Monday, August 22, 2005

Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy - Part V

You now are returning to your irregulalry scheduled sea soap opera... Part I, II, III, IV can be found on their links. Life in the "Fat Ship" Navy – Part V I can’t see the flight deck from the bridge, as it is obscured by the after superstructure. That castle of steel plating houses two hangers capable of holding the CH-46 helos, the wardroom, the officer’s staterooms, with the exception of those of the Operations Officer and the Navigator, which are in the forward superstructure two deck below me, along wit the Captain’s Cabin and Office. The Helo Control Tower in on the aft side of the after superstructure, with it’s miniature greenhouse set so as to oversee just about every square inch of the flight deck area. This view is important, so a second set of eyes might watch over every action that occurs on this non-skid coated danger area. While the flight deck crew, similarly adorned as the CV deck crews, wander about the dark olive glossy painted twin rotor helicopter, where there are no underwing mounted jet turbine intakes poised to suck in a careless crew member, there are still many things available to cause serious injury or death to one, or a team, who would let their guard down. As the aircraft was pushed manually out onto the gently rolling deck, a helo detachment member sat in the pilot’s seat of the "bird" as the brake rider as blueshirted men with a set of chocks and chains alongside the main mounts, ready to shove the yellow painted chocks on the tires if things start to get out of control, or when the aircraft gets into position. Things go well, and "06" is carefully eased to the center of the large white lined circle on the dark grey deck. Pallets of cargo are stacked near the deck edge, and towards the place where the helo has been chained down, wrapped in cargo nets and equipped with a pendant. While an outsider may look upon scene and see danger. To those who "work" here, it’s a well orchestrated positioning of ordnance, food, spare parts and mail, stacked no higher on the pallet than is safe to avoid the lowest possible arc of the rotor blades. More pallets are being brought up by elevator to the staging area forward of the hanger doors on each side of the ship. Once the material begins to move from the flight deck by "VERTEP" to the customers ships, the storekeepers will shuttle more loads with standup electric forklifts out onto the deck to replace those ones lifted skyward. I hear the whine of the auxiliary power unit (APU) of the helo start up begin and rapidly increase in pitch. “Request permission to spread 06” comes from the "bitch box." I walk to the centerline deck at the front of the bridge and pull out a 1 inch notebook labeled "HELO OPS" from the customized aluminum pocket on the left of the desk. I flip the pages in document protectors, looking for the one labeled "Daytime H-46." Finding the extracted page from NWP-42G, I glance up at the twin dials of anemometer display above the window and note the relative winds are coming from 20 degree to port at 20 knots. I consult the circle with the safe to operate wind envelope area indicated. The winds are well within the acceptable limits. I punch the helo tower button in on the 21MC and grant permission to spread the folded rotors. I punch the release button on the bitch box to clear the connection to the helo tower. I know soon, they will call to start the main engines up… (to be continued)

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