ABOARD USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER (NNS) -- USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (Ike) (CVN 69) successfully completed flight deck certification April 5 - the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier's second major milestone since completing a four-year mid-life overhaul.
Certifying Ike's flight deck means the aircraft carrier receives her license to fly, and is one step closer to fulfilling her role in the fleet, to relieve the watch.
Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Martin, assigned to the "Wildcats" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, landed his F/A-18C Hornet aboard Ike March 31, the first aircraft recovery for the ship in four years, and the start of Ike's flight deck certification.
"I think it's a great opportunity," said Martin. "I know it represents a huge effort, the way that this entire crew has been in the yards for so long, and then was able to get back to sea, get airplanes back on her deck, and now she can get back to the business and to the purpose for which she was designed."
"The ship and everyone in the air wing are excited about getting this aircraft carrier back to [the fleet] and projecting power," he added.
CVW-7 squadrons that participated in Ike's Flight Deck Certification include the "Top Cats" of Sea Control Squadron (VS) 31, the "Nightdippers" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 5, VFA-131, the "Bluetails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, and the "Patriots" of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140. They were joined by the "Gladiators" of VFA-106 and the "Salty Dogs" of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23.
With their arrival, Ike began flight deck certification, a process that tests all aspects of the carrier's deck, from the equipment to the crew's ability to safely handle aircraft.
"Flight deck certification is a system of tests that include testing the catapults at different weights, the arresting gear, how the crew directs aircraft, and how they conduct flight operations," said Lt. Cmdr. Tony Hernandez, Ike's aircraft handling officer. "We worked together with the air wing to basically get our license to drive - fly - so we can go out and do this ourselves."
Earning that license to fly has meant a lot of hard work for Ike, CVW-7 Sailors, the "Gladiators" and the "Salty Dogs." In just an eight-day period, these diligent men and women ran S-3B Vikings, SH-60F Seahawks, F/A-18C/D Hornets, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2C Hawkeyes and EA-6B Prowlers through different scenarios on the flight deck, on the elevators and in the hangar bays for both daytime and nighttime operations.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class Mike Hopkins, Ike's acting night aircraft handling officer, is responsible for coordinating and moving the aircraft to their spots for the next day's run.
"We are definitely busy, and it's great to see the flight deck crew and the air wing coming together as one team," said Hopkins. "It's also exciting to see the young Sailors' interest rising because we have real planes aboard. You can see that their interest has peaked."
"It's a fantastic transition to see Ike's Sailors proud to be operational again," said Capt. Charles Smith, Ike's commanding officer. "You can especially see the excitement of our new Sailors as they watched carrier flight deck operations for the first time aboard Ike. We have a new mission now, to get Ike fully qualified to assume the watch again."
"I'm excited about flight deck certification because it's so cool that we are out of the yards and doing our job," said Airman Jennifer Cournoyer, of Air Department's V-O division. "I'm excited about moving aircraft around and knowing and seeing what is happening on the flight deck."
CMDCM (AW/SW/NAC/FMF) Mike Rang, CVW-7's command master chief, summed up what it means for Ike to be flight deck certified.
"Flight Deck Certified means that Eisenhower and CAG (Carrier Air Wing) 7 are ready to go to sea and do what we are supposed to do, and that's to be a forward presence," said Rang.
With the successful completion of this milestone, Ike's 'Warriors of the Sea' and CVW-7 now look forward to continuing routine carrier operations at sea.
For related news, visit the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn69.