A Day Aboard
USS George Washington
by Rodger Kelly
Hasegawa's 1/48 scale F/A-18E is available online from Squadron
CVN 73, the NIMITZ class aircraft carrier USS George Washington, recently visited Fremantle here in Perth Western Australia to allow its crew to partake of some leave prior to their participation in Exercise Talisman Saber 09 off the north east coast of Australia The GW as it is referred to by its crew had sailed from its home port of Yokosuka, Japan to the Philippines Sea where it had with exercised with the USS Ronald Reagan and had following that had “beat feet” southwards to Perth so the break was welcomed by one and all.
Whilst the GW was transiting to Perth I had the opportunity to fly out to her and spend the day aboard photographing the action. The flights out and back were in the ubiquitous Grumman C-2 Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft or COD. “Utilitarian” would be a good description of the COD and the flight in her somewhat different from what is normally experienced in your standard airliner.
The experience began with a road trip northwards to RAAF Pearce where the CODs were operating from. After meeting our fellow travelers we were herded together and given a safety brief delivered by a member of VRC-30 Det 5, the squadron that operates the CODs. Following the briefing we donned safety equipment consisting of a “cranial” helmet, goggles and an inflatable life vest and then followed each other Indian file wise out onto the hardstand to the waiting COD.
Entry was by the rear of the aircraft which opens up in the same manner a C-130 Hercules to allow the loading of stores. With the advice of the Loadmaster to watch my head on the overheads ringing in my ears we proceeded to file into the seemingly dark gaping maw of the cabin towards the seating. Another surprise was in store for the first time COD passengers as the seats all face to the rear of the aircraft rather to the front as one is more used to. After watching the two people in front of me bang their heads on the overhead I duly and unwittingly did the same! Once we were all seated the loadmaster welcomed us all and gave a very thorough brief on the aircraft and the emergency procedures to be followed should we be unfortunate enough to have to use them. Four point safety harnesses were fastened and tightly adjusted by each of us, the engines started and we departed for an hour-odd trip to the northwest and out to sea to meet the GW.
Ears popping with the change in altitude as well as the engines being throttled back alerted us to the fact that we were just about to experience the thrill of an arrested landing. Our flight out was following the “Case 3” procedure set down for delivering DVs (distinguish visitors) aboard and is somewhat sedate in that it entails a long approach from some 20 miles out and a on a 3 degree glide slope rather than the more normal “fighter break” where the aircraft performs a sharp left hand banking turn that drives you down into your seat as the “G”s increase. Our ever friendly Loadmaster reminded us of what we were about to go through and that he and the other crew member seated at the back of the aircraft would wave their hands over their heads and yell “Here we go! Here we go!” when we were about to hit the deck and pick up a wire. We heard the “here we go! Here we go!” but the thump did not come as the deck was not ready to receive us we were sent around the pattern again. “Here we go! Here we go!” was called again and this time the hook, picked up a wire and banged down hard onto the deck. The deceleration was immediate and vicious and I congratulated myself in having the foresight to have cinched my shoulder straps uncomfortably tight as we commenced our descent.
The COD dumped the hook, pivoted 180 degrees and taxied off the landing area back towards a spot beneath the island opening its rear hatch and lowering its ramp as we bumped along the deck. We were immediately greeted by a heady mixture of the scent of jet fuel and steam, the heat and roar of jet exhausts as well as the sight of aircraft taxiing around the deck being guided by crew dressed in a variety of coloured polo necked shirts and cranials.
Our stay on the flight deck was brief however as we were quickly marshalled into the island and welcomed aboard by Rear Admiral Kevin M. Donegan the commander of the USS George Washington’s Carrier Strike Group, Task Force 70, Task Force 75 and Carrier Strike Group 5, the Ship’s Captain, Captain David A. Lausman, and the Executive Officer, Captain Daniel C. Grieco and the ship’s other senior officers.
Following the welcomes and a refreshing drink we were fitted out with “float coats” a vest type flotation device that inflates should you have the misfortune to find yourself floating in the sea and a pair of soft earplugs. Suitably fitted out and briefed on flight deck safety we re-donned our cranials and filed out onto the flight deck.
The next hour and a half went by in a flash! We were taken to an area to the left hand side of the bow catapults and witnessed F/A-18Cs, Es and Fs, EA-6Bs, and E-2s being marshalled onto the shuttle and being flung off the bows in full afterburner and in quick succession. The sound was incredible and seemingly a solid tangible element. The closest comparison I can come up with is standing directly in front of the huge sound equipment speakers at a major rock concert; such were the vibrations running through you. Unfortunately photographing the catapulting aircraft was a little difficult as we were facing into the sun that was being hidden and revealed by fast moving low scudding cloud but I for one was not complaining!. Whilst the bow cat was launching aircraft, the ship was also recovering aircraft simultaneously across the stern and you were betwixed and between in watching F/A-18s, EA-6Bs and E-2s trapping and launching!
The time on the flight deck was all too short and we were herded back into the island and up into the calm and serenity of the bridge for a tour. The tour over over, we filed out of the island and back into the world of wind, steam and jet fuel on Vultures Row a few decks above the flight deck. Fortunately for us but unfortunately for the poor fellows piloting the aircraft there was a significant swell running and the flight deck was rising and falling quite considerably. I say fortunately for us spectators as there were a number of aircraft that were forced to go around providing us with another chance to view them airborne at close quarters.
Late afternoon was fast approaching and after thanking our hosts we re-boarded our faithful COD. Another safety brief followed and sage advice was given of what to expect when the Shooter’s hand touched the deck and the COD shot off the bows. As good as the brief was, nothing could really prepare you for what happened following the “Here we go! Here we go! shouted out by the crew. The next few seconds were brutal to say the least as the catapult fired breaking the alloy plug of the hold-back bar and allowing the shuttle to hurl the significantly large and heavy machine from its stationary position on the deck and up into the air over the bows going from 0 to 130 knots per hour in less than 300 feet and three seconds.
Alas, our visit to the GW was over and all that remained was the return trip to RAAF Pearce, serene and sedate in comparison of the violence we had witnessed aboard the GW.
Enjoy the images!
Text & Images Copyright © 2009 by Rodger Kelly
Page Created 6 August, 2009
6 August, 2009
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