it
into an LZ without the benefit of having somebody on the ground to put up a
windsock before you arrive.
Naval Aviation’s Root Cause Corrective Action (RCCA) analysis teams concluded their investigations in December and found no single root cause for Physiological Episodes (PEs) experienced by naval aviators.
They determined, however, that PEs
may result from a “stacking of physiological degraders,” according to Rear Adm.
Fredrick Luchtman, Commander, Naval Safety Center, and Physiological Episodes
Action Team (PEAT) lead.
RCCA core team—one for the T-45 Goshawk training jet and another for F/A-18
Hornet and Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler jets—included Naval Air Systems
Command (NAVAIR) engineers along with instructor pilots, independent doctors
and scientists, along with support from dozens of other subject matter experts.
PEs remain Naval Aviation’s No. 1
priority, Luchtman said.
To mitigate risk, the PEAT and
program offices have developed tools and upgraded equipment in the T-45, the
F/A-18 and EA-18G.
“The good news is the rate of PEs in
the T-45 has gone down 90 percent since the peak rate in March of 2017. For the
F-18, the rate has gone down 59 percent since the peak rate in November 2017,”
He attributes those decreases to new
tools and upgrades specific to each aircraft.
focus now is on air crew awareness, proper equipment fit and educating aviators
on how to maximize their physical condition to better withstand the hostile
environment in the cockpit.
“We have validated that there are
some factors—such as hydration, nutrition, sleep, physical conditioning and
stress—that enable one to be more resilient in the cockpit,” he said.
“If you can maximize hydration,
nutrition and rest, and minimize stress, you make yourself more resilient and
able to handle the hostile cockpit environment,” he said.
He compared an aviator’s physiological margin to a suit of armor.
“We call the depth of that armor the
physiological margin. It is how well you are prepared to handle an anomaly in
the cockpit. Like professional athletes, we need to understand our own
physiology and how to maximize our own physiological margin.”
While it is difficult to quantify
human performance aspects, the topic of physiological margins and equipment fit
have been the focus of the PEAT’s roadshows. The roadshows are designed to keep
aviators informed of the PEAT’s findings and aware of upcoming changes before
they are published in the Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures
Feedback from pilots during the
roadshows on the human performance aspects have been mixed, he said.
“There is some level of frustration
that there is no single root cause, no smoking gun. But when we walk through
the scenario and talk about how one can get to a degraded state in the cockpit
based on these physiological aspects adding up, they start nodding their
heads,” he said.
Naval Aviation has made it look
effortless, he added.
“We have done ourselves a disservice
in Naval Aviation by making this look so easy, when in fact this is a hard job
in a very demanding and hostile environment where incredible G-forces,
temperature variations and an almost overwhelming amount of sensory input are
placed upon you. The better physical shape you are in, the better you’ll be able
to withstand those demands,” he said.
When physiological degraders add up,
they may result in a PE, which applies to either breathing dynamics and hypoxia
events, or pressure-related events that result from fluctuating cabin pressure
caused by sub performing parts in the Super Hornet’s Environmental Control
“We want to keep parts from failing,
but in the event they do fail, aviators can protect themselves even more by
making sure they’ve stacked up their physiological margin,” Luchtman said.
In April 2018, the RCCA team
identified gear fit as a contributing factor to PEs.
If the flight harness is worn too
tight or the straps are in the wrong places, it can inhibit the aviator’s
ability to take a full, deep breath.
“If you can’t take a deep breath,
that becomes a physiological degrader and reduces one’s physiological margin.
It adds up with everything else one might be taking into the cockpit, such as
dehydration, hypoglycemia, stress or lack of sleep,” Luchtman said.
The proper fit of the mask around
the pilot’s face is also critical. As the pilot moves his head around there
could be small leaks around the edge of the mask, which can impact the Onboard
Oxygen Generating System’s (OBOGS) ability to provide the proper amount of air,
During the squadron roadshows, a team of experts from the Aircrew Systems Program Office spot checks aviators’ flight gear and suggests how to get a better fit.
are several efforts underway in the Super Hornet community: updates to the PE
reporting guidance implemented in Fall 2019; introduction of the Hornet Health
Assessment and Readiness Tool (HhART) to the fleet last year; and the ongoing
installation of a digital pressure gauge, which will increase air crew awareness.
are in the process of replacing the analog pressure gauge with a digital
pressure gauge that will record data and provide a digital readout of cabin
altitude for the pilot. It will indicate whether or not the cabin altitude is
on or off schedule or is too high or too low,” he said.
are underway and are expected to take 10 days to two weeks per aircraft.
of the most effective mitigations to date is HhART, he said.
reduce fluctuations within the aircraft’s Environmental Control System, the
program office has developed a tool to identify sub performing parts before
tool uses data collected via Slam Sticks worn by pilots during flight and
evaluates how well parts are functioning. (For more on HhART, see article on
“Since we instituted HhART, along
with a couple of other changes, we’ve driven the rate down in F-18s
significantly,” he said.
T-45 Goshawk Mitigations
Early in its investigation, the T-45
RCCA identified a primary contributing factor to oxygen-related PEs: low inlet
pressure to the OBOGS concentrator, Luchtman said.
Program office engineers
straightened the 90-degree bend in the inlet pipe and increased idle RPM on the
“With the engine moving faster, it
provides more air on the inlet side of the OBOGS concentrator. Those two things
really eliminated the air-flow pressure issues with the OBOGS concentrator,” he
Another upgrade to the T-45 was the
installation of the CRU-123 solid-state oxygen monitor in summer 2017.
“As the air comes out of the OBOGS
concentrator, it passes through the monitor first. It’s a check on the quality
of the air to make sure we’re delivering the appropriate oxygen concentration.
If it’s incorrect, it gives the pilot a warning,” he said.
All T-45s have the CRU-123 and it’s
working well, he added.
“While the formal investigation has
concluded, we are continuing to explore how we can optimize the human in the
cockpit,” Luchtman said.
He is pushing for the development of
physiological monitors that will show how the human is performing in real time,
under temperature variances, under Gs, under pressure.
But he has learned that it is not as
easy as it sounds.
“I’ve had to temper my enthusiasm
because it takes a new approach to design sensors that will fit within the
confines of the cockpit, survive the hostile environment and provide useable
data,” he said.
Anything new must also be verified
and validated before introduction to the fleet.
Despite the challenges, the Aircrew
Systems Program Office is currently exploring five monitoring devices, which
are in various stages of test, he said.
The Navy is also working closely
with the Air Force to identify a sensor for tactical aircraft that will not
only provide useful data but will warn of an impending condition.
are depending on industry to help us develop and integrate the sensors into the
cockpit, onto our flight gear and into our existing aircraft systems,” he said.
With the conclusion of the RCCA
investigation, the functions of the PEAT will roll under the auspices of the
Naval Safety Center at the end of April.
At that time, Luchtman is slated to
take command of the Naval Safety Center to ensure continued flag oversight of
“We are very thankful, not only to
Naval Aviation leadership, but naval leadership as a whole and Congress for
their support. There’s never been a question about resources when it comes to
anything related to PE, and I do not see that changing.
“This remains Naval Aviation’s No. 1
safety priority and will continue to be until we’ve driven this rate down as
low as we can.”
Andrea Watters is editor in chief of Naval Aviation News.
Onboard Oxygen Generating System
Onboard Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) was the first target of the root cause
corrective action (RCCA) analysis process to understand physiological episodes
was a lot of theory and discussion of contamination early on,” said Rear Adm. Fredrick
Luchtman, Navy lead for the Physiological Episodes Action Team (PEAT).
took our OBOGS concentrators apart and put them through rigorous testing. We
collected more than 21,000 samples of air and determined that the OBOGS air is
extremely clean and not prone to contamination,” he said.
attributes some of the early confusion to the fact that the OBOGS does not
technically generate oxygen.
air is pulled into the system and passes through two sieve beds. The filters
hold the oxygen and purge the nitrogen, then the system allows the concentrated
oxygen to pass to the pilot.
no chemical process in which chemicals or contaminants could be introduced. The
system doesn’t work in reverse and it cannot deliver anything less than 21 percent
concentrated oxygen because that’s what’s in ambient air,” Luchtman said.
Navy tactical aircraft, including the T-6 Texan, T-45 Goshawk, F/A-18E/F Super
Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-35C Lightning II, use OBOGS concentrators, and
several replacement systems are in the works, he said.
T-6 currently is flying with the 105 model and has begun taking delivery of the
106A Concentrator, which allows for some data recording, Luchtman said.
The T-45 currently flies with the GGU-7 and will upgrade to the GGU-25 concentrator beginning in second quarter fiscal 2022. The F-18 currently flies with the GGU-12, which will be upgraded in 2023 to a Life Support Systems Integration, which will provide scheduled delivery of a graduated amount of oxygen that increases as altitude increases. — Andrea Watters
Fleet Finds Unique F/A-18 Diagnostics Invaluable
One year after first hitting the fleet, a unique F/A-18 analytical tool, Hornet Health Assessment and Readiness Tool (HhART), continues to benefit the warfighter and demonstrate how a mix of data analytics and engineering can serve as an accelerator for naval aircraft readiness.
“This cutting-edge technology will
reduce unscheduled maintenance and make diagnostics and maintenance planning
easier for the warfighter,” said Don Salamon, an engineer for the Physiological
Episodes (PE) Integrated Product Team within the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program
“While the inception of HhART
stemmed from PE investigations, the resulting tool puts data to use in a
practical, proactive way, directly supporting the ability to maintain increased
aircraft readiness as well as maintenance and supply postures,” Salamon said.
HhART leverages aircraft and sensor
data, maintenance information and advanced data analytics to create a health
and performance dashboard display of the aircraft’s critical Environmental
Control System (ECS).
This information provides the fleet
with enhanced prognostic and predictive capabilities to facilitate better
troubleshooting and more efficient maintenance of this complex system of
Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR)
employed the tool and began surveilling the fleet in March 2019, providing
squadrons with direct, proactive feedback and maintenance recommendations on
HhART became the top corrective
action taken to combat PEs and after great initial success, the program rapidly
expanded, leveraging data correlations and unique features identifying
underperforming or failing systems ahead of the onboard aircraft prognostics,
He attributes its success to program
office and NAVAIR leadership empowering and providing resource support to the
multifaceted HhART Team, led by the PE IPT and comprised of data scientists and
technical experts from NAVAIR, Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems
Division, Naval Sea Systems Command, the Carderock Division of the Naval
Surface Warfare Center, the Center for Naval Analyses and The Boeing
“This cross-functional and
collaborative effort between Industry and government highlights the Navy’s
organic capabilities to execute true applications of ‘big data’ and produce
actionable results and outcomes,” said Capt. Jason Denney, F/A-18 and EA-18G
After a successful year in the
fleet, the HhART team is transitioning this same methodology to other aircraft
systems that are primed to benefit from similar data analysis, such as fuel
systems, flight controls, propulsion systems and generator control units—the
current number one degrader for both the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler.
The tool provides operators and
maintainers with an indication of issues or degradation of systems in near
real-time, enabling a more proactive approach and quicker identification of
trends that often inform supply chain management decisions.
The ultimate goal for HhART is
integration directly into the aircraft’s numerous complex systems, further
supporting improved supply, maintenance and readiness postures for F/A-18s and
EA-18Gs. The team behind it is currently digging into the data analysis and
engineering challenges to bring that plan to fruition.
HhART Team has done an amazing job in creating this program and we expect, with
its continued development and expansion to other aircraft systems, that it will
become an indispensable tool for maintaining increased readiness for our
aircraft platforms,” Denney said.
by Erin Mangum with the F/A-18 and
EA-18G Program Office.
The recent cross-country flight of the Navy’s new CMV-22B Carrier Onboard Delivery (COD) variant of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was not only a milestone for the program, but also demonstrated the effective fusion of developmental and operational test in a real-world environment.
a two-day flight totaling just over 6.5 hours in the air, pilots Lt. Cmdr.
Steve “Sanchez” Tschanz, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, and Cmdr.
Kristopher “Junk” Carter of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 1, along with
crew chief Naval Aircrewman (Mechanical) 1st Class Devon Heard flew the first
CMV-22B from the Bell Military Aircraft Assembly & Delivery Center in
Amarillo, Texas, to Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, Maryland, in early
first flight of the aircraft outside of the manufacturer’s test area mirrored
many of the conditions that the aircraft will encounter when operational.
was a great opportunity for operational and developmental testers to work
together on the same flight,” said Tschanz.
agreed with Tschanz’ assessment. “The biggest litmus test I have when we start
out on operational tests is to find a mission that is representative of what we’re
going to do with the aircraft once it is in the fleet,” Carter said. “With this
flight, we got an early look at operational testing while we’re also doing
a crew chief’s perspective, on this trip I was able to see both the developmental
test side and the operational side integrated in one,” said Heard, who was a
2nd class at the time of the flight and has since been promoted.
role of developmental testing, which is the mission of HX-21, is to identify
whether an aircraft or system meets the promised specifications. Operational
testing, which is what VX-1 does, focuses on the ability of an aircraft or
system to operate in the environments that it will encounter once it is
deployed to the fleet.
to the flight, Tschanz, Heard, Bell test pilot Andrew Bankston, and Naval Air
Crewman (Mechanical) 2nd Class Trenton Olsheski conducted a series of
developmental test flights to ensure the aircraft met its specifications.
Following those test flights, it was time to deliver the aircraft to NAS
more accurately, almost time—the crew ended up waiting nearly a week for the
weather to open up between Texas and Maryland. Because the aircraft was fitted
with extensive test equipment, the flight was limited to clear weather and
Saturday, Feb. 1, the weather finally cooperated and Tschanz, Carter and Heard
flew first to Millington, Tennessee, for a refueling stop before continuing on
to Patuxent River. Having flown together before, the three men quickly fell
into a routine: while Tschanz was flying the aircraft, for example, Carter
would be busy monitoring communications and Heard kept his eye on the weather.
Osprey’s high-visibility paint scheme, which the Navy uses to help make it
easier to identify noncombatant aircraft, was part of the attraction when the
aircraft landed in Millington, where the Naval Support Activity Mid-South base
usually a certain amount of interest when a unique aircraft flies into any
airport where that type normally doesn’t operate,” Tschanz said. “But in this
case it was even more fun because we landed and people said, ‘Oh, that’s a
V-22,’ and then immediately you can see the gears start turning in their heads
as they start to realize that something is different about it.”
refueling, the crew departed in the afternoon, expecting to arrive at Patuxent
River in the late afternoon. But approximately nine-tenths of the way home, the
weather started closing in over their destination, and the crew diverted to
Lynchburg, Virginia, to wait out the rain overnight. And like in Millington,
Tschanz, Carter, and Heard found themselves instant celebrities as pilots and
aviation enthusiasts descended on them to ask questions about their unique
following morning, Tschanz, Carter, and Heard flew through clear skies to land
at NAS Patuxent River, bringing a successful close to the aircraft’s first
have a lot of tests to do before we know everything about the airplane, but this
initial look was great,” Carter said of the flight.
“There was a lot of excitement, eagerness and anxiousness to be able to fly the first CMV-22B back to HX-21,” Heard said. “Now we own it and we’re ready to move forward.”
Written by Paul Lagasse, Naval Test Wing Atlantic Communications
VX-20 Sunsets Its C-2A Greyhound
C-2A Greyhound BuNo 162142 made its final flight March 19 after 27 years with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20. The Navy is retiring the C-2A from the carrier onboard delivery role which is being replaced by the CMV-22B Osprey. There are currently 33 C-2s in the fleet, operated by the “Providers” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 located at Naval Air Station North Island, California, and the “Rawhides” of VRC-40 at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia. The CMV-22B is expected to reach full operational capability in 2023 and replace the C-2A by 2024.
When Navy Cmdr. Sydney S. Sherby received orders in March 1945 to assume command of a brand-new Flight Test Training Program at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River, he might not have guessed that 75 years later the program would grow into one of the world’s premier flight test institutions.
Today, the U.S. Naval Test Pilot
School (USNTPS) graduates more pilots, flight officers and engineers each year
than the other three major domestic and international flight test schools
combined and has supplied nearly 100 astronauts to the American space program.
But he probably would not have been surprised.
Sherby, a naval flight instructor
with a degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, had reported to NAS Patuxent River as chief project engineer the
previous year. Almost immediately, the base’s commander handed Sherby a tough
assignment: develop an understanding of how the Navy conducted flight test and
how it could do it better.
World War II, the Navy had consolidated its units for flight test, radio
systems, armament and experimental aircraft at NAS Patuxent River. Sherby
suggested the Navy take advantage of that consolidation by establishing a
formal program of education for test pilots and engineers who would then go on
to staff those units.
C.E. Giese, the base’s flight test officer, agreed with Sherby’s recommendation
and tasked him with drafting a plan for the future flight test school—in just seven
days. With the help of two other officers, Sherby developed the school’s first
curriculum, which covered aerodynamic fundamentals and procedures for testing
aircraft performance and assessing aircraft stability and control, plus a
roster of necessary air and ground tests and a standardized reporting form. The
proposed 10-week course involved 37 hours of classroom work and nine hours of
flying over the course of three days a week.
Less than two weeks later, Sherby
and his sole flight instructor, Lt. H.E. McNeely, welcomed the first group of
14 pilots and engineers—retroactively dubbed Class 0a—to the USNTPS’ first
semester, during which the test pilots under instruction flew a motley
assortment of fighters, bombers and trainers borrowed from the base’s flight
test unit. At the end of May, each of the graduates received a diploma and a
key figure in the school’s early history, Capt. Frederick M. Trapnell, arrived
at Pax River to assume command of the Naval Air Test Center in 1946. Trapnell,
a former flight test officer who had flown fighters from the Navy’s giant
dirigible airships in the 1930s, attended Sherby’s classes and quickly
recognized the program’s need for additional funding and resources. He
recommended sufficient resources be allocated to establish a full-time course
for about 30 students, with classes convening every nine months. Trapnell got
his wish, and the school soon went into business full-time. NAS Patuxent
River’s airfield is named Trapnell Field in his honor.
Written by Paul Lagasse, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Communications.
In 1957, the flight test school formally changed its name to the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. That same year, Marine Corps Maj. John Glenn Jr. (Class 12) set a new coast-to-coast speed record at an average of 725.55 miles per hour flying an F8U-1P Crusader fighter, and the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1.
The Jet Age reached a peak, and the Space Age had begun—and
USNTPS was there to make sure that the nation’s flight test pilots, flight
officers and engineers were ready for both.
In the 1950s, the depth and
breadth of the curriculum expanded to include jet performance, irreversible
flight controls and armament and electronic testing. In 1958, the school
extended the course of instruction to eight months. And when NASA announced its
seven Mercury astronauts in 1959, USNTPS was very well represented with four
alums on the roster: Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter and Wally
The early 1960s saw the first
major additions to USNTPS’ curriculum with the creation of a separate syllabus
for rotary-wing instruction, an introduction to vertical takeoff and landing
techniques and a soaring program.
USNTPS also saw its first
Army graduate, Capt. John Foster (Class 28). During this time, the school also
published its first manuals for helicopter performance testing and rotary
Today, the school’s rotary
syllabus for military pilots is the only one of its kind in the U.S., and for this
reason serves as the Army’s test pilot school.
The end of the decade saw an
entire Apollo mission crewed by USNTPS graduates when Apollo 12 took Pete
Conrad (Class 20), Richard Gordon (Class 18) and Alan Bean (Class 26) to the
moon in November 1969.
Advances in computer
technology had an impact on training at USNTPS beginning in the 1970s with the
introduction of aircraft capable of variable stability including the Calspan
Learjet, which remains a cornerstone of flight training at the school today. Advancements
in technology during that decade required the school to expand its curriculum
again to incorporate airborne systems and to lengthen the syllabus from eight
months to the current 11 months, which the school deemed sufficient to allow
more flight opportunities and time to absorb class instruction and apply it in
In 1983, the USNTPS family
proudly received the Navy Unit Commendation for “extraordinary standards of
excellence in safety, maintenance, curriculum advancement, and overall multi-nation
test pilot training”—a citation that would have undoubtedly pleased Sherby.
That same year, Lt. Colleen Nevius (Class 83) became the first female aviator
to complete training at USNTPS.
The fall of the Soviet Union
provided a unique opportunity for USNTPS technical collaboration when the
Gromov Flight Research Institute near Moscow—Russia’s equivalent of Edwards Air
Force Base—hosted nine instructors and staff in the summer of 1994. USNTPS
returned the favor a year later when it hosted a Russian delegation.
That same year, the doors of
USNTPS’ new schoolhouse first opened to welcome its first classes of students
after its official dedication the previous year. The decade also saw the
inauguration of the Short Course Department, which offers two-week introductory
courses to the developmental flight test community.
In 2003, the Short Course
Department added an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle course and considered the unique
test requirements associated with fielding such systems. As the Navy
significantly increased its investment in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) over
the decade, USNTPS maintained its leading edge by incorporating unmanned test
concepts into its syllabus for test pilots and engineers of the future.
In the 2010s, small UAS
platforms such as the ScanEagle and MQ-8 Fire Scout gave way to larger UAS
platforms like MQ-4C Triton and MQ-25 Stingray, and the establishment of the
Navy’s first dedicated squadron to unmanned platforms—Air Test and Evaluation
Squadron (UX) 24. UAS systems are increasingly being incorporated into the
syllabus, culture and organization of USNTPS, today helping ensure students are
up to speed on the growing field of unmanned aviation.
As another decade dawns,
USNTPS continues to evolve its curriculum to ensure graduates are capable of
confronting the technical and programmatic challenges of the Naval Aviation
Enterprise of today and tomorrow.
Today, USNTPS proudly
provides instruction to Navy, Marine Corps, Army and Air Force aviators, in
addition to aviators and engineers from 17 partner nations, and civil service
engineers across Naval Air Systems Command. The school accepts around 36
students at a time and runs two courses of 11 months each year. Its fleet of 44
fixed-wing, rotary-wing and unmanned aircraft is the most diverse in the Navy,
encompassing 14 different type/model/series.
As it has since Sherby’s
time, USNTPS continues to innovate in order to maintain its status as one of
the world’s pre-eminent flight test educational institutions, dedicated to
providing cutting-edge educational and flying opportunities.
Sources: United States Naval Test Pilot School Narrative History and Class Information, 1945 to 1982 and 1992 supplement; United States Naval Test Pilot School: 75 Years and Counting, 1945 to 2020
Global Sustainment Vision and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) have standardized intermediate level (I-level) maintenance qualification, certification and licensing (Q/C/L) processes within the Advanced Skills Management (ASM) system.
Qualifications for Sailors are now
recognized across all Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs), detachments and Aircraft
Intermediate Maintenance Departments (AIMDs) ashore and afloat, eliminating the
need for remediation with a change in duty station and enabling quicker
delivery of maintenance, repair and overhaul services to the fleet.
ASM was first introduced to the FRCs
and detachments in 2010, followed by the AIMDs. The system changed the
qualification, certification and licensing processes for I-level maintainers.
It provided real-time access to training records that are critical for
assigning qualified personnel to repair and maintain aircraft.
“ASM changed the way business was done.
It gave us the ability to see the current qualifications of a Sailor in
real-time allowing them to get to work more quickly,” said Mike Walter, the
standardization team lead for the Global Sustainment Vision program.
Prior to the recent standardization,
each individual unit was responsible for the development and upkeep of all
qualifications. The unintended consequence of this was the need to retrain
military maintainers due to variations in naming and methodologies between
similar units. ASM couldn’t translate the variances and there was no central
authority controlling the naming and descriptions of each Q/C/L.
During Aviation Electronics
Technician 2nd Class (AT2) Logan Watts’ first change of command, he lost two of
“It took me two to three months at
my second command to get back up to speed. I thought a lot of that training was
repetitious,” Watts said.
The Global Sustainment Vision team
recognized the need for maintainers to be able to transfer their qualifications
from one site to another and made ASM standardization a priority.
“The first wave migrated 20 percent
of Q/C/Ls into similar and already active Q/C/Ls. Another 20 percent were
deleted because they were unnecessary,” Walter said. “We went on to review the
remaining 60 percent and found more work could be done.”
By standardizing the requirements
for certain qualifications the team was able to delete 40 percent of the listed
requirements because they were repetitive. All qualifications are now under the
sole control and responsibility of the I-level model manager at COMFRC and the
fleet administrators at each site to maintain consistency and standardization
A reduction in time required to
requalify translates to an increase in time on task which can directly increase
Watts changed commands again in
February, checking in at the Fleet Readiness Center West detachment in Fallon,
Nevada. The ASM standardization allowed him to start work right away.
“I’m already set to take my exams
for Collateral Duty Inspector. All I needed this time was a little on-the-job
training,” he said.
“With this standardization
initiative completed, Sailors and Marines reporting to a new I-level unit with
previously held qualifications will have those reinstated. Removing the
variance of training processes between units will have an average 90-percent
reduction in time required to requalify,” Walter said.
“While we’re not done yet, I am
encouraged by the improvements people are already seeing. When this is
complete, it’ll be a game changer.”
by Kaitlin Wicker, a communications specialist for the Global Sustainment
New Name, Same Commitment: Global Sustainment Vision
better align its focus with the Naval Sustainment System-Aviation (NSS-A), the
Sustainment Vision 2020 program is now called the Global Sustainment Vision.
Sustainment Vision continues the program’s reforms at the Fleet Readiness
Centers, engineering and maintenance, organizational-level and surge areas to
complement NSS-A initiatives.
program has not changed its mission nor its focus, only its name. Our teams are
still creating products and processes to equip military members and civilians
to sustain Naval Aviation readiness,” said Keith Johnson, Global Sustainment
really brought to light much of what we were already working on. It was great
to have another program come alongside us and say, ‘yes, we need to fix this
system,’” Johnson said.
addition to the efforts spearheaded by NSS-A, Global Sustainment Vision
continues refining and improving initiatives such as the Aircraft on Ground
Cell and Maintenance Operations Center, total resource visibility, the capacity
model, a web-enabled capabilities database, depot-level certification of
military personnel, standardization of the Advanced Skills Management software,
training gap closure, readiness modeling and parts forecasting, and logistics
and engineering sustainment.
of these threads is interwoven with those of NSS-A to fill the seams and
produce sustained readiness for Naval Aviation.
A CH-53D Sea Stallion with a full
load of troops on board was conducting insertion missions from an Army airfield
to a landing zone in a lava field 6,560 feet above mean sea level. The pilot
and copilot conducted hover power checks before departing the airfield. Winds
at departure were 300 degrees at 10 knots, gusting to 15. The helo proceeded to
the landing zone, dropped off the troops, returned to the airfield, took on
another load and returned to the lava field.
On final approach, the copilot, who
was at the controls, began a descent rate to establish the aircraft on glide
slope for landing. Both the pilot and copilot were unaware they were
experiencing a tailwind. The copilot slid the Sea Stallion to the left to avoid
ground support vehicles located along the approach path.
The combined effects of being slow,
with a tailwind, in an environment of high density altitude, and in a high
gross weight configuration, placed the CH-53D in a hover-out-of-ground effect
situation without sufficient power. The induced rate of descent exacerbated the
situation, and the CH-53D began dropping to the ground uncontrollably. This is
sometimes called “settling without power.”
the severity of the helo’s condition, the pilot (aircraft commander) pushed
both speed control levers full forward in an attempt to increase power. The
crew chief called for power and the aerial observer called for a waveoff. The
collective was already at its upper limits as the pilot took over the controls.
He tried to regain control by pushing the nose over and lowered the collective
to execute a waveoff.
Instead, the helo struck the lava
field short of the landing zone with little forward airspeed or vertical
velocity. The tail rotor and left main mount struck lava rock. Simultaneously,
the tail skid lodged in the lava rock causing it to fail aft. The tail rotor
blades disintegrated on impact. The tail pylon separated from the aircraft,
which then lifted 10 feet off the ground and began rotating counterclockwise.
The Sea Stallion struck the ground a
second time and rolled nearly inverted. The engines continued to drive the main
gear box and rotor head throughout the sequence, arcing the fuselage around
until all the blades were completely sheared off from the rotor head.
Fortunately, this helo was equipped
with three-point-restraint troop seats, and vertical deceleration forces were
not sufficient to dislodge the seats. As a result, none of the crew and
passengers sustained serious injuries.
Grampaw Pettibone says …
What a carousel ride that musta been! I’ll bet more than one heart leapt from chest to throat during that spin-around atop the lava field. The helo was flying at 30 to 40 knots at 100 feet above the ground on the approach. These numbers are consistent with a Sea Stallion when its hitting its Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization-prescribed parameters. Technically, it was the aerodynamic limitation imposed by the tailwind that did in the CH-53D. The pilots failed to determine the wind direction. Had they done so, they could have adjusted approach direction and stayed within the proper flight envelope. Situational awareness went by the board at a perilous moment.
government engineers have mitigated an ongoing engine integration issue for the
CH-53K King Stallion—the Marine Corps new heavy-lift helicopter.
This “tiger team” of experts from a variety of engineering
backgrounds came together to find and optimize aircraft modifications using
state-of-the-art computational modeling methodologies, risk management, flight
test data and systems engineering tools.
“Bringing together the tiger team exemplifies the importance
and purpose of an integrated test team,” said Col. Jack Perrin, program
manager, Heavy Lift Helicopter Program Office. “It was great to see the team
turn the corner for the program and produce a resolution to an ongoing problem.
This was a priority for the Naval Air Systems Command, industry and the Marine
Corps, and the team hit it out of the park.”
The program office oversees both the CH-53E Super Stallion,
which is currently in use by the Marine Corps, and the CH-53K.
The CH-53K is the premier heavy-lift helicopter that will
expand the fleet’s ability to move more material more rapidly. That power comes
from three new General Electric T-408 engines, which are more powerful and more
fuel-efficient than the T-64 engines currently outfitted on the CH-53E.
According to Debbie Cleavenger, assistant program manager
for engineering and the program office’s chief engineer, three engines created
several integration issues, including the most troublesome—exhaust gas
“EGR occurs when the hot engine gasses are ingested back
into the system,” Cleavenger said. “It can cause anything from increased
life-cycle costs, poor engine performance and degradation, time-on-wing
decreases, engine overheating and even engine stalls.”
Since April 2019, the tiger team completed more than 30 test
events and evaluated 135 potential design solutions for engine integration.
“The systems constraints were significant,” Cleavenger said.
“One change impacted multiple systems.”
Team members worked different root cause analyses in
parallel, determining the cause and developing design models to mitigate causes
for EGR. From those models, iterative flight testing resulted in a validated
model to assess the most promising answer.
That model was then used to construct components for one of
the test aircraft that flew a rigorous series of test flights to collect data
to validate the model. The extensive set of flight test data was then
condensed, analyzed and presented in December 2019 to show that the result
performed as predicted and provided an overall design modification that would
meet the needs for the CH-53K fleet aircraft.
All CH-53Ks built for the fleet will incorporate this
production solution. Only one test aircraft has been modified to the production
solution, since it would not be cost-effective or beneficial to the program to
modify them all.
“This is exactly what an integrated test team is supposed to
do,” Perrin said. “Bring their expertise to a project, look for resolutions in
a dynamic and collaborative environment, determine the best path forward and
keep this aircraft on track to the fleet.”
EGR testing was executed within the reprogrammed CH-53K
program execution timeline to support Initial Operational Capability in 2021.
The CH-53K is continuing toward completion of developmental test, leading to
Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in 2021, followed by first fleet
deployment in 2023/2024.
Victoria Falcon provides strategic communications for the Heavy Lift Helicopter Program.
CH-53K Logistics Demo Improves Maintenance for Fleet
Data collected during a recent Logistics Demonstration
(LogDemo) for the CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter is already paying
dividends as the aircraft moves closer to fleet introduction for Operational
Test and Evaluation in 2021.
Maintenance data collection and analysis is an ongoing part
of the King Stallion program, but the LogDemo was a unique opportunity to put
the CH-53K through its paces in test and development, while giving fleet
personnel touch-time on the aircraft. Marine Corps participation in evaluating
the integrated product support (IPS) elements is key to future readiness.
During the past 15 months, the CH-53K Supportability Test
and Evaluation (ST&E) team, including industry and government partners,
conducted the LogDemo with the Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron
(VMX) 1 maintainers at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. The
team completed more than 3,500 hours of ground test events.
“Although the window for performance is considered complete
for LogDemo, we are still making opportunities to evaluate maintenance for data
collection,” said Todd Winstead, CH-53K ST&E LogDemo lead.
The LogDemo kicked off an on-going process of observation, identification
and analysis in the logistics process for the CH-53K, he added.
“LogDemo has helped us in early discovery of maintenance
deficiencies, providing lead-time for improving product support prior to
commencing operational test,” he said. “It will also increase efficiency for
“In LogDemo, we took an actual CH-53K aircraft apart and
rebuilt it, documenting the process every step of the way,” said Lt. Col.
Julian Rosemond, CH-53K product support lead. “The LogDemo gave our Marines
advanced practical experience and improved problem-solving skills. They were
able to obtain qualifications and improve their capability to perform function
tests to be prepared for squadron stand-up.”
LogDemo was a win-win for all involved, he said. The team
received real-time assessments by working with fleet Marines. The entire
program gathered valuable data to correct and improve logistics support
products that will lead to increased efficiency and accuracy in the performance
of future maintenance operations.
A key to the LogDemo is the verification of data in the
Interactive Electronic Technical Manual (IETM) modules using an iterative
approach. The IETM is a digital manual that contains technical procedures that
guide the maintainers in accurately removing and installing components;
performing troubleshooting and functional tests; identifying replacement parts;
and interfacing peculiar support equipment to perform tasks.
The team evaluated critical maintenance tasks while
conducting verification of IETM procedures—from the use of support equipment to
the specific tools used to perform maintenance. For example, during the
evaluation for removing and installing a major component, Marines identified
discrepancies with IETMs and steps missing to adequately perform torqueing and
measuring for installing a main rotor head, thus requiring
technical/engineering support to correct procedures.
“If not for LogDemo and the discovery of the improper
procedures, serious damage or failure to a critical safe-for-flight component
could have occurred,” Winstead said.
However, because of LogDemo, that risk was avoided and the
documentation has been corrected, he said.
Though the LogDemo is now complete, the team’s work continues in providing deficiency reports and report summaries. The team is also preparing for future testing, including the CH-53K sea trials, which will occur later this year.
Written by Victoria Falcon, who provides strategic communications for the Heavy Lift Helicopter Program.