Over the past 30 years, Raj Das has developed sort of a personal affinity for GE’s F414 engine – somewhat akin to that of a parent-child relationship. After all, he was involved in its “birth” (he was part of the First Engine to Test, or FETT, development team); he helped prepare it for the first time it “left the house” (he led Assembly & Test during the 1st lot of production engine shipments); and he was there to support it as it matured, overseeing manufacturing programs.
So when Das was invited to join GE’s West Coast Senior Customer Service Manager Dave LeGard for a four-day stint aboard the USS Roosevelt aircraft carrier, he jumped at the chance and hopped on plane to make the cross-country trek. The event was to observe and support the GE Aviation family of products in action during ship exercises, and Das wanted to be there.
“While on board, we were able to catch up with the different F414-powered F/A-18 E/F/G squadrons as well as the Seahawk squadron (T700-powered helicopters) to discuss our products, answer questions and review operations happening on the ship,” Das said. “Everyone we talked to had only good things to say about our ‘motors’ (engines).”
During the exercise, an F414 experienced a FOD (foreign object debris) condition on the first day. “Dave was able to help with the engine evaluation process and we also witnessed the engine swap-out in the hanger bay; a good learning experience for everyone,” commented Das.
Chris Van Derven, Casting Supplier Quality Engineer, also joined the excursion and he appreciated the once-in-a-lifetime experience. “The most impressive part of the trip was seeing the operations of the entire ship working to enable the air wing to perform. Observing the thousands of men and women performing tasks ranging from fueling aircraft and maintaining engines to navigating the ship and coordinating supplies was remarkable,” Van Derven recalled.
Van Derven relished the chance to walk the hangar and flight deck and talk with aircraft and engine mechanics who provided a unique perspective on how GE products allow our military customer to perform their jobs. “The aircraft carrier is truly a marvel of engineering and knowing that GE contributes a great deal to what happens aboard gives me a great sense of pride.”
The GE trio was able to take in the flight line takeoffs and landings and spent time in the engine overhaul/test facility located below deck.
Stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore (Calif., U.S.), Dave manages a team that supports engines powering 420 Super Hornets and 278 helicopters. He leverages his 20 years in the Navy and experience aboard aircraft carriers to optimize customer service.
LeGard embarks on these customer-in-action ventures a few times each year. In addition to hearing about and seeing first-hand the engines’ performance, he was also able to provide in-depth, in-person updates and training material for the ship’s mechanics and pilots in a classroom environment.
“This CVN tour program gives GE a profound appreciation of the customer choosing GE which I think may influence the direction we go in the future and the type of support we provide,” LeGard added.
Even in Das’s current role as Part IPT Leader for the Combustor & Structural Components Value Stream, he maintains a connection to the F414, and he is pleased that the engine continues to be a mainstay for the U.S. Navy.
“I’m thankful and honored to have played a role throughout the lifecycle of the F414 engine,” Das said. “There was no better way to encapsulate that than to see the aircraft and engines in their actual environment and get to meet the men and women who depend on them.”