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NNS020924-10 Ronald Reagan Takes Big Step Forward Toward Commissioning

9/25/2002 1:24:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class Cynthia Clark, PCU Ronald Reagan Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- This week, PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) will move a little closer to commissioning with the testing of the flight deck's catapult one.

The tests currently being run include the launching of "dummy loads," to certify the ship's ability to successfully launch aircraft. There are four catapults on the aircraft carrier and this certification is an essential part of the process necessary to turn CVN 76 into a United States Ship.

This follows the successful testing of catapult two in August.

Sailors tested the catapults by launching orange sleds into the James River, but their efforts will help ensure that one day this critical part of the aircraft carrier will safely launch aircraft into the skies practically anywhere in the world.

"The actual testing of CAT (catapult) two lasted about a week, but we had been preparing for about a month before doing hydraulic and electrical checkouts," said Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) Johan Mansson.

The sleds used in the testing can weigh more than 90,000 pounds. The sled is hooked up to the catapult by the Sailors the same way an actual jet would be, and it is 'launched' off the flight deck into the James River where it is retrieved and returned to the flight deck for additional tests.

The Naval Air Warfare Center provides the sleds and Sailors work with Northrop Grumman Newport News (NGNN) shipyard workers to ensure the sleds are lined up correctly on the catapult.

The testing wouldn't be successful without the teamwork between Ronald Reagan Sailors and NGNN shipyard workers according to Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) (AW/SW) Ricky Oliver. "They are outstanding to work with. If there is anything we need, they'll do it for us."

Besides being an opportunity for the catapult team to work together for the first time, it also gives those Sailors new to catapult activity, an idea of what they can expect when they're working with aircraft.

"The below-deck crew operates all the equipment as if a real aircraft was on board," explained Oliver. "They're doing their jobs.from the pre-operational tests to the launching of the aircraft or sled."

"We ensure the steam pressure is correct and all the valves are aligned properly for a launch," said Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SW/AW) Clifford Dones, who serves as the leading petty officer for the steam and heat shop. "These tests provide valuable training, especially for the junior Sailors who need to get qualified as a CAT machinist or CAT supervisor," he said.

The CAT launches were beneficial to the Sailors' morale, because many were feeling like fish out of water, unable to do the job they enlisted in the Navy to do said Oliver.

"We had a couple of guys ready to get out of the ABE (Aviation Boatswain Mate - Launching and Recovery Equipment) rating. But when they started shooting the catapults they got so excited that all they could think about was testing the next one," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Ronald Salyer.

"It opens up their eyes, they see what they'll be working on and they all think it's pretty cool," added Mansson.

There is more catapult testing scheduled in the future but these Sailors, as well as the rest of the warriors on the ship, are preparing for the day when they launch and recover jets instead sleds off the deck of the world's newest aircraft carrier.

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