Landing on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and Catapulting Off!

As I’ve mentioned previously, I had quite an exciting weekend and the fun didn’t end with the C-17 ride on Friday as part of the 2010 Pacific Rim Exercises.

On Saturday, the US NAVY gave me the the opportunity to land on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan and to get catapulted off of the buggah!

I knew for a few weeks now that I would be having a pretty wild weekend this weekend but I didn’t expect it to be this crazy.  I didn’t even find out until a few weeks ago that I was selected to go on the ship as a “Distinguished Visitor”.

The group of social media folks that were selected all gathered at the Pearl Harbor Pass and ID office at 9:00 on Saturday for what would turn out to be an all day “mission”.

We then boarded vans which took us out to the Hickam Combat Squadron Station.

Once we got there, they explained about the C-2A Greyhound Plane (Carrier On-Board Delivery – C.O.D) that would be taking us out to the USS Ronald Reagan as a group of 24 folks.

We had to wear protective cranial caps and goggles…

As well as salt water activated life jackets in case the plane went down in the water.

I ended up looking like this

We all boarded the plane and then took off for the Aircraft Carrier which was located about 150 – 200 miles North of Oahu.

About an hour into the ride, my ears started to pop so I knew that we were starting to descend.

I knew to brace myself for the landing as we were going to be hooked by the tail of the plane and then stopped immediately and it was quite an exciting landing as on the first pass by… we missed the dang cord that was suppose to hook us!

So the pilot gunned it and we flew off the end of the Aircraft Carrier and made a second pass where the pilot successfully landed the plane and caught the wire that was suppose to catch us the first time.  I think I jinxed us as I actually asked what the percentage of chance that could possibly happen and they said very little like maybe 5% of the times a plane misses.  Well of course I was on the plane that missed!

When they finally opened the doors of the plane we were in… this is what I had a chance to see right off the bat.

I took this video of the other folks on the flight getting off the “COD”

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9kQbYSTTfM&hl=en_US&fs=1]

As they quickly rushed us off the flight deck… I took this one last picture of the control tower and bridges.

They brought us into the ship and we got out of our cranials and life jackets and then quickly we were brought to the Commanders “Port Quarters” where we were introduced the ships Commanding Officer – Kenneth J. Norton, CAPT, USN (Far Right).

Commanding Officer Norton gives a brief run down of things

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0172T5gOSbo&hl=en_US&fs=1]

So after talking with the Commander for a while, it was time for a tour of the ship… or so I thought, but, what really happened is they brought us into one of the cafeterias on the ships and we had a great lunch.

It was then time to tour the ship…  We started by checking out the room and museum that was devoted to former President Ronald Reagan.  This plaque of Ronald Reagan is actually attached to a piece of the former Berlin Wall.

After spending some time in that room learning more about who the ship was named after we moved on to the “hangar” of the ship where I took the following pictures.

You can see more Hangar shots in the picture gallery below.

So after checking out the hangar, we then checked out the room where they do a lot of stuff such as re-enlisting folks and honoring them with honors.  I figured I’d honor myself.

After that, we headed straight to the Combat Direction Center and after our tour guide had made sure that the place was “Sanitized from media folks” we were offered a first hand look at the place and were even allowed to take pictures of the place.

After that, we checked out the Flight Operations room.

We then put on cranials, goggles and life jackets again as we headed out on to the flight deck to watch some catapult lift offs and then some “recovery” of planes.

We headed out on to the flight deck and this is what I saw:

And here is a short video of one of the jets getting catapulted off the ship.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpeeNl8pD0g&hl=en_US&fs=1]

After they launched about a dozen or so planes off the carrier, it was time for a “recovery” stage, where the planes would land on the plane and then get caught by these cords that were across the carrier.

And here is a short clip of a jet landing and getting hooked as you can see… I’m REALLY CLOSE TO WHERE THESE BUGGAHS ARE LANDING!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdrMOFJIorM&hl=en_US&fs=1]

After being on deck for about half an hour watching jets take off and land, we moved back inside of the ship and went up to the Flight Control Deck where they explained the coordination of the planes once they were on the deck.

We then went all the way up to the Bridge of the ship where the Commander spends most of his time and he briefed us on a few things.

I decided I would pirate the ship for a few minutes and I asked the Commander if I could sit in his chair and he let me!

The tour of the ship was getting ready to wind down so we went back down to the Commanding Officers “Port” Room where Captain Norton explained to us the importance and significance of the USS Ronald Reagan.

He mentioned that the average age of the folks working aboard was only 22 years of age and that he was very impressed with the folks that have been entering the military during this last generation.

He emphasized that these kids joining the military now a days… have  basically spent their entire lives living in a country that has been at war during the last two decades and that there is a strong sense of patriotism amongst the kids and that he was really honored to be part of a “National Treasure”  the USS Ronald Reagan.

I remembered from the USS Chung Hoon tour that I took, that most Commanders have “Coins” made that they give to dignitaries… So of course when no was looking… I asked the Commander if he had a coin… And HE TOOK OUT THE ONLY ONE THAT HE HAD IN HIS DESK… Folded it up in his hands… then shook my hand… and the next thing I knew… I was the only member of this trip that received a Commanding Officers Coin!

Commanding Officer Norton then presented us all with a certificate recognizing us as Honary Naval Aviators as well as a nice picture of the ship (top picture) as well as a picture of him with us.

We then prepared to get catapulted off of the Aircraft carrier going from 0 to 150 MPH in less then three seconds.  We watched a short video on how to prepare and what to expect during the catapult and then made our way to the plane.  We braced ourselves for the ride and before we new it we were flying off the end of the Aircraft Carrier!

I wasn’t allowed to hold my camera during the catapult as we were instructed to put our arms across our chest… but I’m sure the look on my face must have been hilarious!  Talk about an adrenaline rush!!!

7 Responses

  1. God bless the USA, awesome

  2. [...] It was just a little over a year ago when I got flown out to the USS Ronald Reagan and got to tour the Aircraft Carrier out at sea and get cat…! [...]

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience with guys like me who will never get the chance. I got goose bumps for your pictures and writing. Well done sir. Mike

    • Never say never… as I too was one of those folks that thought I would never be able to have some of the experiences I have been having.

  4. FYI, I worked on Hornets in the Marine Corps from 1988-1993, so mahalo for those pics.

    Did you notice this story at the Star-Advertiser today? Judging from your posts, I’d say the blogger/flack was on target…

    • Thanks for pointing that out. FYI – I’m not paid to do any of the RIMPAC things that I have done and have provided all my transportation and hotels w/out them paying for any of my expenses.

      In fact we paid $4.25 for our “Box Lunch” on the C-17 and we had the opportunity to do one of two things on the USS Ronald Reagan. Pay $5.00 for our Lunch Alone… or Pay $25.00 for a Lunch and a Baseball cap with USS Reagan logo.

      So, while I didn’t participate in some of the events she has talked about… I know for a fact that we all paid for our lunches aboard the ships.

      We were also suppose to pay for our lunch aboard the Chung Hoon as that was the memo we received before the trip, however, I think they forgot to take our payments individually as there were many pre-paid members on the ship already.

      • I am an Army paratrooper veteran of the Vietnam era and have very few things left to do on my bucket list. What is the chance of getting to land and takeoff on an aircraft carrier? Thank you. Dan W.

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