A Journey To The USS Carl Vinson / CVN 70
By Steve Kates- Dr.Sky As a Radio/TV host; Dr.Sky; it has been a goal of mine, to report on what it is like to visit a US Navy carrier, out at sea! That dream was given to us in August of 2010, as our media group, Dr.Sky Inc./ Photo Recon.net and Blue Scarecrow Entertainment were given an opportunity to be a part of the Distinguished Visitor Program and fly to the USS Carl Vinson CVN-70. Our 5 person team, consisted of Joe Kates, Dave Budd, Mike O’Connor and Chris De Somma and me…. Dr.Sky. Plans for this rare visit, date back to May of 2010 and thanks to Navy Lt. Aaron Kakiel, for taking the time to handle the details. We were notified a week or so before the event, that we would be visiting the USS Carl Vinson, CVN-70…out at sea! We all drove to San Diego the night before the big event! Arriving at the US Navy facility in San Diego, was a most memorable event, as we got to see a US Air Force C-32 land at the Navy base and we were told that Secretary of Defense Gates was there to meet with base officials,etc. After a great lunch and a detailed briefing regarding how to “stay alive” on the flight to the carrier, we were then flown to the carrier, USS Carl Vinson, by the airlift squadron VRC-40 “Rawhides”. The aircraft that we were to fly on:
Wing span: 81 feet Length: 57 feet Height: 16 feet Weight: maximum takeoff: 54,354 pounds Speed: maximum: 352 mph cruise: 296 mph Ceiling: 28,800 feet Range: 1,440 nautical miles Power plant: two Allison T56-A-8B turboprop engines Contractor: Grumman Aerospace The amazing thing about this aircraft, is the fact that you sit “backwards” to the way you normally fly on a commercial aircraft. In addition to the unique way to fly, you are strapped into your seat with all the safety gear and helmet and secured very tight in your seat, with a harness. With all five of our group secured in our seats, it was time to head out over the ocean to the carrier. The flight lasted some 45 minutes and was rather smooth, except for one small window the size of a coffee cup saucer on each sideof the C-2A, you fly without the references of windows. I was lucky, I scored a window seat….the rest of our group was pretty much in the rear and had no window seats. They never seemed to complain! The crew members on the C-2A told us that we might have to make a few passes around the carrier and then we would be the next in line to make the carrier landing. In the glare of all the engine noise, they told us that we need to get ready to land….land on a carrier in the ocean…wow…my heart rate was going up for sure. They told us that when they shout…”Here we go”…..”Here we go”…..we needed to be ready for the arrested landing on the USS Carl Vinson. Soon after this, I could sea the white caps of the waves in the ocean…we must be close…..get ready! We were moving at well over 100mph and in just two seconds, we at ZERO! You could hear the hook on the tail of the C-2A hit the cable and we were there…somewhere out in the Pacific, far from land. I felt good to be on this metal island in the ocean. We made a carrier landing….and I was not sea sick at all. Looking out the tiny coffee cup saucer window, I could see a whole world of people with many colored vests with helmets, waving arms around, doing busy stuff and now it finally hit me; these are the many men and women that you hear about, serving our great nation and doing their jobs, just like you and me. We salute ALL of these members of the US armed forces that are making a great sacrifice, being away from family for long periods of time. After the clam shell doors opened up, we were escorted to an area off the flight line and brought to the media center on this massive ship. Once inside this massive warship, we were greeted by LCDR Eric Reynolds, who seemed to know more about this ship, than anyone I might meet. LCDR Reynolds had a list in front of him with a detailed schedule of the places and people that we would be meeting. Our first embark on the ship, was to go as a group, to see the active flight line. With helmets and vests on, we proceeded as a group, single file, to a place that few get to see….F-18 aircraft launching from a moving carrier, somewhere in the Pacific ocean. Wow, the sights and sounds of this experience is just amazing. You will see many pictures taken by our group, of this flight deck. All the crew on deck, work in kind of a workplace harmony, that you hardly see in the business world….everyone knows his or her job and all seems to go with precision! Better follow your guide, as you do not want to be blown off the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, by the exhaust of an F-18! Back in the media center, we broke into smaller groups, to be given access to area like the computer/print center; the mess hall; aircraft storage area and the aircraft engine shop. Wow, at best; this mighty ship has well over 5,000 people on board. Lunch, Dinner and late night dining, all were great experiences. Great food, served by dedicated staff and things running like clockwork! One of the highlights of this embark to me; was meeting and interviewing the ships captain; Captain Bruce H. Lindsey in his conference center. As a way of thanking Captain Lindsey, we presented him and the fine crew of the USS Carl Vinson, with a plaque of the US Navy’s logo. Captain Lindsey assured us that this plaque, would be placed in a location of high honor.That alone, made this trip a once in a lifetime experience. After a great dinner, I was given the rare opportunity of doing my radio show, live from the USS Carl Vinson on a satellite type phone….calling into the Rollye James show, which is on all over the US, on XM 158, week nights at 7PM PDT.(link below) On this show, for one hour, I told the great story of the USS Carl Vinson and the crew, along with tips on how to observe the meteorshower, the Perseids that was going on that night. After that, we caught up with the rest of our group and we were escorted to the flight operations center. Here, we got to sit in the same seats that the pilots brief for day and night missions. The team leader, gave us a great insight into what the night missions were all about. At the same time, we were watching a large screen TV with night images of the F-18’s landing above our deck…..the planes hit hard as you hear the plane crash to the deck and pull to a stop. Then the metal arrested cable dragging itself back to it’s position on the deck…a really amazing experience. That night, flight operations ended early, due to weather, but we still got to climb up the stairs of the “Island”, to get a look at the flight deck from the “Vultures Row”. This is a great place to watch the carrier deck and many aircraft below. Then it was on to a late night snack and off to bed…you get tired out at sea…walking and climbing, LOTS of stairs! Our cabins were the best they have on the ship and they were comfortable, but small. Our wake up was scheduled for 0600 and sure enough a sailor was there to remind us that we needed to be ready for “chow” at 0645, as we had a lot to see, before we were to leave the USS Carl Vinson. After a great breakfast, we were given the opportunity to view a burial at sea practice. This is a sacred ceremony and one that is of the highest of Navy traditions.Then it was off to the engine shop for the repair of the jet engines that require maintenance.After that, we toured the flight deck and got to see what 4.5 acres of deck space looks like…..huge! We would then visit the control center of this mighty ship and fora moment, we were told that we were somewhere off the coast of Mexico in waters that might be over 5,000 feet deep. After a final lunch, we got to see the medical area of the ship and the dedicated staff that work in this large hospital at sea. The USS Carl Vinson played a key role in the relief efforts from the recent Haiti earthquake. Now it was time to return home……… Wow, we were only here some 24 hours, but it was a most memorable experience. Our bags were taken to the flight line and it was time to say goodbye to the crew and staff. Once again, we were given a final safety briefing about the vests and helmets, which would be our safety net on the C-2A, as we were about to participate in a full catapult launch off the deck of this mighty warship. We walked single file on the noisy carrier deck and once again, I was lucky to get a window seat, for our flight finale. The C-2A moved into position and the crew told us, to be aware of the verbal…”Here We Go”….”Here We Go”…….this time you needed to place your feet on the seat in front of you and cross your arms and tuck your head in………I looked out my tiny window and saw the last of the flight deck crew…we were about to do what naval aviators have done so many times before us…..take off from a moving carrier. Time to fly….0 to 128mph in three seconds……I felt a strange feeling…like a roller coaster, only better, as this was a real carrier take off! For the landing and take off from the USS Carl Vinson, each member of our team, was given a certificate, of authenticity, that we indeed made a carrier landing and take off! It is with this special note of thanks, that we would like to thank the staff and crew of the USS Carl Vinson, CVN-70 “Gold Eagle” for the dedication that all give the our great nation. Special thanks, to Captain Bruce Lindsey, LCDR Erik Reynolds, LTJG Erik Schneider, MCCS (SW/AW )Bill Houlihan and Lt. Aaron Kakiel. We all liked this, so much, that we are looking to see if we can do this, next year, and visit the USS Ronald Reagan, CVN- 76, also based out of San Diego. And a special shout out to MC3 Hale you keep em Rockin. We hope you enjoy the many photos and radio interview from our team! On board the USS Carl Vinson “Vis Per Mare”- “ Strength From The Sea” “Always Keep Your Eyes To The Skies” Dr.Sky Listen to a recorded version of the show Dr. Sky did live from aboard the Carl Vinson. He was a guest on the Rollye James show.
D.V. Embarkation aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) by Dave Budd