NEWPORT NEWS, Va (NNS) -- USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) received phase one certification on the Precision Aircraft Landing System (PALS) July 17, bringing the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier one step closer to returning to the fleet.
PALS plays a vital role in the safety of flight operations by allowing the ship to communicate with the aircraft and send instructions for landing under various circumstances.
"You have to get the PALS certified to get the planes to the flight deck, which is a good portion of the flight deck certification," said Lt. Paul Greenough, carrier controlled approach officer. "We have to have the ability to control the plane all the way to the flight deck. It all ties together."
The first phase is conducted while the carrier is pier side and aircraft fly overhead. It proves that the radar is able to pick up and lock onto an aircraft while the ship is docked. The aircraft does not actually land on the carrier during this phase.
"During phase one the pilot comes in and flies very basic patterns to verify the system initially," said Air Traffic Controller 3rd Class (AW/SW) Daniel Berning. "After that, he does different maneuvers to see if the system is tracking."
The air traffic controllers have gone to Pensacola, Fla. six times in the past year for training on PALS. They trained in a two-week course on a simulator that is identical to the Carrier Controlled Approach System used on the Theodore Roosevelt.
"The school has a set syllabus that they run us through," said Greenough. "It goes through various scenarios, such as emergencies and weather phenomena, to get the team back in a proficient mode to control aircraft."
Phase two will start when TR heads out to sea for Sea Trails. Air traffic controllers will get more hands on work with real pilots and situations.
"It feels great to control again," said Berning. "It's been almost a year. It's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work."
Theodore Roosevelt is currently completing Refueling and Complex Overhaul at Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News Shipbuilding in preparation to rejoin the operational fleet and go to sea.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/USSTheodoreRoosevelt, www.Twitter.com/TheRealCVN71 and www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.