NOTES ON AIRCRAFT OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE ON BOARD U.S.S. “SARATOGA”
SECTION I. The following observations are the result of four weeks’ operation of 832 Squadron on board U.S.S. “SARATOGA”.
1. The Squadron, consisting of sixteen Tarpon3 aircraft, joined the ship on 27th June, and returned to “Victorious” on 24th July.
2. During this period the Squadron accomplished 381 hours flying and made 153 deck landings.
3. Three aircraft were lost. One forced landed due to oil system failure, One take-off failure, One landing crash. One aircraft was damaged due to an arrester hook failure. No air crews were lost.
4. Serviceability. Serviceability reports were compiled each evening on the basis of aircraft which were expected to be fit for flying first thing next morning. On this basis, the serviceability was invariably 100%.
5. This fact is best explained by a summary of the maintenance system and facilities in use in the ship.
SECTION II. ORGANISATION OF THE AIR DEPARTMENT FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF A NORMAL AIR GROUP.
(a) The normal air group consists of the following squadrons:–
1 VT 18 T.B.F.
1 VB 18 S.B.D.
1 VSB 18 S.B.D.
1 VF 36 F4F.
(b) To maintain and operate the Air Group, the Air Department is divided into the following five divisions.
V-1 Flight Deck and associated sections.
V-2 Hangar Handling, cleaning and fire-fighting.
V-4 Air Ordnance.
V-5 Aircraft Radio.
In addition, each squadron has a nucleus of from twelve to fifteen men, who are usually the best men available in their trades. When the Squadrons arrive on board these men become part of the ship’s maintenance personnel.
SECTION III. FUNCTIONS OF AIR DEPARTMENT BY DIVISIONS:
(i) V-1 – FLIGHT DECK
Complement – Six officers and 234 men.
Flight Deck handling crews, (including fifteen to eighteen parkers and signalman, one crane driver, two tractor drivers),: 90
Fire and Crash crews: (ten of these may form a tenth handling crew if required). : 30
Aircraft fuelling party: : 32
Below decks (control rooms, Lubricating oil, inert gas plant). : 49
(One Chief Petty Officer, two hook release signalmen, chock crews and barrier operators) : 33
Combined Total: 234
(ii) V-2 – HANGAR
This division consists of two officers and seventy-five men. Its functions are the handling of all aircraft from the moment they arrive on the lift to the moment of ranging, and cleanliness of the hangar itself.
(iii) V-3 – ENGINEERING.
This division is partially divided into groups for the various types of aircraft, viz:
Plane Captains. Engineers. Others, (C.P.O’s, metalsmiths, electricians, etc. Available for all squadrons).
T.B.F. 18 20
S.B.D. 36 30
F4F 36 30
90 80 47
Under this division also come the metalshops and metalsmiths, the aviation electrical shop and aviation electricians mates, the parachute section and the Oxygen shop. These specialist sections are available for all aircraft types.
A flight deck metal shop deals with urgent repairs on deck.
V-4 and V-5 Divisions will not be discussed here in detail.
SECTION IV. ORGANISATION OF THE NORMAL T.B.F. SQUADRON N.B.
Twelve T.B.F’s are usually kept on deck, and the remaining six in the hangar, fully commissioned but with fuel drained and cylinders sprayed with oil. They need not therefore be ranged for engine runs more than once a fortnight. It is usual also to remove bottom plugs to prevent the accumulation of oil in the lower cylinders.
The T.B.F. Squadron has available the following men:–
(i) Eighteen Plane Captains. These correspond somewhat to our Air Mechanics. They gain experience first as Assistant Plane Captains, after having been selected from V-1 Division in which their rate would be Seaman second or first class. i.e. Their aircraft experience is often gained solely on board one ship. They are not craftsmen, but develop a good working knowledge of the whole aeroplane and can understand most of the pilot’s complaints.
(ii) Twenty Engineers. These are craftsmen who have had shore training and considerable operating experience. Amongst these are five riggers, who maintain and inspect the structural part of the aircraft, including hydraulics, as our own riggers do. These engineers correspond somewhat to our own experienced Leading Air Fitters.
(iii) Squadron Nucleus. Supplementing the above and comprising
One Leading Chief
Two Engineering Chiefs (one only allowed by complement)
One Line Chief
Six Engineers (including two riggers)
Two Electricians, assisted by four from V-3.
To the Squadron Line Chief are allocated the eighteen Plane Captains. He has complete jurisdiction over them except when their aircraft is under repair, when the Engineering Chief uses them as necessary. The Squadron’s Engineering Chief and six engineers at present work in co-ordination with the V-3 T.B.F. Engineering Chief and his twenty engineers.
In the present instance no inconvenience is suffered from this duplication of authority.
The second Squadron Engineering Chief, who is in excess of complement has charge of the seven riggers.
(iv) Flight Deck Inspections. In addition to their normal duties, the six squadron nucleus engineers carry out last minute inspections of planes before take-off, reporting to the Leading Chief who passes the word to the dispatching officer in “Fly Two”.
After landing they give each plane a thorough visual inspection, reporting faults to the Engineering Chief. He in turn reports them to the Leading Chief, who appends the pilot’s report on the “Yellow Sheet” (Daily Inspection Certificate) which is completed after each flight. The serviceability state is posted on a board, one of which is kept for each squadron on the Island structure.
The party of inspectors normally includes two riggers, but at present all of the nucleus engineers are qualified in both engines and airframes.
Obviously, if the results of this small parties inspection of a large flight of aircraft had to be awaited before ranging back, there would be a big delay. It must therefore be pointed out that a great deal depends on the pilot’s “thumbs down” on landing.
In summary, the Squadron has available the following men for routine maintenance and inspection (including thirty hour checks):–
18 Plane Captains
i.e. a total of 50.
It also has the use of the repair facilities referred to in Section III, sub-section (iii), which shares with other Squadrons.
SECTION V. MAINTENANCE ROUTINE AND INSPECTIONS.
(i) Between in-flight and Daily Inspections are about the same as our own. A Daily [Inspection] takes about thirty minutes.
(ii) Thirty-hour inspections (checks) are perfunctory. This is the secret of the high rate of serviceability. The American attitude to aircraft maintenance is that of cure rather than prevention. This is encouraged by the compactness and in accessibility of most American aircraft parts. Added to this they have a weight of valuable experience of their types of accessories, such as carburettors, generators, starters and magnetos, which serve them in good stead no matter what type of American plane they are working on.
This enables them often to leave unexplored the inner workings of such components since experience has shown close inspection to the unnecessary. They can, on the other hand, frequently predict troubles in components which they know to be unreliable.
A thirty hour check, therefore, takes from two to six hours and is done overnight. The labour thus saved leaves hands free for necessary repair work, most of which also is done overnight. No allowance of lost flying time is made for routine inspections.
SECTION VI. ORGANISATION OF MAINTENANCE TO INCLUDE SIXTEEN T.B.F’s OF 832 SQUADRON
(i) This problem presented little difficulty. The T.B.F’s were exchanged with twenty-four F4F’s and there were thus several spare hands. Deficiencies were amply made up by the party brought from “Victorious” which comprised – three Petty Officers, six electricians, and six riggers.
(ii) These men worked in V-3 Division and were kept as far as possible on our aircraft. They assisted on inspections and repairs, learnt a great deal, and both parties seemed to have been well pleased. They have certainly been infected with the drive and keenness of their American colleagues: although it must be said that our people did not do all the learning. (Our electricians made a particularly good impression).
(iii) That this organisation proved satisfactory over the operating period is indicated by the serviceability rate. But one thing which the serviceability report did not show was the general condition of the aircraft. On their return they showed strong evidence of rust and corrosion in such vital parts as control cables and hinges, engine castings and ignition harnesses, and were in several cases overdue for major inspections.
SECTION VII. GENERAL REMARKS ON PERSONNEL.
As is well-known, the United States Navy still has a high percentage of volunteers, all of whom have had to meet strict requirements on entry.
Very few draftees have as yet appeared in the ship under review.
study of the personnel records of Saratoga’s V-3 (Engineering) division reveals that out of the two hundred and seventeen enlisted men in the division.
ighty-eight are High School Graduates (i.e. of Matriculation Standard). One has had three years at University and all but four of the remainder have attended High School for an average of one and a half years.
Nearly all the men I saw showed a natural keenness for anything mechanical; an attribute which is common to most Americans. This enthusiasm was carried into every department, and was the most noticeable feature. Almost as conspicuous was the technical skill and “handiness” of the mechanics, who had obviously known how to benefit from their two to four years carrier experience. New entries up to the present appear to have had little or no shore technical training by the service, but to have gone straight to squadrons. This, of course, was possible when there was no shortage of men.
In conclusion, the month spent by the Squadron in the “Saratoga” is considered to have been highly beneficial.