Tuesday, June 05, 2012

VR-56 Dedicates New Hangar, New Aircraft

By Cathy Heimer, Naval Air Station Oceana Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- The "Globemasters" of Fleet Logistics Squadron (VR) 56 celebrated years of planning and work with the dedication of their new hangar and transition to their new aircraft during a ceremony at the NAS Oceana flightline May 30.

The squadron dedicated the 60,000 square foot hangar, as well as the completion of their transition from the C-9 aircraft to the C-40A Clipper.

The new air-conditioned facility, which includes accommodations for one C-40, all administrative, operations and maintenance areas, and a 4,500 square foot logistics support warehouse, is appropriately named "Hangar 56."

"It isn't every day that you have a brand new airplane and a brand new hangar to put it in," said NAS Oceana Commanding Officer Capt. Bob Geis, who spoke at the beginning of the dedication. "We couldn't be more excited to be a part of this transition and to have the new capability in the new hangar at NAS Oceana. We are very excited to continue the partnership with VR-56. They are great tenants who always step up to help around the base."

Geis told the audience that because of their mission, Globemasters is a fitting name for the squadron.

"The folks who fly the aircraft with the pointy noses around here should always know that without the supply train that VR-56 helps maintain, we have no ability to sustain combat operations. Just like U.S. Marine Corps Gen. [Robert H.] Barrow said, 'Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.'"

VR-56 Commanding Officer Cmdr. Mike Gravitt thanked Geis and Oceana Executive Officer Capt. Kit Chope, Oceana Public Works Department, Boeing Company and Hourigan Construction representatives for their support throughout the aircraft transition and hangar construction.

"VR-56 knows how fortunate we are...with a brand new aircraft and state of the art facility," said Gravitt as he also thanked his Sailors for their hard work and professionalism during the months of transition and retraining on the new aircraft.

According to Oceana Public Works Officer Cmdr. Holly Johnson, planning began nearly 10 years ago for the new hangar. "We knew there was a new requirement for a new aircraft for VR-56 and when you're going to have a new airplane, you've got to put it somewhere, right?"

The initial plan called for the C-40 to be housed in hangar 200, where the Globemasters were previously located. But due to the size of C-40, the doors and roof would have needed to be modified on hangar 200. "It ended up not being that much more costly to build a new hangar than it would have been to raise the roof and modify those doors," said Johnson.

The funding of nearly $17.8 million was provided by the Military Construction, Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Program. Costs included the demolition and relocation of Oceana's Ground Support Equipment dispatch facility and parking apron.

"We consider ourselves very fortunate and very lucky to have the state of the art facility in a place where we can operate our plane organically - meaning our parts contractors are located in the hangar and the ability to house the entire command in one central location; basically one-stop shopping for all the servicing that we need," said Gravitt.

Gravitt explained another huge advantage is that being able to work on the C-40 inside the hangar bay. Sailors no longer need to work out in the elements when they are changing the configuration of the inside of the aircraft from all passengers to passengers and cargo or all cargo, depending on the mission.

"Whatever the Navy needs us to do, we can do that," said Gravitt. "With the vertical stabilizer in the ballpark of 42 feet, we had to have a hangar that we could fit it [the C-40] in."

The Globemasters will be the only squadron located in hangar 56, a welcome change from having to share maintenance and office spaces with F/A-18 squadrons in hangar 200. Other new features in hangar 56 are a large training room and an emergency generator.

As he prepared for his change of command on June, 2, the transition to the new aircraft and hangar is bittersweet for Gravitt, who first arrived at VR-56 as a lieutenant 12 years ago. "I wouldn't trade that opportunity to take the command from the old, which I've been a part of, to the new. I feel like I've been able to accomplish something extra for the command and give back a little bit and to work with a team of professionals," said Gravitt.

He again credited "his team of professionals" the Sailors at VR-56, in making both transitions easier. Although the new aircraft meant retraining at other fleet logistics squadrons across the U.S., "We were able to do the transition in five months time, which is significant," Gravitt said. He explained they were able to take the lessons learned from fellow fleet logistics squadrons, who completed the transition in six months to shorten their transition.

"Wonderful," is how Aviation Machinist's Mate (AD) 2nd Class Doniel Polk, who has been at VR-56 for four and one-half years, can sum up the new hangar.

"There's less cleanup. The brand new spaces are beautiful. They've put a lot of work into it. It's nice to have our own spaces, not have to share our spaces with other squadrons," said Polk.

Polk, who completed her training on the C-40 in Atlanta, said the new aircraft is very low maintenance for the AD shop. She can immediately rattle off a list of other advantages of the new aircraft including "new leather seats, more leg room. It's more advanced. Up in the cockpit, it's more digital. It's more comfortable...more room...more dependable."

"We're so proud to be part of this," said Andy Reheis, Navy programs manager for Boeing Company, which builds the C-40. The C-40A, a modified Boeing 737-700C, includes stronger landing gear and larger cargo compartment to meet the squadron's mission.

"It is the culmination of thousands and thousands of hours of work and dedication in preparation for today, on our part and it's really the biggest joy we have in supporting our fighting men and women," said Reheis. "It's really something we take home for people in the factories to say 'here's what you're doing to support our troops. They really resonate with that," said Reheis.

Reheis said the Navy currently has 12 C-40s, with the fleet expected to grow to 17 overall. Two of the aircraft are already at VR-56 and the third one is expected later this month. The C-40A is the first new logistics aircraft for the Naval Reserve in nearly 20 years.