NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, RIVIÈRE PATUXENT, Md.– When faced with emergency landing conditions, Airmen and crews have long relied on proven training, procedures and equipment to make perilous moments as safe as possible.
As the Navy adapts to the CMV-22B Osprey as a Carrier On Board Delivery (COD) platform, many new procedures must be created and approved from the ground up. Unlike previous variants of the V-22, there was no standardized crash gear available on a transporter to protect the CMV-22B during emergency landings.
The PMA-251’s Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team coordinated closely with the V-22 Joint Program Office (PMA-275) to help field equipment support CMV-22B in a emergency landing situation aboard a carrier, which is necessary if the landing gear of an aircraft does not fully extend.
Lt. Hans Stein, PMA-275 CMV-22Bassistantprogrammanager forlogistics, was tasked with procuring the equipment that matches the unique needs of the Navy, a challenging mission based on impending deployment times, shipping and manufacturing delays due to COVID-19 and Brexit.
Stein explained that when V-22s make emergency land landings, they rely on piles of mattresses to cushion the plane. A solution designed to meet the needs of an aircraft carrier-based landing gear landing, necessary to duplicate the functionality of the mattresses, require little space within the narrow confines of the aircraft carrier, and meet the requirements of the aircraft carrier. crew and ARFF teams.
“PMA-251, the [NAS Patuxent River] Cargo Lab, the chief engineer of CMV-22B, VRM-30 and VRM Wing and I all worked together to define the bag requirements, ”said Stein. “With the help of the NAWCAD procurement group, we sent the requirements to industry, they bid, and we selected emergency landing platform (ELP) prototypes.”
ELPs are airbags that can be inflated, deflated, stacked, secured and easily stored on racks.
Lt. Caleb McDonald, ARFFteamlead and Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardizationprogrammanager for PMA-251, worked closely with Stein over the past year to test and commission ELP prototypes where they were most urgently needed.
The crews of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and the so-called “Air Wing of the Future” (AWOTF) – the new mix of the Navy’s F-35C Lightning II and CMV-22B on the aircraft carrier – were to receive the new ELPs first. When Vinson’s deployment schedule increased, the lead time was again shortened.
McDonald and Stein’s most critical common goal was Vinson’s short delivery time, as the inaugural deployment of CMV-22B relied on the prototype to support flight operations.
“Delivery delays meant we had to be innovative in our testing approach to ensure prompt delivery,” said Stein. “We received the ELPs at the end of May and tested them in the Pax River Cargo lab using a 13,000 lb forklift. Next, we found a docking model and a suitable location aboard the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN 78) in Norfolk. “
McDonald said testing on Ford was critical to finalizing the airbag setup, inflation and bridge-side connections. Several Atlantic Fleet Aircraft Handling Officers, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate and Representatives of the Afloat Training Group, Commander of Naval Air Forces Atlantic and Naval Security Center attended. observed the evolution, ensuring that the solution met user needs.
After the demonstration on Ford, the PMA-275 and PMA-251 packed the equipment and shipped it to San Diego for use on the Vinson. The next step, with only a few days to spare, was to quickly train the crew in the use of airbags. They finished their training the day beforeVinsonleft for the Composite Workout Unit (COMPTUEX) exercise.
“The changes messed up our plans, but we adapted and sent the PELs to Vinson’screw in time for COMPTUEX,” said McDonald. “We did training and set up demonstrations with the CMV-22 detachment, and then they took it on board. They got set up, worked hand in hand with the Crash and Salvage team, and prepared them to help if anything happened during flight operations on the ship.
Stein said the partnership with the PMA-251 was essential to help it liaise, get crew aboard aircraft carriers, and coordinate with rescue and rescue teams.
“The PMA-251 helped us board the various ships and coordinate the groundwork force. Crash and Salvage coordinated everything for us, getting on the Fordin Norfolk, and Lt. McDonald helped me get settled on Vinsontoo – we were able to move forward quickly working together as we could speak both the language of the boat and that of the plane, ”said Stein.
The airbag training was well received. Stein and McDonald said all apprehension quickly dissipated when the crew tested the equipment.
“At first people thought the bags were going to be complicated, but when they got their hands on them they realized they were really simple and they didn’t need complicated procedures,” said Stein. .
McDonald said the tests gave the crew confidence in the new airstrips and the capabilities they offer the fleet compared to previous variants of the technology.
With a successful delivery in hand, the PMA-251 and PMA-275 are planning their next delivery, which is scheduled for the next carrier with the AWOTF attached.
They are also planning ELP testing to possibly find ways to use them for other types of aircraft.
McDonald explained that future uses are still very prospective, but that test planning is underway to explore the use of airbags to improve existing aircraft procedures or replace existing equipment. Further tests will be planned as needed and based on feedback from the fleet and in cooperation with other platforms.
As Vinson’s Crash and Salvage team works with the equipment, they also provide feedback and suggest other uses for the prototype. In addition to possibly using the ELPs to aid in the emergency landings of other aircraft, the airbags show great potential for other uses on the bridge, McDonald said.
McDonald and Stein explained that they might be able to use ELPs when all the planes are tightly stacked and the crew cannot easily access spaces with a forklift.
“Since the bags were originally designed for crash and rescue and firefighting purposes, they are designed to lift heavy trucks,” said Stein. “So you can potentially insert a deflated ELP and then inflate them to lift them up. Or, if there are two planes too close to each other, you can stack the deflated bags together and then inflate them to lift them up and create space.
Stein explained that the ELP testing was just beginning. Prototypes will return to labs, and as more platforms test and find uses for the equipment, the initiative could potentially become a joint program, extending the benefits to all of naval aviation.
The PMA-251 and PMA-275 will continue to work with the PEL prototypes as they receive feedback from the teams using the equipment, and as they prepare for future use.
McDonald said the ELPs are a prime example of the ingenuity required as the ARFF team continues to meet the current and future needs of the fleet for rescue and firefighting. Stein and McDonald agreed that cooperation is essential to ensure that the two programs can meet the needs of an ever-expanding Air Wing and its tools and practices.