USS Nimitz

July 25th, 2012
By jammaquino

Hi everyone!

Well the buzz of excitement has settled from my embark aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, so here’s a few of my favorites from the trip, since most didn’t make our print edition.

Leading up to the assignment, I was pretty nervous about the whole ordeal.  I mean, trap landing–going from about 150mph to 0 in about 60 feet or so–pretty gut wrenching–both literally and in my mind.  As was the catapult take off.  But that’s the only way onboard a carrier that was in the middle of naval exercises out in the middle of the Pacific.

I couldn’t really sleep the night before because of both the excitement and the anxiety.  Our meet time was scheduled for 6am at Pearl Harbor.  From there, we were to board a Grumman C2 COD (Carrier Onboard Delivery) aircraft–a nice, turboprop powered plane that sacrifices everything for performance.  No inflight movie or beverages here.  Here’s what it looks like:

This was shot after we landed back from the USS Nimitz. Note the rear hatch, where we enter and face after being strapped in tight.

So after our safety briefing, we were issued cranials–a combination skullcap, helmet, goggles, and ear protection contraption required at all times while on the flight deck and on the tarmac.

Cranial with my two cameras. DV means "Distinguished Visitor," although I jokingly thought to myself it means "Doesn't Vomit"

So with my cranial on my cranium, I made my way towards the aircraft with the rest of the media.  We entered through the rear hatch of the aircraft, and the seats are facing aft.  No windows on the plane, save for two small, 8-inch diameter holes towards the front of the COD.  So there’s no seeing, just sensory telling you whether you’re going up or down.  I was nervous.  After a long taxi, we were finally airborne, and it was about a twenty minute flight to the USS Nimitz, which was about 100 nautical miles northeast of Oahu.  When we were safety briefed, the crew was to give a hand signal to the cabin to prepare us for our trap landing.  When the signal was given, I braced myself in my seat and counted down 15 seconds (that was the approximate time the crew had said after the signal).  It felt longer.  Then, BAMMMM!  I was thrown forward into my seat, knocking the wind out of me, and I swear my gut and innards wrapped around my spine.  But before even a second, it was done!  VOILA!  The crew opened the rear hatch of the aircraft, and my eyes adjusted to the bright sunburst and focused on planes, and more planes, and planes.  We were aboard the Nimitz!

The view from my seat in the COD. As you can see, it's dark and rather cramped inside. The rear hatch opens, and it's just a bright light.

After an adjustment in exposure, you see the flight deck, and it's just an amazing feeling to be actually onboard an aircraft carrier at sea!

We are shuffled aboard and below deck to the media room, where we are briefed on the day’s events, flight ops, lunch, etc.  But enough of the text, let’s see some images.  Here are a few of my faves.  Enjoy!

Seahawk helicopters carrying US Navy CNO Jon Greenert and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus lift off aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

US Navy AO2 Luis Rosales preps an F/A 18 Hornet for flight ops aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

US Navy Comm. Fred Goldhammer with VAW-117 "Wallbangers" talks in the squadron's ready room aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

A "greenie board" in the US Navy's VAW-117 Wallbangers E2C squadron is seen aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. The colors represent the grade on each "pass" or landing, with lighter colors being more satisfactory. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

After a quick break for lunch, we were off to witness flight ops! The food was really, really good!

I had to have the obligatory self portrait onboard, so here I am with my cranial on, struggling against the wind!

Capt. Kevin Mannix is silhouetted in the hangar as the HMS Darwin from Australia steams in the background aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

Here’s a view from the hangar looking out to sea.  The sheer size of the Nimitz was nearly unfathomable.  About 5,200 sailors, pilots, engineers, cooks–you name it–live, eat, sleep, and work onboard.  It’s like a floating city!

A flight deck crew member is engulfed in steam from one of the catapults aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

The blast shield goes up as an F/A-18 Hornet prepares for a catapult launch aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

A "shooter," in yellow, give the signal for an F/A-18 Hornet to launch aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

The orchestration and coordination of the ground crew is just amazing.

Photos and video cannot replace the sheer power that was felt when a fighter launches off the deck of the carrier. It really rattles in your skin and bones! An F/A-18 Hornet launches from the catapult aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

An F/A-18 Hornet performs a touch and go landing aboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier on Wednesday, July 18, 2012 off Oahu. (Jamm Aquino/The Honolulu Star-Advertiser).

2 Responses to “USS Nimitz”

  1. Sprayhawk:

    How epic that must have been! What a thrill! I had the opportunity to take a flight on a KC-130 (aerial tanker) a couple years ago to refuel a B52 and that blew me away. I don’t know that I could contain myself to get to experience the Nimitz under operational conditions. Wow!


  2. Cody:

    Amazing Photos Jamm , Big inspiration!


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