INDIAN OCEAN – There is a new member of the crew of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard. This new crewmember is so good at their job they will save the flight deck crew hundreds of hours of man-hours of labor and increase the speed with which the ship can reconfigure between launching and recovering different types of aircraft. This crewmember is also bright yellow and weighs several tons. The new crewmember is the MCRRS, or “McChris,” affectionately referred to by the crew as the “Zamboni,” after the ice-resurfacing machine it resembles.
Flight decks are high-traffic and dynamic environments. Many classes of aircraft and service vehicles operate over this area, and each fouls the surface of this very important deck in different ways. Oil from engines, rubber and metal from tires and screws and other debris are continuously dropping to the deck. This foreign-object debris, (FOD) can cause trip or slip hazards or even be sucked into an engine causing catastrophic damage and endangering the lives of pilots, aircrews and flight-deck personnel. To minimize accidents, flight decks are cleaned daily, before and after flight ops and between launch and recovery of different types of aircraft.
“The MCRRS, or Mobile Cleaning, Recover and Recycle System, is the first sytem designed from the tires up for cleaning flight decks,” saidTracy Harasti, an environmental protection specialist with Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Carderock Division. “This is a unique system that was designed for the Navy only. Previous systems were re-purposed street cleaners, but this system was specifically designed for flight deck surfaces.”
NSWC Carderock is the Navy’s center of excellence for ships and ship systems. Carderock specializes in Ship design and integration, environmental quality systems, hull forms and propulsors, structures and materials, machinery systems, and vulnerability and survivability systems.
The MCRRS is was specifically designed to more efficiently use its water supply, more effectively clean, and to lessen environmental impact.
“The biggest advantage of the MCRRS is that it does not use soap,” said Harasti, “so it has less environmental impact. It utilizes only water pressure and air recovery to clean flight-deck surfaces.” Additionally, “It is a single pass system. Our cleaning takes place in the first eighteen inches of movement, whereas the existing flight deck scrubber requires approximately one hundred-eighty inches of vehicle travel to clean the same area. “
“We also bring the capability of longevity of operation,” said Harasti. “The existing system has a 400 gallon tank, and sprays at about 20 gallons a minute. Which would give it about 20 minutes of operation. The MCRRS uses a 250 gallon tank, recycling the water approximately eight to ten times during an hour, and can clean for one to three hours at 15,000 square feet per hour.”
The MCRRS is also designed to minimize contamination of the flight deck during use and maintenance, and decrease upkeep time.
“Our system uses ‘plug-and-play’ components,” said Harasti. “As environmental protection specialists, we want to ensure that our vehicle does not contaminate the surface of the flight deck. Hence we have all quick disconnect functions on the hydraulics. When a component needs to be replaced, it is simply unplugged and replaced with less than one drop of oil lost in the process.”
The MCRRS that has joined Bonhomme Richard is the prototype of a line of production models of flight deck cleaners that may soon be seen throughout the fleet, and will dramatically reduce environmental impact and cleaning efficiency, supporting the CNO’s “Green Fleet” goal.
“It is a great priviledge for Bonhomme Richard to have been involved in the testing of this system over the last year and now to be its home, as the DoN moves toward purchasing a production model,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling), Federico Pardo. “We are the first platform to have this system full-time and the MCRRS will help us more quickly and effectively clean dangerous foreign object debris (FOD) off our flight deck while lessening our environmental impact. FOD can be sucked into engine intakes and thrown across the flight deck damaging or destroying equipment and injuring or killing personnel. This system will save untold dollars and will even save lives.”