Monday, November 11, 2013

Adventures at Sea Part 4

Adventures At Sea (Part 4)

November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day to all the Veterans, past, present, and future that I have the privilege of knowing.  Thank you all so very much for your service and your love for country and family.  Thank you for your sacrifices and for willingly giving of yourselves so that I might have the freedom to write on a site like this.  Thank you and God bless you all!

Continued from November 5, 2013

After spending roughly about an hour and a half outside on the flight deck, we were escorted back inside and given a few minutes to catch our breath.  We began the ten-story climb up to the Primary Flight Deck.  If you are not in good shape, these steps will get you!  They are steep and they are many.  The PriFlight deck is the top deck in the tower of the island.  It is basically air traffic control.  They are controlling the landing and launching of all the aircraft.  We were able to talk with the Air Boss and the Mini Boss while we were up there for them to explain what they do.  They also have to keep track of what type of aircraft is landing and communicate that to the sailors in charge of the arresting cables as each one has to be set for a particular type of plane depending on the weight of the plane.  We were also told of their good luck disco ball that hangs between the Boss and Mini Boss’ seats.  They use it to help the pilots that might be having a little trouble getting on the deck.  It’s their “talisman.”  The view out over the deck up there is astounding because you can see everything that is going on down below.

                          (This is me in the Mini Boss's Seat)
                                         (Disco Ball)
                                         (View of the Stern from PriFlight)
                            (View of the Bow from PriFlight)

We spent roughly forty-five minutes in PriFlight (time really had no meaning to us on this trip – we were just so enthralled with everything we were seeing) and we descended one flight down to the Bridge.  Next to the flight deck, this is probably the second busiest place that we have seen so far.  This is where everything related to the ship runs.  The navigation is up here, the Officer of the Watch – I think that was his title – is in charge of putting the ship into proper position with his instructions in order to launch or land aircraft.  This has to do with speed of the ship itself and with natural wind direction and ocean movements.  It was fascinating to watch and listen to him call out commands to those in charge of steering the ship and those controlling speed.  The young lady that was steering the ship was just twenty years old and a tiny little person.  She explained to us what she sees on her screen when she is steering the ship.  She also explained that they usually alternate running of the four 21’ bronze propellers.  Like on Thursday, they were running propellers 2 and 4 and they would switch over on Friday to propellers 1 and 3.  It is not as easy to see out of the windows from the bridge.  The metal walls go up taller than it did up in PriFlight, so for short people like me, there are seven wooden boxes to stand up on and see out the windows.  Each box had one of the Seven Dwarfs engraved in it.  I found Grumpy and Sneezy while I was there! 
                            (View from Bridge)

 We were able to spend quite a bit of time with the Captain while we were up here.  We even got to sit in the Captain’s chair and have our pictures made.  This was a little daunting with him standing right there beside of us, but he was very gracious and very humble.  After each of us had our turn and our picture made we watched the next wave of flight operations, launching and landings from the bridge.  The Captain explained to us what all of the different shirt colors meant on the deck.  He explained this as they are preparing to start launching aircraft.  The Red Shirts are the ones responsible for arming, disarming, and loading weapons on the aircraft.  Yellow Shirts are the Shooters – they’re the ones responsible for moving the planes into position and then giving the pilot direction as to when to rev up and finally after all checks are made, giving the go for them to catapult the aircraft off the deck.  The White Shirts are responsible for safety related jobs including final inspection of the aircraft’s exterior and movements prior to launching.  Green Shirts are responsible for hooking the planes to the shuttle for the catapult and are responsible for handling the arresting wires.  Blue Shirts operate elevators and drive the tractors that pull the aircraft or that sweep the deck.  Purple Shirts are the ones responsible for fueling the aircraft (all fuel lines and fuel related rooms and valves throughout the ship are painted that same bright purple) – they call them “the grapes”.   And finally the Silver Suits, those are the guys/gals that you don’t want to have to see; they are the ones that handle fires or crashes.   After he explained to us the shirts and their jobs, he took us through the whole process of how they hook the planes to the cats and what each person does when they’re doing that and how the cat has to be set for the correct type of launch – with or without afterburners – the pilot signed up for.  Due to a pilot error just before his launch – he changed his mind about wanting the afterburners on just before he launched – there was a huge back up of planes waiting to launch, so the Captain pulled all waiting aircraft up to the front of the deck to launch off of catapults 1 and 2 and as soon as they launched the pilot that had caused the backup, they quickly covered up cats 3 and 4 and started landing aircraft.  Within less than two minutes of launching the last plane off of cat 4, they had planes landing in that area.  They can actually do that faster and I’m estimating quite long – remember time didn’t have much meaning to me on this trip!  Needless to say, the Captain was not too happy about the snafu.  He didn’t strike me as a fellow that takes messing up a schedule lightly!   They can land a plane every forty-five seconds!  Absolutely AMAZING!  

                            (Me in the Captain's Chair)
                           (That's the Captain over to the right)

Check back next week for more to this story!

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