Ted Cahall on board USS Truman – Part 2

It has taken me a while to get back to my series of three posts regarding my visit to the USS Harry S. Truman in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina.  This is the second post of the series that will cover my activities while on board.  The first post covered my trip down to Norfolk, VA and my arrested landing onto the deck of the aircraft carrier.  I have also added a Webshots album of all the photos that the Navy photographers took of my group of visitors.

We started the day on the USS Truman with the arrested landing and then disembarked from the C-2A.  The photo below is part of an album taken by a Navy photographer as I exited the plane onto the deck of the USS Truman.  Click through to see this photo and others taken by the Navy from this trip.

Ted Cahall exits the C-2A on board USS Truman

Once on board, we went up to the bridge and met Rear Admiral Mark Fox, Captain Joe Clarkson, and a number of other officers as the performed their duties.  The photo below shows Rear Admiral Mark Fox greeting our group of visitors.

Rear Admiral Mark Fox greets the visitors

From there we began our journey of hundreds of ladders.  You cannot live on a aircraft carrier and not be in shape.  The ladders will make it happen.  Plain and simple.  We went and met the Captain of the US Marine wing VMFA-312 on the ship.  There are about 20 Marine Pilots on board and approximately 275 total marine staff.  Unfortunately I did not have a pen and paper, so I do not know the name of the head of the Marines on the USS Truman.  Here is his picture.

The head of the US Marines aboard USS Truman speaks to the guests

After being briefed by the US Marines, we were off to lunch.  We waited in the officer’s mess hall lounge until they were ready.  We ate in a cafeteria style food line.  The food was actually pretty good!  We shared some nice conversation with the staff before returning to our journey through the ship.

We stopped by the room where they maintain the anchor chains.  Each link weighs over 300 lbs.  They clean and paint the links from that room.  We then headed out to the “hangar” below the flight deck.  The hangar has a series of elevators that move planes up and down between it and the deck above.  After looking through the hangar, we went and looked at some of the elevator bays and out towards the ocean.  From there we proceeded to view the fire station and some of the repair labs.  We also viewed the rescue boats they send out in case a person goes overboard.  From there it was onto the Jet engine repair labs.  The photo below is one I took of two technicians working on a GE jet engine.  Click through to see a few more jet engine photos from this album.


After the jet engine repair, we had the highlight of the entire trip.  We went back to the deck and watched jets take off.  The jets (and some turbo props) take off by being shot off the deck by a catapult.  It is really an amazing thing to see – and I was lucky enough to also be able to photograph it with my own camera.  Below is one of my better shots of a plane just off the end of the carrier beginning flight.  Click through the photo below to see my other photos of planes taking off from that album.


After watching all of the planes take off, we were then taken to the back of the carrier to watch some of them land.  This part is really amazing.  I got to see what I had experienced earlier that same day as part of an “arrested landing”.  It was incredible.  When the pilot puts the plane down on the ship, he/she actually takes it to “full throttle”.  This is to make sure it has full thrust in case they miss the arrestor cable.  In that case they need to take back off so they can circle around and try to land again.  Once they know they have the cable, they back off the throttle.  We were standing a bit too far forward to get good shots of a plane grabbing the cable with its tailhook.  I do have one blurry one here.  The photo below is a photo I took of one of the planes coming in for landing on the deck.

The AWACS plane coming in for an arrested landing - closer...

Note the arrestor cable in the foreground.  That is the first cable of four such cables.  The pilot is supposed to shoot for the third cable.  This was one of the AWACS planes.  They are arriving at 150 mph and will drop down to 0 mph in a matter of three seconds.  I have an honorary “Truman Tailhooker” certificate signed by Captain Clarkson that states that I have completed an arrested landing and have an “elementary understanding” of the “remarkable challenges and accomplishments of Naval Aviation”.

We then headed off to dinner and had some break time in our rooms.  After dinner we went to the outside deck off of the bridge and smoked cigars.  After that it was lights out as we had all had way too many ladders!

Ted Cahall

Ted Cahall visits USS Truman – Part 1

What an incredible adventure. First I need to thank Michael at AOL for arranging this for me through his connections as an Annapolis grad. Secondly I need to thank the US Navy and Admiral Mark Fox for running a program to show civilians the inner workings of the largest moving object on earth – an aircraft carrier. In this case, the USS Harry S. Truman.

I have always been proud to be a citizen of the United States of America – but seeing the energy, passion, and talent aboard the USS Truman was a moving experience.  Fellow Americans, we are all in very good hands.  I was allowed to take photos while on board and have all of them up on Webshots.com.  All of the photos in this blog post were taken with my camera (so it is my fault if they are blurry or underexposed, etc).

This experience will be covered in three parts since I am off to Myrtle Beach and will not be able to fit it all into one blog.  This first part will cover the arrangements through landing on the Truman.  The second installment will cover all of the areas we toured on the Truman including the plane launch and landings and the last segment will cover my departure back home to US soil.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to participate in this program by the Navy through one of my co-workers that is an Annapolis grad.  After filling out forms and registering for the hotel, I eagerly awaited the adventure.  I was not quite sure of the details (confidential Navy info) – but knew I was being flown onto an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on May 5th.  A day or two prior I was told it was the USS Truman and that the meeting time would be 6:15AM. On the evening of May 4th I drove down to Norfolk, VA (in a torrential downpour) and spent the night in the Hampton Inn.  At 6:15AM I met the Navy team and was whisked off to orientation.  We were informed that we would be flying out to the USS Truman via a C-2A “Greyhound” transport plane.
This was not quite as exciting as flying in on an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet – but this is as good as it gets.  Most of the 5,000 personnel on this ship never get to take off or land on it.  They simply walk on and off when it is in port.

After some briefing and selection of life vests, hearing protection, and crash helmets (see – all things that are fun do require helmets), we were ready to board the plane.  The interesting thing is that we were seated backwards.  The best reason I heard for this is to protect you during the “arrested landing”.  This is a wonderful invention where the plane’s tailhook catches one of the arresting cables and slows from 150 mph to a complete stop in less than three seconds.
As I was being strapped into my 4 point harness (see self shot photo above), it dawned on me that I was going to leave the ship facing backwards as well – on a catapult!  At this point I was beginning to wonder if I was really going to enjoy this trip…   It was sort of late to be having second thoughts, so I said my prayers (funny how prayers often come at times of loss of total control of a situation) and off the plane went on a normal take off.

There was only one window on each side of the plane and it was not near enough to my seat for me to see anything.  After about an hour of being strapped in upright with my uncomfortable headphones and helmet on, I could tell we were slowing down and circling.  The guys near the window seemed to perk up a bit.  I assumed we were near the boat (no rocket science necessary for that call).

After a while we straightened out and began a slow descent.  At one point one of the crew members in front of us got on the loudspeaker and let us know we were within 10 seconds.  Since we were facing backwards, I straightened my back and prepared to get embedded into my seat.  Within a few seconds we pounded down onto the deck of the carrier and caught the arresting cable.  It was an incredible force that seemed to get stronger as we pulled the cable to maximum tension.  In about three seconds (it felt like 5) we were stopped.  I felt like my lung collapsed!

I realized I had lived through it, hypochondria and all, and was likely to be able to blog about it in a day or two.  After they unhooked the cable and taxied the plane over to the side, they opened the doors and we took off our harnesses.  We all stood up like we did this every day.  Yes we were strong proud Americans.  The petite woman from Minnesota said that is was like a roller coaster and wanted to do it again!  So I decided to keep my collapsed lung story all to myself.  Ahem…

We left the plane and walked onto the deck of the USS Truman.  We were in the Atlantic Ocean over 100 miles off the east coast of the US.  All we could see were jets,  water – and no railings…  One of the airmen related a story of a worker being blown overboard when a jet revved its engines not knowing the man was behind it.  I was feeling better already.  What collapsed lung?  Now I was now certain I was going to drown and be eaten by a shark or whale…  Don’t worry, they fished the guy out and he was as good as new.  Probably also from Minnesota.
I began to look around. What an incredible site.  Dozens of US Navy jets waiting to launch.  The Ocean is so blue that far out (I have clearly never been on a cruise liner).

We were whisked inside for our first meeting with the Admiral and the ship’s captain.  I was not sure of all the titles below Admiral, so it took me a while to figure out who reported to whom.  Everyone was cordial and professional and our tour guide, Dave, was a rock-star (actually he was a “Shooter” as you can see by his shirt).P5060161

All kidding aside, landing on an aircraft carrier is an incredible engineering accomplishment.  I am in awe of how these consummate professionals and masters of their craft made such an intricate and critical operation look totally routine.  Safety is the single most important thing on everyone’s mind: for the crew, the pilots, and everyone on the carrier.  I am sure they were just teasing me about the guy being blown overboard and later fished out.

I was ready for lunch – but we had dozens of ladders to climb up and down before I was allowed to feed the beast.  One thing to know about a carrier – they are full of ladders – not stairs.  These sailors are in great shape!

More to come on the ship tours in the next segment and the catapult in the final installment.

Ted Cahall

Flying out to the USS Truman in the Atlantic Ocean

Tonight after work I will drive down to Norfolk, VA. In the morning I head over to the Norfolk Naval Station on Hampton Blvd.

Some time on Tuesday, I will fly out to the USS Truman. This is an incredible opportunity to see how one of the largest moving objects on the planet (an aircraft carrier) operates.

I will not be able to drive with the SCCA this weekend since I do not have a National license yet.  That should be OK since I will just be getting back from Myrtle Beach Bike Week and can use a day off.

Hopefully I will have pictures of my excursion to the USS Truman later this week.  (Update: photos are now here).

Ted Cahall