Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) is gearing up to return an MV-22 Osprey to the fleet after conducting a wing-off stow ring replacement on the aircraft, the first completion of this procedure by a naval aviation depot. In another inaugural depot-level repair, FRCE artisans tackled corrosion on the aircraft’s K-fittings with the wing off, rather than the standard wing-on method; this required a novel approach to the process. One unique feature of the MV-22 is the wing/rotor fold system that allows the rotor blades to fold inward, the nacelles to be rotated down, and the entire wing to turn ninety degrees clockwise, stacking it above the body of the aircraft. This folded configuration considerably reduces the footprint of the MV-22, allowing it to operate off all Navy L-class amphibious ships, including LHA/LHD amphibious assault ships. It can also be stowed on full-size CV/CVN carriers.
“There were a number of firsts associated with this aircraft. We found ourselves performing work on this airplane that was not part of our normal routine. We were not the first people to take a wing off an MV-22 by any means, but FRCE was the first depot to do it,” said Matt Sinsel, FRCE’s V-22 branch head.
“The stow ring is a key element of the wing/rotor fold system. It’s a crucial component. The stow ring is what allows the plane to stow the wing 180 degrees. It also holds the airplane and the wing together. Take the stow ring off the wing and the fuselage will not stay together. After working extensively with engineering, we made a decision to remove the wing; we felt like this was something we’re going to be doing in the future, so we might as well tackle it now,” said Don McLean, V-22 overhaul and repair supervisor at FRCE.
The V-22 team discovered the corrosion on the aircraft’s stow ring when the MV-22 was inducted for planned maintenance. Corrosion is a problem common to military aircraft like the MV-22, which are flown in some of the most demanding operating environments on the planet. According to Sinsel, the stow ring had to be replaced and this would require removing the wing. The removal of the wings also impacted the work to be done on the aircraft’s K-fittings. As with the stow ring, FRCE’s V-22 team had done work on K-fittings before, but this had always been performed on the aircraft. With this MV-22’s wing removed, McLean says, artisans had to either wait until the wing was back on the aircraft or explore the possibility of tackling the K-fittings off the aircraft. K-fittings are a critical component that house the flaps that control the aircraft’s up and down movements. When conducting a replacement, artisans must place the new fitting within 30 one-thousandths of an inch of the original fitting’s location.
FRCE’s V-22 production manager, the work involving the K-fittings required intensive collaboration and an almost obsessive level of attention to detail. The V-22 team had no hesitation about venturing outside their comfort zone in order to gain new expertise. Collaboration as crucial to the success of the project. Despite the challenges the team faced, he said the learning process equipped the depot with new skill sets moving forward. The project showcases what a team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals can accomplish. He also said it underscores the motivation that drives the FRCE team. FRCE is North Carolina’s largest maintenance, repair, overhaul and technical services provider, with more than 4,000 civilian, military and contract workers. Its annual revenue exceeds $1 billion. The depot provides service to the fleet while functioning as an integral part of the greater U.S. Navy; Naval Air Systems Command; and Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.