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Navy's new way to paint: Ike crew saves fleet time, cash

Dec. 22, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
A painter at an aircraft maintenance depot primes aircraft parts before painting. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower are using a new part-painting system officials say will save the Navy money and could spread to other commands.
A painter at an aircraft maintenance depot primes aircraft parts before painting. Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower are using a new part-painting system officials say will save the Navy money and could spread to other commands. (Gary Rice / Navy)
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Sailors on a dry-docked aircraft carrier are painting more parts themselves rather than relying on the shipyard, boosting the number of refurbished doors and parts while saving the Navy cash.

The technique employed by sailors aboard the carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower could be used by other commands. It’s a “wet spray” method that’s being used to paint many interior hatches and parts while their ship undergoes a 15-month overhaul at Virginia’s Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Typically this work is done by shipyard workers, but Ike’s leaders saw an opportunity to get more work done and got started.

“We saw a chance to get involved with it and not just stand back and let it go until the next avail,” said Lt. Mike Floyd, a division officer aboard Ike who oversees the painting facility.

The technique is useful for refurbishing parts internal to the ship, such as armored hatches and doors. It starts with sandblasting the the material to remove paint and corrosion, then spraying on primer and top coat. This work is done in a painting booth on the pier at NNSY, and Ike officials believe their ship is the first to do this work there.

Wet spraying is typically less time-consuming than powder coating, the most common process to paint fittings exposed to the elements like flight deck stanchions or hose reels. Powder coating requires baking the item in an industrial oven.

Shipyard workers taught Ike’s sailors how to do the work: Everything from how to use spray-paint setups to safety rules for respirators to handling heavy metals.

“It’s a skill. Some people like it; some people don’t,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Josh Hinson, the paint booth’s leading petty officer. “If you were interested in working in the shipyard, that’d be a good skill set to have.”

Hinson oversees 41 sailors, most of whom work in powder-coating and work closely with shipyard experts.

The crew’s wet-spraying efforts started up to refurbish about 100 drip pans. These desk-sized pans are used to capture condensation in the ship’s many weapons magazines before it lands on live ordnance — and were badly in need of work.

Ship officials estimate that they’ve saved $250,000 by having sailors paint the drip pans, while boosting their range of job skills. It’s such a success that other commands are taking notice, including the next carrier slated to enter NNSY, the Harry S. Truman.

“Their project team and advanced planning team have expressed interest in utilizing the booth as well,” said Cmdr. Steve Sarar, the Ike’s deputy project superintendent for the overhaul.

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