Monday, March 15, 2010

Stennis Returns to Sea for Squadron Carrier Qualifications

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Will Tyndall, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) Public Affairs

USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea (NNS) -- USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) returned to sea March 12 to begin fleet replacement squadron carrier qualifications (FRSCQ) and to perform a major ammunition offload.

Carrier qualifications allow newly trained pilots to gain experience landing aboard a carrier in assigned tactical aircraft.

Each pilot is tasked with 12 day arrested landings and six night landings, as well as "touch-and-goes," where aircraft land and take off again without catching an arresting cable.

"What's different from fleet operations is, it's continuous flight ops (operations)," said Cmdr. Shelby Stratton, Stennis' air boss. "We are recovering aircraft and launching continuously, so the pattern is always full."

The 29 fleet replacement squadron pilots are from the "Flying Eagles" of Strike Fighter Squadron VFA 122, the "Sharpshooters" of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron VMFAT 101 and the "Vikings" of Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ 129. Collectively, they are expected to perform 96 hours of flight operations consisting of 570 arrested landings, a third of which will be at night.

"It's one of the more difficult and taxing things we ask of the flight deck [crews], because it's just continuous flight operations," said Stratton. "It's going to be long 12 hour days with two hour breaks in the middle, then get up and do it again."

After the completion of FRSCQ, Stennis will conduct an ordnance offload prior to returning to its homeport of Bremerton, Wash.

The ordnance offload is scheduled to span three days with Stennis's crew moving 2.5 million pounds of ordnance with 1,300 total lifts by connected and vertical replenishment.

"Even though it's hard work everyone is happy to do it, because it's the end of this cruise and surge period," said Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (AW) Jason Homchick.

Stennis is the surge-ready carrier on the west coast and vital in performing fleet replacement squadron pilot qualifications. Once the qualifications and ammunition offload are complete, the ship will finalize preparations for a planned incremental availability maintenance period.