Departures

One day out until San Diego
(Five out from Pearl)

Early, a.m.
Flight crews prep for departing the ship

Loud sounds of running cable top side
Ending in wall shuddering loud bangs
called “no loads”
Charging and release of the catapults
Checking steam pressure and water brakes (the bangs)

A distinctive dance of sounds
Repeated several times
Inescapable everywhere on the ship

(If this were a hotel, inconsiderate guests banging
room doors early a.m. would annoy the hell out of me
But not this)

This is the sound of precision movement, professionalism,
capable people and powerful systems in action
With a distinctive and noble purpose

It is one of the signatures of this
floating city

(I love it)

Two by two
Planes wheeled from their overnight hangar bay nests
Guided expertly folded wing-to-folded wing onto the
hangar bay elevators
Silently, in ten seconds, lifted forty feet above to the flight deck

On deck
Pilots and crews hum around their aircraft
Looking here, touching this, checking that
Walk arounds
Mother birds checking and preening their young
for first flight
Ensuring themselves…everything is ready to go – just right

(This is another dance, not quite slow motion
Every move sequential, orderly – exacting
The low deliberate buzz of pre-flight prep)

Some will fly to California
Some to Washington
Others to Virginia
All to home base
Awaiting the next deployment aboard ship

Then it begins in earnest
Engines start
Constant roar now on the flight deck
Hand signals guiding each bird into its place for launching
Behind the first
Blast fence quickly raised
The catapult “spreader” in recessed channel
glides rapidly along the flight deck back to the plane

Deck crewman kneels just forward of the plane’s front wheel
Motions for the spreader’s movement backward in inches
Secures the plane’s launch bar in the spreader

Engine roars
Now, crewmen move away
One signals “ready”
Salutes exchanged –crewman and pilot
“Go” sign given

Catapult steam pressure builds
Just a momentary wait
Pilot braces for the surge forward
In four seconds rocketed down the deck runway
off the ship at full power

(I want to scream “YES!!” at the top of my lungs
But control myself- not to look foolish)

This ballet is repeated every thirty seconds until all are off
and on their way

If the Stars Spangled Banner does not play
between your ears at this sight,
there is something wrong with you




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