Saturday I had to be up bright and early at 0600. Luckily, there was a van from the Academy going to the carrier and I did not have to drive. The drive down went fairly smoothly, the drive back was pretty much stop and go traffic the whole way. I am glad I was not driving, instead, I caught a catnap both directions.
This tour had been set up by our NCIS classmate Paul; he had previously been assigned to the ship as his duty station. It was a very informative tour; I had always assumed there were specific air wings assigned to each carrier. I learned that the aircraft are assigned for the duration of a deployment but it is not permanent. The Eisenhower spends a lot of time sailing between Virginia and Florida, back and forth. Marine and Navy pilots have to land and launch from carriers at regular intervals to maintain certification. So, as she sails back and forth, squadrons will fly out, land, launch again, etc. When they are down the south end of the their trip, the planes will also do training drills on the Avon Park Bombing Range. There was only one plane on board, which appeared to be a display piece.
Our tour started in the main hanger deck (one of three, the main one is midship) which was impressively huge. From there we were able to see the flight deck, bridge, mess, flight deck control center, and, only because we were cops, the brig. We were also allowed to shop in the ship’s store. There are gift shops everywhere, even on active duty aircraft carriers!
An aircraft carrier is nothing like a cruise ship. The passages are all narrow and every doorway is a potential shin buster due to the watertight doors. The stairs were very steep with little headroom, I bet tall people keep the ship’s doctors busy applying stiches. The hatches between the ship’s different levels could be opened one of two ways. There hatch would have a small round entrance that was a tight squeeze or open to a larger entrance; which entrance is in use depends on the ship’s readiness status.
I was surprised we were allowed to take photos in every location through the ship. We were only asked not to photograph the security personnel and ship self defense systems. I was also surprised we were invited to sit in the Captain’s chair. If I were the captain of a floating city with enough firepower to level entire countries, I would not have a bunch of tourist cops sitting in my chair!
I also learned the ship’s crew has, through long tradition, adopted President Eisenhower’s home as a service project. Every year, senior NCOs from the ship make a trip out there to paint, do repair work, and maintain the property. New members of the crew also are taken there to learn about President Eisenhower when they are assigned to the ship. The pride the sailor’s conducting our tour took in their ship and their service was very evident and the entire tour was well done. The rest of the photographs are here: https://picasaweb.google.com/nonentity1945/USSEisenhower