On January 26th, 2017 students from the St. Johns County Aerospace Academy visited Fleet Readiness Center – South East (FRCSE) located at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. NAS Jacksonville has several mission capabilities including unmanned aerial systems, aircrew rescue, and anti-submarine warfare. While NAS Jacksonville is home the newest aircraft in the Navy Fleet, the P-8 Poseidon (a modified Boeing 737 capable of launching torpedoes) the base also prides itself on being able to maintain the P-8’s fifty year old precursor the P-3 Orion.
The tour through the FRCSE took them from the Depot Maintenance Facility where they spoke to an F-18 Pilot who is responsible for test flights after an aircraft has been in maintenance. In some cases an aircraft may be in maintenance or modification for up to two years! After the visit to the F-18 maintenance line, they met a civilian engineer in the Manufacturing Department. The manufacturing department is responsible for creating parts for the aircraft. The issue is that these parts or part schematics may no longer exist. The manufacturing department is responsible for engineering, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping and manufacturing items with mills, lathes, and water jetting machines. Some of the machines fit neatly on a desktop, some are as large as a small house. The tour ended in the Materials Laboratory, here scientists and engineers use scanning electron microscopes, forensics, chemicals, and laboratories to determine material failures, best corrosion practices, and better manufacturing processes.
The FRCSE tour is an excellent opportunity and example of STEM educations in action. Members of FRCSE were very welcoming and proud to share their knowledge with the students. Many students mentioned that this was perhaps one of the “eye-opening” field studies ever.