US Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) has stepped up to take on a component workload to ensure continued readiness for the F-18 fleet during the shortage in workforce caused due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The storage in staff impacted Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (ALC) at Tinker Air Force Base (AFB).

As per the initial schedule, FRCE was to begin working with the F-18 cabin safety valve later this year when the test chamber of Oklahoma City ALC underwent maintenance.

The schedule was disturbed when the facility at Tinker AFB saw a reduction in the number of available artisans due to the risks associated with the pandemic.

Work was later handed over to the FRCE without any interruptions to the fleet.

FRCE Gas Turbine Compressor-Pneumatics Fleet Support Team F-18 environmental control systems aerospace engineer Mary Linton said: “The original intent of bringing this workload to FRCE was to support Tinker AFB through a major support equipment rework effort.

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“All of the great effort that went into establishing this capability proved even more critical to maintaining the readiness of the F-18 fleet as we navigate through the Covid-19 crisis.”

To shift the workload from Oklahoma City ALC, FRCE will commence repairing, checking and testing the valves next month.

Inductions will begin at 20 per month, with full induction rate expected to be 40 per month by July.

Linton added: “Originally the plan was for FRCE to slowly ramp up production to give the shop time to gain experience on the component and to ease into the additional workload.”

Artisans in the engine driven compressor/gas turbine compressor shop at FRCE required additional training to prepare for the new component.

However, that did not cause any delay in the depot’s response to the requirement of the fleet.

To date, FRCE has turned around 18 of the 40 units inducted. It plans to induct a further 10.

Following this, more unserviceable but reparable valves will arrive at the depot. This will maintain constant workload.