ABOARD USS KITTY HAWK, At Sea --- The crews of USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 reached a milestone, when the shipâ€™s bow catapult team launched an aircraft from Kitty Hawkâ€™s No. 1 catapult for the 150,000th time in the shipâ€™s nearly 42 years of service.
As of noon (EST) Feb. 8, 398,505 aircraft have launched from the four catapults (Cat) on the flight deck of Kitty Hawk, the Navyâ€™s longest-serving active warship and Americaâ€™s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
Thatâ€™s nearly 800 launches per month, more than 25 launches per day, with Cat 1 carrying nearly 40 percent of that load.
Aviation Boatswainâ€™s Mate 1st Class (AW) Richard Ornelas of Heltonville, Ind., is Kitty Hawkâ€™s bow catapults leading petty officer. He heads a crew of more than 30 Sailors who maintain and operate the equipment that provides the steam and hydraulic pressure to Cats 1 and 2. They help an aircraft go from standstill to 150 mph in the blink of an eye, and over only 210 feet of track.
One hundred fifty thousand is a very exciting milestone. Iâ€™m just coming to this division, so this is my first cruise working with the bow cats. Weâ€™ve shot 612 birds from Cat 1 in the short time weâ€™ve been at sea, and weâ€™ll keep shooting birds from her as long as the ship is in commission, he said. Because of the level and quality of the maintenance we do when the ship is in port, there is no maximum number of catapult shots for any of our gear. Kitty Hawkâ€™s been doing it for 40 years, and sheâ€™ll keep doing it.
Aviation Boatswainâ€™s Mate Airman Francine Ingallina of Finksburg, Md., has been aboard Kitty Hawk for more than two years, and she says she is already thinking about her place in history as member of the Hawk/5 team. Itâ€™ll be something to look back and know I was a part of this milestone," she said. "This is a special achievement for the team.
Aviation Boatswainâ€™s Mate Airman Alexander Shamis from Bronx, N.Y., is new to Kitty Hawk. He has been aboard Kitty Hawk since August, which means he missed Cat 1â€™s first 148,000 or so launches.
I can imagine how much work has gone into those launches, because we do a lot of hard work here. There are a lot of sleepless nights. Thatâ€™s flight ops. But itâ€™s fun. We spend a lot of time together, and weâ€™re very close. Itâ€™s a privilege, especially to be part of a carrier thatâ€™s been doing this for 40-plus years, Shamis said.
I read somewhere in All Hands magazine that this was described as the toughest job in the Navy. But we can handle it. These guys take a lot of pride, Ornelas said.
Launching aircraft is not an easy job. But I think we all agree, weâ€™ll look back and appreciate the fact that we got a chance to make history, and we did it with good people, he said.
Kitty Hawk remains mission-ready to respond to emergent national tasking where needed, and was recently ordered to the Central Command area of responsibility to join coalition forces preparing for possible operations in that area. Kitty Hawk is the worldâ€™s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier and operates out of Yokosuka, Japan.