26 November, 2007



Yes, that was aircraft carrier U.S.S. Nimitz under the feet of your humble scribe, who was holding MEGEN (avatar of the online fundraising competition for Valour-IT: Voice-Activated Laptops for OUR Injured Troops) while Nimitz was tied up at her NAS North Island home. More specifically, it was about the furthest aft and port one can stand and still be on the flight deck proper (guessers who had been paying attention might have noticed this clue).

The original hope was to have a Nimitz press release go out during the fundraising competition, but that never materialized, and technical problems on the Navy end of things slowed down receipt of the pictures (the casual reader may appreciate this link instead).

However, I had a great time climbing all over the ship and introducing people to Valour-IT. They rolled out the red carpet for me, with the XO welcoming me aboard, a friendly PA Chief showing me around, and a "certain someone" accompanying the first part of the exercise. MEGEN and I visited the foc'sle, ceremonial quarterdeck, hanger deck, flight control, pri-fly, and the bridge, and walked around the entire island and the flight deck.

[More pictures* in "

First up, some more context for that teaser pic--morning on the San Diego Bay:

Something that I find interesting is that while the old acrylic board in Pri-Fly (kept stats on planes in the air) has long been replaced with a computer, they still have the the "Ouija Board" down in Flight Control. The Flight Control Officer (I believe) was very kind to offer to uncover it for a photo:

Next up was Pri-Fly. What was striking was Pri-Fly's spaciousness, compared to my previous experience with Midway. The following is only maybe 1/5th of the room:

I also wondered about how it operates, now. For example, on Midway, aviators for each type of plane on deck would line up along the windows in Pri-Fly with books about their aircraft, ready to assist the Air Boss with any question during flight ops. On Nimitz, the room is not arranged in a way that suggests that. Perhaps, like the acrylic board, computers have made it obsolete.

Something else of note were the touches of home. I was quite surprised to see the flower. Would've loved to know what it was about...

My personal highlight was Vulture's Row. There were no aircraft on deck, and looking at the skyline, the knowledge that we were tied up in the bay was unavoidable. But I closed my eyes and drew on the sum of my meager knowledge from working a couple blocks from a military flight line, a friend's wonderful stories, and my experiences at air shows. It was just enough that I could open my eyes to almost see, hear and feel the planes landing on the empty deck below. I could've stayed up there forever; the Chief finally pulled me away by dangling the Pri-Fly visit in front of me.

Actually, that wasn't the true highlight. That happened right after the XO greeted us, as we strolled across the Flight Deck. Mention was made of me enjoying the visit since I'd not been on an active carrier before. I heartily agreed and added in a light tone, "Now all I have to do is get myself on one of these underway during flight ops and I can die happy."

Somebody took me seriously on that, apparently. In shock, I promptly lost situational awareness, stuck my heel in a tie-down divot, and nearly sprained my ankle. Nothing is guaranteed, but stay tuned. The suspense is making me nuts, but if I tragically die in the near future, hopefully you'll be able to safely say I did it happy... ;)

To top it off, I had the privilege of watching the final moments of U.S.S. Reagan pulling in as I walked along the pier after leaving Nimitz.

My deepest gratitude to all who made the visit possible. "Deepest gratitude" doesn't really cover it; they were all extremely generous and kind as they indulged the crazy girl with the golden laptop. It was a wonderful morning.

UPDATE: A couple years ago I was thrilled by a visit to the Midway Museum--my first time on a U.S. Navy ship. I've since had several enjoyable visits there. But I have always felt a twinge of melancholy about her. I wrote about that first day on Midway:

It all just seemed so sterile now, so lifeless...there was no hum of engines or any of the other sounds Lex has described on his blog. There was no life. Just an Old Girl at rest, which I suppose is as it should be. Still, as interesting as it all was, I felt like I was seeing a ghost. And that made me rather wistful.

My instincts were confirmed when I visited Nimitz. Even though the flight deck was largely quiet, the rest of the ship hummed with noisy human and mechanical activity. Instead of being a ghostly museum, the ship vibrated with its own special sense of life and history. Obviously related to her elder sister, but a very different beast.

Now, to find out what she's like underway...