Thursday, May 28, 2009

Carl Vinson One Step Closer to Launching Critical Flight Systems

From Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class John Sampedro, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Operations Department began certification on the ship's Precision Approach Landing System (PALS) in Newport News May 12.

PALS certification is an important step in preparing the ship for sea. The system is vital to the safe landing of all aircraft onboard Carl Vinson.

"PALS is considered the most critical part of flight, we are responsible for a safe approach during a terminal phase of flight," said Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class Kyle Eberhart. "PALS works by locking onto the aircraft and verifying the needles, and it sends commands to land the aircraft safely."

Air traffic controllers operated two types of radar, the "Easy Rider" AN-SPN 46 and the "Bulls eye" AN-SPN 41, for the certification.

The AN-SPN 46 radar locks onto the aircraft and uses three different modes to safely guide the pilot back to the ship. Mode 1 takes complete control of the aircraft and its landing. Mode 1A takes control of the aircraft and transfers control back to the pilot 30 seconds prior to the landing. Mode 2 allows for complete pilot control.

"One of the main things we had to accomplish was coordination. In the middle of a city we have to coordinate with all the surrounding air traffic controllers at the nearby bases for permission to fly," said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Michael Valli.

The Sailors assigned with maintaining PALS got underway on other carriers to get a better understanding of how it works and what it takes to operate this system. Coordination and training were essential to making all this possible.

"The AC's have been training in simulators and underway to be able to operate these systems," said the Operations Assistant Air Officer, Lt. Britton Windeler. "This is the first time in four years anything like this has happened on this ship, it's great to see it all come together."

Carl Vinson is completing its scheduled refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard. The RCOH is an extensive yard period that all Nimitz-class aircraft carriers go through near the mid-point of their 50-year life cycle.

During refueling complex overhaul, Carl Vinson's nuclear fuel has been replenished and the ship's services and infrastructure upgraded to make her the most state-of-the-art aircraft carrier in the fleet and ready for another 25 years or more of service.