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Four NAVAIR Employees Honored as Navy’s Top Scientists and Engineers

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Two NAVAIR scientists and engineers were among 18 honored by Zachary Lemnios, director for defense research and engineering, in a Pentagon ceremony July 23.

Russell Shannon, Dexter Kan, El Sayed Arafat and William C. Nickerson were among those recognized for contributions to the Fleet, abroad and at home, and saving the Navy more than $18 million a year.

"These awardees are technical leaders who have made substantial contributions in their fields, from counter improvised explosive devices, to insensitive munitions technologies, to aircraft diagnostic systems, to submarine periscope systems, to directed energy weapons, to name a few," Lemnios said. "Each has displayed innovative leadership in identifying solutions to the challenges faced by the Navy."

The milestones achieved are expected to change how the Navy and Marine Corps operate. The innovations recognized aligned with overall Department of Defense goals in research and engineering.

"Across the department’s Research and Engineering enterprise, our focus is on innovation, speed, and agility, which are critical to transforming how the department examines processes, provides solutions, and fields capabilities to our Warfighters," Lemnios said.

NAVAIR winners were:

Russell Shannon, a NAVAIR Lakehurst engineer, was recognized for his groundbreaking expansion that could save more than $92.1 million in spending over its life cycle. According to NAVAIR engineers, nearly 72 percent of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft problems are avionics-related. To resolve this, Shannon developed the Integrated Diagnostics and Automated Test Systems (IDATS) laboratory, which helps identify the cause of aircraft system failures.

Previous fault detection technology frequently resulted in false alarms because engineers did not have the capability to identify the exact component of a system that was failing. This led to the removal and replacement of possibly flawless avionics boxes. Unnecessary removals were detrimental because they dramatically increased support cost, repair times and aircraft downtime.

Shannon generated a laboratory equipped with technologies to isolate specific faults in the avionic aircraft electrical equipment and pinpoint parts in need of replacement. One of the new IDATS technologies, a miniaturization of a diagnostic avionics tester, received funding from the Department of Defense, Office of Technology Transition, Technology Transition Initiative (TTI) Program. The objective of the program is to accelerate and assure the transition of advanced science and technology capabilities to the warfighter. The IDATS laboratory has the potential to save $16.3 million per year in the reduction of maintenance and is a valuable resource to increase aircraft availability.

Dexter Kan, a Patuxent River Naval Air Station engineer, was recognized for solving a problem that has baffled countless engineers. Generator converter units (GCUs) are the chief readiness degrader and a substantial AVDLR (aviation depot level repairable) cost drivers for F-18 aircrafts. Kan "reverse-engineered" the GCU operation and determined the most efficient way to test systems so they could quickly identify and "trap" internal hard and intermittent failures.

Kan designed and built a prototype silicon controlled recifier (SCR) Module Tester for the F/A-18 GCU. The SCR module is the top failure item within the GCUs and is largely responsible for their costs and reliability hits. His invention is conservatively estimated to save the Fleet nearly $5 million a year in false equipment removals and AVDLR costs. Fundamentally, the benefits of his invention are improved reliability (the SCR Module Tester will eliminate 20 percent of GCU failures), lower costs (suggested $5 million in savings), and improved maintainability (reduced troubleshooting time from 17 hours to 4).

Kan tested 1,000 SCR modules in "F" condition (awaiting repair) in Oceana, Va., and used his SCR Module Tester to see if some of those modules could be returned to service. The Navy was short on SCR modules, which impacted their mission capability, and Kan was able to RFI (ready for issue) 622 of those modules, thus averting a Fleet-wide shortage.

El Sayed Arafat, a Patuxent River Naval Air Station chemist, gained recognition for his accomplishments with "green" substitutes for harmful chemicals formerly being used by the Fleet. Solvent cleaners previously used had various environmental issues, including air pollution (caused by volatile organic compounds, or VOCs), toxicity, flammability and incompatibility with plastics. Arafat has formulated a next-generation cleaner that has an improved cleaning efficiency and meets stringent green requirements.

He developed MIL-PRF-32295, a low-VOC solvent that contains no hazardous air pollutants. This invention will eliminate the need for at least 70 percent of harmful cleaning solvents currently being used. The greener cleaner will reduce environmental pollution, waste and disposal costs, and worker safety issues. It will also provide the Fleet with a safer and more effective cleaner that complies with local and state environmental regulations. It is predicted by the Defense Logistics Agency to generate as much as $700,000 income in sales.

William C. Nickerson, a NAVAIR chemist, was also recognized for his green efforts by creating a safer and more environmentally friendly technology. For years workers have been exposed to materials containing chromate, a carcinogen, in the treatment of metallic aircraft surfaces. In an attempt to combat this safety issue, Nickerson pioneered a new surface chemistry that eliminates the hazardous exposure. His new product has been proved to perform just as well as, if not better than, the material it was intended to replace.

Nickerson dubbed his new chemistry the Trivalent Chromium Process (TCP). His invention helps to maintain coating performance while improving worker health and safety. This cuts the overall cost and liability of metal finishing essential to aircrafts. Without TCP, Navy and Marine Corps aviation would be forced to use inferior or expensive surface treatments and spend more time and money in corrosion control.

Prior to Nickerson’s invention, coating had to be applied by hand to the aircraft surface due to environmental, safety and health regulations, which restricted spray application of the hazardous material. In contrast, TCP can be sprayed on to the craft in about half the time, and it eliminates workers’ exposure to chromate as well as the flow of waste into the environment. The reduction of man-hours and increased safety is estimated to save the Fleet over $36,000 per year. The TCP has also been patented by the Navy, and worldwide sales exceeded $5 million in 2009.