News Release, NAS Pax River Public Affairs
NAVAL AIR WARFARE CENTER AIRCRAFT DIVISION, PATUXENT RIVER, Md.– 2019 was a banner year for Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 20 honors: a test team that has been working hard to bring the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft to operational readiness has been recognized for their accomplishments with a NAWCAD Commander’s Team Award, and the squadron is the home of Naval Test Wing Atlantic’s 2019 Sailor of the Year and Test Naval Flight Officer of the Year as well.
The squadron’s E-2D Aerial Refueling Integrated Test Team was recognized by Rear Adm. John Lemmon, commander of NAWCAD, during a ceremony in December that spotlighted the accomplishments of seven teams out of dozens nominated throughout the command. The team won the award for its efforts to analyze and address issues with higher-than-anticipated tail loads and rotodome temperatures that appeared during test flights. The team developed a set of continuation criteria and inspections that expedited the return-to-flight cycle and enabled the test program to stay on schedule.
Audrey Keller, the team lead for the E-2D aerial refueling test team, said the award reflected the hard work of the team, which numbered over 30 engineers at its peak. “They’re just above and beyond, so I’m happy that they get to have this recognition,” said Keller, who has been with VX-20 for over four years. “They’re awesome. And so are the people above me who have trusted me to lead the team and who gave me all the resources that I needed to be able to do that.”
Lead project officer Lt. David “Sling Blade” Chapelle said that over the multi-year course of the program, the team dynamic changed significantly as people got to know each other and worked well together against tight program deadlines.
“I was excited more for the team than anything else,” Chapelle said. “They put in a lot of hard work over the last two or three years and overcame significant challenges, both programmatic and material, to provide the results that we got. So it was good to have those efforts recognized. All of the team members deserve just as much credit, if not more than myself because I was just the one who was orchestrating things.”
The first successful in-flight fuel transfer between a tanker aircraft and an E-2D took place in July 2017. Since then, in addition to improvements to the aircraft’s aerial refueling capabilities, VX-20’s E-2D teams have been also busy testing its air- and sea-based Naval Integrated Fire Control (NIFC) capabilities; its radar, IFF, and Delta System/Software Configuration (DSSC) builds; and compatibility with the Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) system.
NTWL’s 2019 Test NFO of the Year, Lt. Sarah E. “Buzzkill” Gunn, was also heavily involved in the E-2D program last year. Her work as the project officer on the Delta System Software Configuration Build 3 (DSSC-3) software system enabled the release of DSSC-3 to the fleet on time, while her efforts as radar project officer overseeing upgrades to the E-2D’s complex radar suite resulted in a 62% increase in the number of successful test flights over the course of two months.
“I have a great team of engineers that, that I work with,” said Gunn, who found out that she had been named Test NFO of the Year the day before she returned from maternity leave. “I’m very team-oriented, and I definitely have a lot of great people that I work with who have helped me to get my job done and who help make the test products and the systems better.”
Aviation Structural Mechanic First Class John Martin, the 2019 Naval Test Wing Atlantic Sailor of the Year, was recognized for his oversight of VX-20’s complex maintenance programs, responsible for 273 military and contract personnel who performed over 11,500 scheduled and unscheduled maintenance actions on 26 aircraft, which enabled the successful execution of 979 sorties and over 4,000 mishap-free flight hours.
“It really just shows the effort that we do together,” Martin said of his award. “I mean, there’s not a single part that I was responsible for solely. It’s always a group effort, but we have so much going on that you’re not always going to know everything that everyone is working on. We all help each other grow professionally.”
VX-20 provides the Navy and Marine Corps with full-spectrum developmental ground and flight test services for the E-2C Hawkeye and E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, P-8A Poseidon, MQ-4C Triton, E-6B Mercury, C-2A Greyhound, and multiple versions of the C-130 Hercules, as well as the T-6A Texan II. The squadron also provides test services for the U.S. Coast Guard and several foreign military services.
NAWCAD supports the research, development, engineering, test, evaluation, and sustainment of all Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and airborne weapon systems. With facilities in Patuxent River, Md.; Lakehurst, N.J.; and Orlando, Fla., the command delivers high-quality, affordable products in support of military operating forces worldwide.