Fleet Readiness Center East recently accepted delivery of an F-35 airframe transported by barge from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina, to FRCE facilities aboard MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.
Working together with the F-35 Joint Program Office, FRCE received approval to accept the stripped down airframe for use in maintenance training and engineering testing, which will allow for the development of improved tooling, maintenance procedures and sustainment practices.
“As a depot maintenance trainer, the airframe will allow new employees an opportunity to test their skills on the proper maintenance and repair processes used on F-35 before being required to do it on a fleet aircraft,” said Matt Crisp, FRCE site lead for the F-35 Joint Program Office. “Our sustainment engineering efforts include the ability to prototype modifications and repairs, test new and improve existing support equipment, test new processes and materials, and support other efforts to investigate opportunities for sustainment cost and maintainability improvements.”
The relocation process began March 1, when workers at MCAS Beaufort prepped the airframe and used a crane to load it onto the barge, which took four days to reach MCAS Cherry Point via the Intracoastal Waterway. At the MCAS Cherry Point docks, transportation specialists unloaded the airframe from the barge and used a self-propelled transport dolly to transport the airframe to FRCE during the night. Officials scheduled the unusual delivery method to Cherry Point and late-night transfer to FRCE to make the lowest possible impact along the transportation route.
“The decision to move the airframe with a barge was largely due to the expected impacts of traffic along the route from Beaufort to Cherry Point,” said Crisp. “I can tell you that it gained a lot of attention as it made its way through the Intracoastal Waterway.
“We’re excited to have this airframe available because it allows us to train our workforce and test new engineering sustainment initiatives without impacting a fleet aircraft,” said Crisp. “It will only make us better prepared to support fleet readiness.“