|On Board USS Kitty Hawk, at sea -- USS Kitty Hawk
(CV 63) returned to sea Feb. 23 for 12 days of sea trials.
During that time, a team of nearly 5,000 men and women
comprised of Kitty Hawks crew and the embarked Carrier Air Wing FIVE
will put what they have to the test. This not only includes everything from the
aircraft on the flight deck to the boilers beneath the water line, but the skills and
flexibility of the Sailors themselves.
"Its the time to check our readiness
levels, flex our muscles and test the equipment," said Chief Electronic Warfare
Technician Glenn Coughlin, leading chief petty officer in Hawks electronic warfare
division. "If we find any flaws we can make corrections on the spot or while
were in port before the spring deployment."
Kitty Hawks last major deployment, which
included an unscheduled three-month trip to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation
Southern Watch, ended as the ship pulled in to Yokosuka late last August. In
October, the Hawk/FIVE team returned to the waters off the Korea Peninsula and Japan to
participate in the multi-national Exercises Foal Eagle 99 and ANNUALEX-11G. Kitty Hawk
returned to Yokosuka Nov. 10.
Since then Kitty Hawk, Americas only
permanently forward deployed aircraft carrier, has gone through an aggressive regiment of
repairs, upgrades and personnel training.
Critical units from three of the ships five
arresting gear engines were taken apart and two of the flight decks four steam
catapults had power pistons replaced. "We had to physically lift catapults one
and three and inspect the other two," said Chief Aviation Boatswains Mate
(Launching and Recovery Equipment) Paul FitzRandolph, Hawks arresting gear leading
chief petty officer. "With the help of Yokosukas Ship Repair Facility and
Carrier Air Field Support Unit, we did a lot of work. Catapult one was a major job."
Because the aircraft need the catapults to launch
and the catapults use steam for power, the chain of responsibility for launching aircraft
begins with Sailors who rarely even see the flight deck while underway -- the men and
women who operate and maintain the ships boilers. Without them, the Hawk/FIVE team
wouldnt be able to leave the pier, let alone run tests during sea trails.
"Basically, the boilers are the heartbeat of
the ship," said Machinists Mate Third Class Jon Koppari, a native of Palm Bay,
Fla., and a boiler technician of the watch (BTOW) for the engineering departments
P-2 Division. "Like a pressure cooker... they create the steam and pump the life into
the main engine and the ships electrical supply."
You can almost say Kitty Hawks sea trials
actually began the morning of Feb. 8. Thats when boiler 2A was lit off in
Hawks number two main machinery room the first boiler light-off since
returning to port in November. According to Koppari, engineering normally lights off
boilers at least two weeks prior to getting underway in order to conduct steam tests.
Unlike lighting off a boiler at sea, which can be
done by using the power of another boiler thats already running almost like
jump-starting a car doing a cold light-off after completing pier-side renovations
that included overhauling a generator can contain some uncertainty, especially if
its your first time.
"Ive lit off hot before, but this was
my first time doing a cold light-off," said Boiler Technician Third Class Eric
Plummer, a Seattle native and a BTOW. "Its an adrenaline rush. And
now we know it works and we can safely operate the boilers."
Chief Machinists Mate James Thomas, from
Garden City, Mich., is the leading chief petty officer for P2 division and stood as safety
observer for the cold light-off: "Nothing ever goes exactly as you expect.
We thought wed have at least a few small problems (during the light off) but
everything just dialed in. It went great from light-off to securing."
While addressing the ships crew during a
recent captains call, Captain Matthew Tuohy, Kitty Hawks commanding officer,
echoed Thomas words, "Light-offs and steam tests are extremely important... and
they did a great job."
The ships boilers were shut down after a
week of tests. Feb. 20, boiler 4B in the number four main machinery room was lit in
preparation of the current underway. And now that Hawks "heartbeat"
has been tested and revitalized, the entire Hawk/FIVE team is ready to put the recent
months of preparation and training to use.
"During a six-month deployment things can
take a beating. Most of the time in port consisted of attending schools and working
on the preservation of equipment and spaces," said Coughlin, who works in the
ships combat direction center (CDC). "A lot of what we do in CDC can only
be done while underway, so sea trials are important to us."
One of CDCs challenges during the sea
trials is a semi-annual testing of the ships capability to react to simulated
missile attacks by jamming radar signals sent from the shore. "Its a
graded evolution and the biggest part (of this underway) for me," said Coughlin.
Although the next two weeks will test the past
four months of hard work, theres a confidence aboard the ship thats turning
these sea trials into a welcome chance for the men and women of the Hawk/FIVE team to
prove their mettle.
"Our energy level is way up," said
FitzRandolph. "Theres an attentiveness and a focused energy. You can feel
it and it shows through the actions of the crew. We have the confidence that when
the first aircraft lands, were ready."
"We got everything done that we had
to," said V-2 divisions Aviation Boatswains Mate (Launching and Recovery
Equipment) Second Class Casey Morrison, of Orlando, Fla. "We had to wait for
the holiday stand down to finish in order to do some of the things and complete some of
the maintenance that required a lot of people. But we did it and were ready to