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VRT Keeps USS Reagan Flight Deck Battle Ready

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070909-01
Release Date: 9/9/2007 7:16:00 AM

By Jim Markle, Fleet Readiness Center Southwest Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Keeping the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), in top operating condition to meet the challenges of the 21st century is the job of Fleet Readiness Center Southwest's (FRCSW) Voyage Repair Team (VRT).

The team began work on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier began April 22, when the VRT began to overhaul the ship's four catapults, three arresting gear and visual landing aids on the 4.5-acre flight deck. Work is scheduled to be completed in September.

VRT supervisor Tom Bryant said overhauling the catapults of the San Diego-based carrier calls for removing and rebuilding their 21-inch cylinders. The overhaul requires approximately 1,500 man-hours and removing and installing more than 3,000 bolts.

"Catapults propel an F/A-18 Hornet to 160 miles per hour in about two and one-half seconds," said Bryant. When landing, the aircraft stops in approximately 340 feet.

When deployed, the aircraft is home to as many as 85 aircraft, including: F/A-18 Hornet, F/A-18 E and F Super Hornet, C-2A Greyhound and E-2C Hawkeye.

"We repaired the water breaks on all catapults along with the steam-powered piston assemblies," he added. Water breaks are an integral part of the arresting gear that work with arrestor cables to stop aircraft as they land on the flight deck.

Reagan's arresting gear is now the most up-to-date in the fleet, Bryant said. The Advanced Recovery and Controls System, which eliminates all drive system cables and chains from the arresting gear engine, is the most significant change in the past 30 years and was installed on the ship. The system reduces human error to ensure a safe recovery during aircraft recovery operations.

"We're a multi-traded outfit," said Ricardo Barron, as he installed flight deck lighting at the bow of the Reagan. A welder and 29-year VRT member Barron added, "That is, we get to do different jobs other than welding, like the electrical work today."

The VRT overhauled all lighting from the "island" (the ship's super structure that towers above the flight deck and is the ships main control center) to the flight deck. Bryant said more than 100 landing lights may be used to illuminate the flight deck alone.

Lighting components are overhauled in the VRT shop at Naval Air Station North Island, and then reinstalled aboard ship.

"What we can't overhaul in the shop, we overhaul on the ship," Bryant stated.

Team members are deployable to service the five aircraft carriers based on the West Coast.

Occasionally, they may be dispatched to the East Coast or sent to urgent assignments overseas. Bryant said a team went to Singapore last year to replace a launch valve on USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63).

John Thompson, an aircraft launching and arresting devices mechanic, is one of the 15 VRT artisans working on Reagan. He said that he joined the VRT for its traveling opportunities and to expand his skills by learning the ship's catapult system.

"Reagan is a lot different than what I've normally worked on, because I've worked on smaller ships. I worked on the Recovery Assist Securing and Traversing (RAST) System which is similar to this catapult system, but used for helicopters," he said.

Following completion of their work on the Reagan, the team will overhaul the flight deck of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) when it is scheduled to arrive in San Diego early this fall.

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