Face of Defense: George Washington Sailors Keep Aircraft Flying
By Navy Seaman Matthew Riggs
USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 Aircraft maintainers serving aboard here help keep the carrier’s planes mission ready.
Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington fight a simulated fire during a mass casualty drill on the ship's flight deck. George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the United States and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Apprentice Oscar Albert Moreno Jr.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department 2nd Division disassembles, repairs, rebuilds and tests specialized jet engines used by the George Washington’s aircraft.
“We’re basically the ship’s engine repair shop,” said Navy Seaman Jacob Lichty, from Waterloo, Iowa. “Our job is to ensure every jet engine we receive is perfectly ready to go in every way possible.”
According to Lichty, the carrier’s Super Hornet aircraft use two F414 jet engines and each engine is capable of producing more than 21,000 pounds of thrust.
“We used to use the F404, but this newer iteration is much more powerful, lighter, and generally much more efficient,” Lichty said.
The engines are split into several component parts called modules. Each module is dedicated to a particular part of the engine’s function. For example, the afterburner delivers more fuel into the engine, which boosts the aircraft’s thrust by more than 50 percent.
“These engines have six different modules,” said Navy Seaman Corbin Riley, from Akron, Ohio. “We rarely ever have to fix an entire engine; we replace particular modules or install newer ones as necessary.”
According to Riley, the jet engine maintenance shop has a time to repair or replenish schedule that allows each job to typically take less than 32 working hours.
The amount of work the mechanics perform depends on how often the air wing is flying. Engines only need to be serviced once they reach a state called "high time."
“High time is defined as more than 3,000 total hours of use,” said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin Ligtenburg, from Amboy, Illinois. “To give an example of how long that is, I’ve worked here for two years and I have never seen the same engine twice.”
Jet engines are incredibly sturdy but remain vulnerable. A single foreign object getting inside an engine can damage or ruin it.
“Although we have enough space and personnel to work on two engines at once, we prefer to only work on one at a time to keep us from mixing up parts or paperwork. Foreign object damage is something we focus to avoid,” Ligtenburg said.
The jet engine shop performs intermediate level maintenance. More extensive repair requires sending engines to shore facilities that are better equipped to work on module assemblies.
“We basically act as the quick repair shop for the jets,” Ligtenburg said. “However, we can only do so much with the equipment we have to maintain these engines.”