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Kennedy Completes Carrier Qualifications

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050930-07
Release Date: 9/30/2005 9:00:00 PM

By Journalist 2nd Class (SW) Sunday Williams, USS John F. Kennedy Public Affairs

ABOARD USS JOHN F. KENNEDY (NNS) -- USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) completed carrier qualifications (CQ) Sept. 23 after taking over a mission originally assigned to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).

Truman was called to assist in recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region because of Hurricane Katrina.

Cmdr. Mike Ginter, operations officer aboard JFK, said when Kennedy got underway Sept. 8, it had to first go through a series of qualifications before taking on pilots.

“We had not conducted night operations in four months before this, so our flight deck and air traffic control center needed to be re-certified. The ship had to go through a series of drills under the observation of Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (AIRLANT), and we did it successfully,” said Ginter.

AIRLANT observed drills on the flight deck such as barricade and fire drills. Kennedy also had to successfully complete two Case III aircraft recoveries before conducting night operations on the flight deck. Kennedy’s air traffic controllers had to execute these Case III recoveries during the day in order to recertify JFK’s Carrier Air Traffic Control Center, (CATCC).

“This underway was particularly demanding for us because we had to endure so many challenges,” said Lt. Cash Castillo, the CATCC officer on board JFK. “The most challenging was to get Case III-certified on the first day of flight operations in weather that did not want to cooperate, but with luck and a great team we obtained our recertification.”

Castillo said once all of the re-certifications were complete, JFK was able to qualify 58 pilots after conducting 951 traps.

JFK qualified four squadrons during this CQ period. The Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 120 "Greyhawks" and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 "Gladiators" are known as Fleet Replacement Squadrons (FRS). These squadrons train naval aviators on the aircraft they will fly in the fleet, and teach them to perform their first night carrier landings.

VAW-120 trained E-2C Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound pilots. VFA-106 trained F/A-18C Hornet and F/A-18E Super Hornet pilots.

The "Pukin' Dogs" of VFA-143 finished their transition from the F-14B Tomcat to the F/A-18E Super Hornet. CQ on board Kennedy was the last step for the squadron before moving on to begin work-ups for the squadron's upcoming deployment.

“It is exciting for us because now we are ready to move on as an F/A-18E squadron,” said Lt. Damon Loveless, a VFA-143 pilot. “We are all ready to show the Navy that we are able to do our jobs and apply our new knowledge of this awesome aircraft.”

The VFA-81 "Sunliners" also took advantage of this CQ opportunity to refresh their skills before heading to their new air wing to deploy.

In addition to the fleet squadrons, Kennedy also squeezed in two training squadrons (VT), qualifying their student pilots to land on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. This was the final qualification for the four VT squadrons flying the T-45 Goshhawk, also known as the clown jet. The pilots had to each complete six flight deck recoveries and launches in order for them to move on to a fleet squadron and learn how to fly a particular aircraft.

VT-7, VT-9, VT-21 and VT-22 completed a total of 577 traps on JFK’s flight deck, putting the ship at 1,528 traps for the entire CQ period.

Ginter said the CQ was very well done, and all of the squadrons accomplished their goals while Kennedy proved itself successful once again.

“No matter what challenges this ship and this crew are faced with, they always get the job done safely, and they will continue to do that for as long as JFK is tasked,” said Ginter.

Kennedy finished this group of carrier qualifications early, allowing the ship to return home two days ahead of schedule.

“The ship’s air and operations teams really turned to on this trip and got the job done,” said Lt. Joe Opp, with Kennedy’s V-4 division. “They pulled together and worked through some really long hours to get us and the pilots qualified to move on with the missions of the Navy.”

JKF returned to homeport at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., Sept. 27 after completing its carrier qualifications.

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