Quick response keeps Black Hawk fleet airborne
October 31, 2013
TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (Oct. 31, 2013) -- The Army turned to Tobyhanna Army Depot for help when a piece of faulty equipment grounded a number of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.
To keep the fleet airborne, 20 depot technicians were tasked with rebuilding and overhauling hundreds of legacy CN-1314 Vertical Displacement Gyroscopes to replace the modern Fiber Optic Gyroscopes that weren't functioning properly. The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command's, or CECOM's, Enterprise Soldier Aviation Directorate, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., funded the short-notice, high-priority project in June.
Less than 100 gyros remain of the 426 increase the depot received just a few months ago, according to Sam Capizzi, Airborne Communications/Instrument Branch chief. The team is scheduled to finish the job by the end of November.
A Black Hawk Safety of Flight memo was issued by the Aviation and Missile Command, headquartered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., restricting all Instrument Meteorological Conditions, or IMC, flights for the helicopters with the Fiber Optic Gyroscopes system installed.
"By acting quickly and being proactive, Tobyhanna Army Depot has helped reduce the Safety of Flight impact not only for CECOM, but most importantly the Soldiers who need to fly in IMC conditions," said John Watson, inventory management specialist, Enterprise Soldier Aviation. "The success of this project is a true testament to teamwork."
Watson is the item manager for the CN-1314 gyroscope.
What makes this situation unique is that the CN-1314 is an older asset that is being phased out (but still in the inventory) and replaced by the fiber optic gyroscopes, Capizzi explained. Tobyhanna works on both models of the legacy gyroscope.
To meet customer requirements, the branch needed to overcome a few obstacles. CECOM worked with Tobyhanna controllers and promptly came up with solutions to handle the increased workload with additional manpower and by starting a new production line, according to Watson.
"These employees have surpassed all expectations," said George Bellas, director of the Command, Control, Computers /Avionics Directorate. "I'm extremely proud of the quality and quantity of work they've accomplished in such a short period of time."
On average, nine employees complete about 60 vertical displacement gyros a month for CECOM. This short-term increase in fiscal year 2013 operations necessitated a third shift and required training new employees to support the workload.
"Volunteers from other avionics shops stepped up to help with this project," Capizzi said. "It took about a month to get everyone trained and up to speed. Steadily and surely, they started to produce gyros."
Employees are sorted into four areas -- builders, calibrators, rotor buildup and banders/debanders.
Bellas mentioned that the gyro work is "micro-mechanical" and requires highly-skilled technicians with a steady hand, patience and good eyesight. The two shifts have a mix of experienced and inexperienced employees working together, he said.
It takes nearly 30 hours to dissemble, overhaul and rebuild, then test the asset, according to Electronics Mechanic Pam Eisenhauer, who has worked on gyros for about seven years.
"Different people have different responsibilities," Eisenhauer noted. "It's been a lot of hard work and we're getting the job done -- as a team."
Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.
About 3,700 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.