The U.S. Navy has announced on Monday that it has returned a broken E/A-18G Growler carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft back to the fleet.
“Originally this aircraft suffered a hot air leak in its engine bay that resulted in damage to the side of the aircraft,” said F/A-18 Class Desk Inventory Manager Bob Alley, who retired in 2009 as a Master Chief Avionics Technician.
The E/A-18G Growler departed Naval Station Norfolk in July, returning to its home at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, newly assigned to Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129. The repaired E/A-18G Growler had 607 hours on its airframe. An E/A-18G has an aircraft lifespan of 7,500 hours.
“While this aircraft was originally assigned to VAQ-140, returning these types of aircraft to the fleet helps inventory pressures because of deployments and helps to maintain readiness,” said Alley, who has been working with Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic and the engineers from the Fleet Support Team in North Island, California to restore this aircraft.
Lt. Cmdr. Dave Badman, who currently serves as the Commander, Electronic Attack Wing U.S. Pacific Fleet (CVWP) maintenance officer at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington emphasized the real team effort involved to return this aircraft to the fleet.
“We are appreciative of the countless number of personnel involved and hours expended to return this aircraft back to the Fleet increasing our overall readiness,” said Badman.
Alley added that repairing this particular aircraft provided a variety of firsts because it simply had never been attempted before.
“To my knowledge, no previous aircraft damaged in the engine, such as in the case with this particular aircraft, repairs have not been attempted before,” said Alley. “For these types of aircraft the engineers that are charged with repairing them it’s a lot like performing a difficult surgery.”
When asked if the average maintainer or pilot knows the history of maintenance performed on aircraft, Alley added that most people do not realize the amount of man-hours spent to operationalize the aircraft.
“This aircraft was off of the flight line awaiting repairs, and most people don’t know the hundreds of man-hours it took to restore this aircraft, but it is worth it,” said Alley.
Alley added that while doctors use scalpels, engineers use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) modeling to determine the level of repairs needed.
“We are using repair techniques and strategies that we have not used before, different patches that we have not used before, and the engineers had to come up with a repair that will last the aircraft’s lifetime,” said Alley.