Innovation earns high praise and enhances safety above and below the surface

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), CPOIS Kelvin Hockey (photographer), CPOIS Cameron Martin (photographer), CPOIS Damian Pawlenko (photographer)

Topic(s): Honours, Awards and Trophies, Science, Technology & Innovation

Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Jacob Williams of 725 Squadron conducts fuel sampling using the interfacing adaptor on an MH-60R helicopter at HMAS Albatross. (photo: CPOIS Cameron Martin)
Seaman Aviation Technician Aircraft Jacob Williams of 725 Squadron conducts fuel sampling using the interfacing adaptor on an MH-60R helicopter at HMAS Albatross.

The Annual Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award was established to encourage and recognise the natural innovative talent within Navy.

The 2019 Award attracted 14 entries and the judges commended all 14 for the wide variety of specialisations which reflected the broader culture of innovation within Navy.

The 2019 award was a joint one, going to both Able Seaman Communication and Information Systems sailor Nathan Mayfield of HMAS Stirling for his work in the 3D design, testing and manufacture of an electrical interlock device, and Petty Officer Gavin Mason of HMAS Albatross, for an innovative fuel testing kit.

Both innovations have led directly to an increase in capability and safety.

Commander Submarine Force, Captain Doug Theobald, CSC, RAN presents Able Seaman Communications Information Systems Submarines Nathan Mayfield a Chief of Navy's Gold Commendation in the Submarine Training and Systems Centre Cinema at HMAS Stirling.

Commander Submarine Force, Captain Doug Theobald, CSC, RAN presents Able Seaman Communications Information Systems Submarines Nathan Mayfield a Chief of Navy's Gold Commendation in the Submarine Training and Systems Centre Cinema at HMAS Stirling.

Able Seaman Mayfield’s innovation was assessed as an excellent example of a junior sailor taking initiative and designing his own solution to control a safety risk.

While working at HMAS Sheean, Able Seaman Mayfield began looking for safer, more practical solutions for the lockout of power breakers after he identified an electrical hazard when conducting equipment maintenance.

“We were isolating the switches with non-ideal solutions,” Able Seaman Mayfield said.

“There was nothing preventing the fuses from being inadvertently pushed back in place and energising the equipment being worked on, so I suggested that we find a device to isolate it.

“Everyone said it sounded like a good idea, so I just ran with it and developed it from there,” he said.

“Being a 3D printed device, it is inexpensive and ships can produce replacements easily and at a very low cost of about 20 cents.”

Submarine Force trials assessed the device was suitable for Collins Class Submarine use and the device is now undergoing Defence codification.

Similar fuses are also used in other Navy units, and the lockout device or variants may find wider application throughout the Fleet.

Able Seaman Mayfield described himself as surprised and grateful on receiving this award.

“Surprised, because I didn’t expect this, and grateful for all the assistance from my divisional chain to those outside of it that assisted in developing this idea from drawing it on a whiteboard, to improving the prototypes, to finally having them 3D printed to be distributed to the boats,” he said.

Petty Officer Aviation Technician Aircraft Gavin Mason from the Navy Aviation Systems Program Office, HMAS Albatross after being awarded the Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award by the head of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence, RAN.

Petty Officer Aviation Technician Aircraft Gavin Mason from the Navy Aviation Systems Program Office, HMAS Albatross after being awarded the Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award by the head of Navy Engineering, Rear Admiral Colin Lawrence, RAN.

After 20 years in the Navy, Petty Officer Mason has extensive experience in a range of positions, including time as a Sea King maintainer, workshop supervisor at the Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU) and with 808 Squadron, before his current position at the Navy Aviation Systems Program Office - Tool Kit Management Centre.

Petty Officer Mason called on this experience and his exceptional technical expertise and machining skills to conceptually design, develop and then manufacture an interfacing adaptor prototype to minimise the risk of exposure to aviation fuel during routine fuel sampling evolutions conducted by Fleet Air Arm sailors while working on the MH-60R helicopter at 725 Squadron.

The adaptor was a straight forward design,” Petty Officer Mason said.

“We modified an existing item used on F/A-18 jets for use in the Fleet Air Arm.

“A prototype was produced with the use of equipment at AMAFTU and over several trials it was fine-tuned before a final design was settled on and put into production,” he said.

Petty Officer Mason said while he appreciated the award, it was “unnecessary”.

“I was just doing what I considered was my job and there were a lot of other people involved who deserve credit as well.

“Engineering and Squadron support was there from first trial of the prototype and I believe it was accepted into use without issue as soon as it was available,” the humble Senior Sailor said.

Since its introduction in July 2019, the innovation has been presented to the United States Navy at the H-60 System Safety Working Group where it received positive feedback from both maintainers and operators.

The United States Navy is now actively considering adopting Petty Officer Mason’s design for incorporation into the United States Navy to decrease fuel exposure incidents.

Lieutenant Commander Steve Delo, Warfare Innovation Navy’s Engagements Manager, said both of the winning entries displayed quality, creativity, leadership and initiative at all stages of idea development.

He said that in making their decision the panel took into consideration the broader applicability of the innovation across Navy and Defence.

Captain Adam Allica, Director General Warfare Innovation Navy, praised the professional approach of the two winners in identifying and solving problems within their respective workplaces.

“Petty Officer Mason and Able Seaman Mayfield have established the benchmark for lateral thinking and leadership in innovation and their efforts have made a significant impact on Navy safety,” Captain Allica said.

A signal calling for the 2020 Chief of Navy Innovation Excellence Award will be released in August, so if you think you have an idea or insight which will make a genuine difference and result in new or improved processes within Navy you are encouraged to direct your enquiry to navy.innovation@defence.gov.au or search for ‘Navy Innovation’ on the DRN.