Sailors assigned to the IM-2 division of the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD) are trained for most situations they may encounter when repairing aircraft parts aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) so that when something out of the ordinary happens they can respond swiftly and accurately.
On August 11, an x-ray was performed on a horizontal stabilizer to an F/A-18 Super Hornet to ensure that the repair to the stabilizer was effective. The stabilizer controls the up and down motion of the aircraft. If it does not function properly, it’s a bad day for everyone involved.
What was abnormal about the inspection was that the stabilizer was too large to fit inside the x-ray vault where the x-ray shots are usually performed. So instead the Sailors involved used their ingenuity and set up an open facility x-ray on one of the carrier’s aircraft elevators.
An event like this is rare, so rare that the last time Nimitz had to do something like this was back in 2012 according to Ensign Eric Timme, the radiation safety officer for the event.
“It was nice to see everything that we went to school for and trained for come full circle by actually getting to do an open facility x-ray shot like this,” said Timme, from Lewiston, Idaho. This is what they trained us to do and how to do it which is why we were able to do it so successfully.”
This was the first time anybody involved had done an x-ray like this in a real life scenario on a carrier.
“It was a rush for me,” said Sgt. Christian Vylonis, from Virginia Beach, Virginia. “I was excited. Obviously I wanted to make safety the priority, but as far as getting a good shot on the horizontal stab it was pretty exciting.”
Turning an aircraft elevator into a giant x-ray machine does have its potential hazards, but everything was coordinated to ensure safety was a top priority.
“The first precaution is a huge mathematical equation that hurts my head,” said Timme. “But, that equation gives us our radiuses for our safety boundaries. If someone were to break our barrier and they are not a radiation worker, like we are through medical screening, they could receive a dose of radiation that is not acceptable for them.”
The actual x-ray shot took place in less than a minute.
“The process was pretty simple,” said Vylonis. “We made sure personnel were evacuated from the area so nobody would get exposed to any radiation. We monitored the area and then took the shot. We were taught how to do this for the sole reason of getting it accomplished as well as we did.”
The Sailors involved were ready to fight and successfully accomplish what they had to do because of their training and preparation. They worked together and used teamwork to ensure the stabilizer was fixed correctly so they could get the aircraft back into the skies to support the mission.
Nimitz is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. While in this region, the ship and strike group are conducting maritime security operations to reassure allies and partners, preserve freedom of navigation, and maintain the free flow of commerce.