Friday, May 14, 2010

Enterprise Launches and Recovers First Aircraft in Two Years

An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Checkmates of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) as part of the first squadron to land aboard the ship in more than two years. Enterprise is conducting flight deck certification leading to its 21st deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Travis S. Alston/Released)

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- USS Enterprise (CVN 65) successfully recovered and launched fixed-wing aircraft May 12 after more than two years.

The "Checkmates" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, landed four F/A-18F Super Hornets aboard the world's first nuclear-powered carrier, and the "Salty Dogs" of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23 followed shortly later with the first launch.

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11, also known as the "Red Rippers," also launched and recovered aircraft on a day long anticipated by the crew.

In order to safely recover a jet there must be 16 personnel below the flight deck manning the arresting gear equipment, eight personnel on the flight deck, and one primary operator. These personnel are solely responsible for the safe recovery of any inbound aircraft.

From providing fuel to taxiing the aircraft after recovery, it's a team project.

"No single qualification can recover an aircraft alone," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (AW) David T. Ifill, the primary flight control operator for Air department's V-2 catapult division. "Teamwork is the only way a carrier can safely do this."

Enterprise spent more than two years in the Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard making sure the ship was ready for her 21st deployment.

During that time frame, Enterprise has seen many Sailors leave the command and many more arrive. There are some who have been on other carriers, seen and participated in flight operations, but many more arrived aboard Enterprise as their first command, new to the fleet.

"I've been in the Navy for more than a year," said Airman Ryan K. White. "I am honored to spend my first enlistment aboard Enterprise. It's an awe-inspiring experience just to be here."

Launching aircraft on an aircraft carrier is just as dangerous as the recovery.

An aircraft launched from an aircraft carrier accelerates from zero to 145 mph in less than three seconds.

"Safety is the priority on the flight deck at all times," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (AW) Michael K. Balentine, the bow catapult leading petty officer for Air department's V-2 division. "Keeping your head on a swivel is our motto out there."

Launching one jet off the flight deck requires a minimum of 11 personnel on the flight deck.

"People are the heart of launching jets," said Balentine. "Participating in this specific launch has been an honor for me. I served aboard Enterprise from 2003-2006, and to be a part of this particular event is a dream come true after spending my last three years on shore."

At the completion of flight deck certification, Carrier Air Wing 1 will begin carrier qualification which will allow them to conduct flight operations with Enterprise and her crew until the end of the next deployment.

Enterprise is underway conducting flight deck certification in preparation for her work-up phase and 21st deployment.