Providing Quality of Service to Sailors One Light Bulb at a Time
09 May 2023
NORFOLK, Va. --
In modern day society, walking into a room and flipping on a light switch is a common occurrence. The availability and ease of access to electricity allows homes to be illuminated, holiday lights to shine with joy, and, in the case of naval aviation, the ability for hangar bays to be effectively bright, so that maintenance men and women can complete their requirements at all hours of the day.
In October 2022, Rear Adm. John “Oscar” Meier, Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL), conducted site surveys of aviation hangars at Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana. His primary focus as the type commander for all east coast aircraft carriers and squadrons was to analyze, in-person, the ways to further develop a culture of safety into every facet of the organization.
“Safe operations are essential to increase our readiness and lethality,” said Meier. “By addressing concerns within the work environment to prevent mishaps, instead of waiting for an accident to happen, I hope to stimulate a perspective so that all Sailors reevaluate their work environments and look for ways to promote mishap prevention. As a whole, the naval aviation enterprise needs to change the way we look at safety.”
Over the last several months, notable efforts have been implemented across the CNAL enterprise to improve work environments and improve workflow. Additional projects and efforts are scheduled to continue throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024.
“One resounding safety barrier dealt with the condition of our facilities,” said Lt. Michael McKenna, CNAL Force Industrial Hygiene Officer. “Issues ranged from problems with air conditioning and electrical power supplies, to hangar bay doors.”
The first hangars to be surveyed at Naval Air Station Oceana were Hangar 111, Hangar 122, and Hangar 500; occupied by 10 strike fighter squadrons (VFA). These surveys identified significant concerns such as burnt out or missing bulbs, light fixtures being full of debris, and in some cases broken light fixture supports. Sailors were wearing headlamps, using flashlights and checking out light stations to perform maintenance.
Light fixtures were cleaned and bulbs were replaced, but even under optimum conditions, the lights that were previously installed in these hangar bays still proved to be insufficient for executing complex work on aircraft at night without supplemental lighting.
“There was a demand to improve the lighting infrastructure in our hangars,” said Meier. “We had areas in hangars that were initially only 10 percent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for lighting when working in these specific spaces. Now, it is 127 percent, exceeding the OSHA standards.”
Capt. Pete “Peterman'' Shoemaker, commodore, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, emphasized how engagement from CNAL has been instrumental in overall improvement in the squadron hangars.
CNAL worked with the local construction battalions (Seabees) to fix a lasting problem just by thinking outside the box, Shoemaker stated. He added that by purchasing lighting and wiring structures and employing fully qualified Sailors, the problem was resolved.
“There is a plan to complete the lighting improvement across the entire flight line at NAS Oceana by the end of the year,” said Shoemaker. “It’s the small things that improve the quality of life and quality of work aboard NAS Oceana.”
Seabees from Amphibious Construction Battalion (ACB) 2 on NAS Oceana were tasked with performing the installation in the deficient hangars and on April 19, Meier recognized the Sailors for their contribution for the robust lighting project renovation.
Construction Electrician 2nd Class Lissett Nicholson and Construction Electrician 2nd Class Harrison Freemanwalsch were two of the Seabees who supported the CNAL initiative.
“As the project crew leader, I supervise and task out the crew, but also have been up in the man lift to change out lightbulbs,” said Nicholson. “This truly was a team effort. As a construction electrician for nine years, I have never worked in a hangar to replace lights, but this is well within my rate and a great opportunity to improve the work life here.”
The timeline for a full replacement of all fixtures was initially slated for just under two months with the time expected to shorten as the Seabees became more proficient with the replacement process.
“Everyone is thrilled to have new lights in the hangar, instead of using flashlights or their phones to illuminate dark spots within the aircraft,” said Freemanwalsch. “It’s so bright now that even at night no additional lighting is needed, even under the airplane. I am happy to be a part of this project to make a difference.”
The lighting replacement in the NAS Oceana hangars is an example of proactively identifying, communicating, and abating a hazard that impacts operations and personnel.
“In the Navy, we always talk about how important safety is, but this action with hangar bay lighting is just one example of what CNAL is doing to address safety,” said Meier. “We are not just talking, but working with a team to address any identified problems and get to resolution by devising innovative solutions that are outside of normal Navy operating procedures.”
Leaders and Sailors alike are stepping up now more than ever to meet the challenging demand to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the safety of everyone in the fleet. Even something as small as changing the lights in hangar bays can lead to a tremendous leap in the safety and efficiencies for the most important part of the fleet; the Sailors.
CNAL is responsible for seven nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, 54 aircraft squadrons, 1,200 aircraft and 52,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel with priorities focused on warfighting, people, and readiness by providing combat ready, sustainable naval air forces with the right personnel, properly trained and equipped, with a focus on readiness, operational excellence, interoperability, safety, and efficient resourcing.