THE LAST A-3 WESTPAC
Diary of the "Last Westpac"
posted 2-27-2012 by Mike Glenn
We were out to sea heading West on Tuesday, 14 Feb 2012. "We" would be the 900 sailors in ships company, 700 Marines in full battle gear, one Marine CH-53E Squadron with seven helos, and one A3 with three riders along.
Once clear of landfall, the ship gets into a rhythm of day to day operations. The familiar bells noting the time of day are back, not used in port, just underway. It took about two hours for this old sailor to remember to keep time to the bells, only wore my wrist watch for the wake-up alarm on it. And, the 1MC, the giant voice of the ship, is constantly in use over all of the loudspeakers on the ship. No place is sacred, including the heads.
The biggest thing I think I noted was the communications. Every Chief and Officer have a cell phone, the ship has it's own phone system. On each phone is a screen from which they can get a directory of everyone by name, and they get used a lot. The CO can talk to anyone he wants using the cell phone system, and a lot of things that used to have to be done with runners now are done by cell phone. And of course, one of the drills is for the phone system to be down, so there are still runners if needed.
The first two days was with rough seas, and I noted that the ship really pitches and rolls more than the big decks do, again due to the hull design with the well deck flat bottom aft. No flight ops, just drills. Marines drilled with full packs, even did some shooting on the flight deck onto targets on the elevators.
Many drills were conducted thruout the entire trip, including several big fire drills on the hangar deck, and a "Main Space" fire drill simulating a fire in the heart of the ship, a very dangerous condition. The hangar deck drills even included a smoke generator simulating that the old Harrier kept on the ship for training movement crews was burning, pretty convincing looking to see smoke pouring out of the holes and doors of the aircraft.
Bill Grant and I wandered the ship at our leisure, getting to look into all of the areas and see how the ship operated. We toured the length and breadth of the ship, up and down many ladders.
One of the tours was visiting the LCU's in the well deck. The Marines had been doing some training on getting on and off of the LCU, and when they were done, we asked one of the LCU crewmen if we could come aboard. They gave us the cook's tour. Quite a boat, what looks like a very small island on the starboard side, actually is about three decks, it had two big diesel engines and another driving a generator for electrical power. Normal crew of 6 to 8, very snugly spaced, but very efficient. One of the crew is a full time cook. Captain of the vessel is a Quartermaster, happened to be an E-6, and he is senior even tho they have a Chief in the crew also. Chief was a radioman.
The carrier has large storage areas for a full Marine Expeditionary Force boatload of equipment. Forward and one deck up from the well deck is a huge storage area, and a big set of ramps, one goes forward towards the bow, and one aft to the well deck. All of the decks have multiple tiedown provisions, and they told us that when they deploy with the full 1,000 Marines and equipment, their vehicles and tanks are tied down onto the ramps, along with many CONEX metal boxes full of equipment and ammunition. The Marine force we had aboard was just people with only a few CONEX's as they were transiting to Korea for a deployment replacing existing troop who would rotate home.
Then, climb up a steep wide ramp, over three decks high, and you get to the hangar deck. Hangar deck of an LHD consumes about the aft 1/2 of the ship, and forward of the hangar deck is the Main Space of shops, galley, and office areas. Berthing is on the deck(s) below the hangar deck, and continue all the way forward.
One of the best tours was given to us by one of the Engineering Department Chiefs, He took us down to the bottom of the ship into all of the engineering spaces, we looked at the boilers, main engines, cooling sea water intake, and main drive shafts, LHD's have two screws, and a very sophisticated control room that even has cameras that look into the boilers and at the flame pattern of the flame tubes. It's even air conditioned, computerized, and well lit. But, they also do the drills reverting to manual control modes, and some of the items in the boiler rooms look like the ones from the old Bon Homme, CVA-31 that I was on. Big shafts were turning at about 145 RPM while we were doing 12 knots, max RPM is around 187 we were told. And they actually have gauges that give them fuel efficiency, ships speed versus shaft RPM versus fuel flow. Exceedingly warm out of the control room I'll tell you.
During the transient, we gave many tours of the A3 to interested folks, and the AIMD guys said they wished they could help with something on the airplane, so they took the canted 76 bulkhead we have into their sheet metal shop and cleaned up all of the old cut lines where we removed it. They thought it was great to be working on an airplane. Great kids to talk to, very sharp and very interested in their heritage.
Bill and I also spent time in the Chief's Mess getting meals and coffee. We even ran into one Master Chief who had been at Point Mugu, AFCM Hirshfeld, and we had a common friend, Yoeman Master Chief Mary Jo Cervantes. See, it's a real small world. Ship PAO also did an article on me about having been at sea on the old Bon Homme, CVA-31 in 1961, over fifty years ago. Ships newspaper came out a couple of time a week.
Then, on day three, we started doing flight ops with the CH-53's. The squadron had just transitioned into the CH-53E models from CH-53D's, three main engines instead of two, and had to requalify each pilot on the carrier. Five landings per pilot is required to be current. They had picked the airplanes up on the East Coast, and flew them across the country, then flew a lot waiting for the ship to depart. They are based in Kaneohe Bay. This was interesting in itself, they flew three of the helos for the quals, and did most of the landings on the very last spot on the aft port side of the flight deck, spot 9. We still had some residual from the storm, and the ship was pitching and rolling pretty good. The first guy lifted, and went forward of the ship, then cam back around and approached the ship from a position slightly aft and off of the port side, then slid in to hover over the spot, then drop on the marks on the deck. As the ship was moving pretty good in the sea, he hovered at about 25 feet or so, then timed it perfectly and dropped right on the painted marks. WOW!!! First landing was about the best, it went downhill from there, and some got pretty hairy looking, some were so far off of the spots they could not be tied down and had to lift and move again. Must be the helos equivalent of a bolter!!!
Bill Grant and I got to watch from PriFly, up with the Air Boss, CDR Foege, and ships CO, Capt Litchfield, even came in to watch. You have to remember that all of the senior Officers on the Bon Homme, except for the XO, were Navy helo pilots. XO, Capt Jenkins, is a black shoe, and will be the first black shoe XO to fleet up to Command of an LHD when he does. Unfortunately, to get the proper winds across the deck the ship actually had to steam back towards the east for flight ops, which pretty much messes with your transient schedule.
Flight ops continued for the next two days, and we watched ops and drills going on. On sixth day, the ship hooked up with the USNS Rainier, a fleet Oiler, and performed an underway replenishment (UNREP) of fuel oil and aviation fuel. Seas were fairly heavy, about 8 to 10 foot swells, strong winds about 20 knots or so, and with both ships headed into the swells and the wind, it was hard to get the lines across, every time they fired them they would get carried away in the wind before the "monkey fist" would reach the other ship.
Finally, the Rainier moved in closer, less then 200 feet away, and they were able to get the lines across. We took 600,000 gallons of fuel oil, and 60,000 gallons of jet fuel to top off the tanks. Ships were connected for about 2 hours before breaking away. You would not have wanted to fall into the seas between the two ships, at one point the bow sonar bulb of the Rainier was out of the water riding the swells.
Now we were preparing for the arrival at Pearl Harbor the next day.
Diary of the "Last Westpac"
posted 2-10-2012 by Mike Glenn
On 3 Feb, 2012, NTA3B 144867 started it's final journey to it's resting place at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
It was towed from the flightline area on NAS North Island, down the streets with a Security escort, and onto the quay wall next to the carrier pier. The towing and tow coordination was performed by the USS Midway Restoration crew leader, Ray Lopez. The USS Midway Museum worked very closely helping the Pacific Aviation Museum with local coordination to make the sealift movement of the airplane happen, proof that they can all cooperate when required.
Because Midway is anchored in San Diego, and uses support from the Navy Yard, they have a ready conduit to task requests and a means to provide cost reimbursement to the Navy for services. Using this conduit, the Midway was able to set up the support of the movement and craning. A cost estimate was furnished by NAVFAC San Diego to the Midway's request for services, and the Pacific Aviation Museum sent Midway a check for the amount, which Midway then turned into a task order to NAVFAC.
The airplane was staged onto the carrier pier on Friday, 3 Feb, due to the lower traffic on base late Friday morning.
On Monday, Mike Glenn, Bill Grant, and Dennis Lundin, representing both the Pacific Museum and the A3 Association, met with CDR Paul Choate, the COMNAVAIRPAC assigned coordinator for the Sealift, and his staff CPO, ADC Garza, at the Bon Homme Richard on Pier 8 on Naval Station San Diego. With CDR Choate, we met with the Air Boss and his staff to discuss the hoisting aboard and the support required. All were very eager to help make the sealift happen, and were pleased that we could answer all of their questions. Air Boss said all he wanted for the support was to be able sometime during the transient to sit down and discuss the A3 over a cup of coffee.
He has assigned his Air Department Bos'n, LT Miller as out point of contact. Great guy, really interested in the airplane and helping to preserve Naval History. LT Miller had ATC Lady take us around and familiarize ourselves with the flight deck and spaces, and took us to lunch in the CPO Mess where we met several of the Air Department CPO's. Chief Lady also supervised the loading of our spare gear pallets, we have a full spare set of tires and wheels palleted, along with some restoration parts.
On Tuesday morning, 7 Feb, the crane barge departed 32nd Street pier and transited the harbor to North Island. Naturally, the weather forecast was for rain showers in early afternoon, with gusting winds.
The crane was slightly delayed getting over to NORIS, and didn't arrive until about 0930. After a briefing with the load crew, the crane hoisted aboard the towbar and sling shipping crate, and then dropped the big hook with our sling attached.
As we were up on top of the aircraft hooking us the sling, a pretty good wind gust caused the big hook to swing, a pretty awesome sight when you are two feet away from this thousand pound monster. Once the hook settled down, we got the sling connected, and the crane tensioned it so I could show the hoisting crew Leadman where everything was secure to the airplane. Then we got off, and the crane picked the airplane up about a foot off the ground to test the attitude and load test.
Again, a pretty good gust caused the airplane to start to spin on the hook, keeping the guys on the four tag lines on their toes. they managed to keep it pretty stable during the gusts.
Once the wind settled, the crane picked the airplane up to about 30 feet and swung it over the barge, and set it down like it was on eggs.
Very professional crew, and a great crane operator. Unfortunately, they had to remove the sling off of the airplane as the crane has to depress it's boom to get under Coronado bridge.
Once settled, with Pete Nowicki , one of our Restoration guys aboard to help with the sling, they started their transient back to the Naval Yard.
We departed NORIS, and driving across the Coronado bridge, and we noted they seemed pretty slow out in the bay. When it got to be 1230, and the wind had really kicked up, Pete called on his cell, he was up in the crane operators booth about 100 feet off of the water, and the crane operator told him that there was too much wind to hoist the airplane. Plus, with the wind on their nose, they were actually losing headway, so the Navy yard had to send out a full sized tug to push the barge into it's pier. With gusts to 35 knots, the Navy yard shut down all crane operations. At least Pete should have gotten some good pictures for me. It started to rain at about 1400 or so.
So, back again on morning of 8 Feb, a beautiful calm cool morning.
Barge crane moved around to the front of the ship on Pier 8, and at about 0930, after we had installed the sling, started the hoisting onto the flight deck of the carrier. Very smooth and slowly the airplane came up slightly above deck height, and the crane operator set it down as softly as sitting it on eggs. Unfortunately, one strut hung up because he didn't bounce it, so when we towed it into position, it is kinda leaning right wing high.
The airplane was moved to an interim position in front of the island as on Monday, 13 Feb they will be landing some CH-53's aboard which are also going on the transient to Pearl. We will locate it in it's permanent location Monday afternoon, and I'll have to get the struts level before we put the transient tiedowns on.
So we are ready to sail on the final A3 Westpac deployment.
And, the first visitor to the airplane on the flight deck was the CO of the Bon Homme Richard, CAPT Litchfield. He got a guided tour, and was impressed, he is a helo guy, and a Test Pilot from the Edwards Test Pilots School. He also wants to hear stories over coffee during transient. It's really so great to be wanted during this evolution, and not just a burden. Very refreshing.
Watch this space, we will try to keep a good dialogue going until it is in it's final resting place alongside the USS Arizona and USS Missouri.
SAN DIEGO (Feb. 8, 2012) A barge crane lifts a Navy A3 to the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at Naval Base San Diego. The aircraft will be transported to the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Joe Kane/Released)
Dateline 7 February, 2012
TA-3B, 144867, began an historic journey today. As pictured, it was transferred to a crane barge from a pier at Naval Air Station North Island, CA. Due to high winds, loading aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) was postponed till the 8th. It is then scheduled for departure to Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, HI. on monday the 13th where is will be restored and put on display at the Pacific Aviation Museum. Our own plane captain, AFCM, Ret, Mike Glenn will be accompanying her to insure a safe arrival.
Stay tuned for updates
Dateline Feb. 23, 2012
As the crew man the rails while the Bonnie Dick (LHD 6) passes by the USS Arizona Memorial, 144867 arrives at Pearl Harbor on Tues. Feb. 21, 2012. It was off loaded the following day. Mike Glenn and company will begin some preliminary restoration work while they are there to help some of the Pacific Aviation Museum crews get up to speed.
144867 is destined for Hawaii. The above photo was taken June 28, 2011 around noon as it departed Raytheon Flight Operations, Van Nuys, CA. From Van Nuys it flew to NAS North Island, where it will be worked on and stored until a space available ride can be arranged for sea transport to Ford Island. It will be displayed at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor. See info below.
12/14/11 STATUS REPORT
144867 is ready to go aboard ship for the transit to
Hawaii. On 20 Dec, AIRPAC is performing an NDI on the hoist points just
for good measure, all pre-carrier inspections were normally visual, but I did
find a reference in the SDLM Spec where they NDI inspected the fittings during
SDLM. Assuming they are good (they look good visually), the standard A3
sling will be used. If anything is suspect, then they will tell NAVFAC
that they have to use strap slings under the fuselage like 457 did.
On 3 Feb, Ray Lopez from the Midway Museum Restoration yard will tow 867 from the storage yard on North Island across the airfield, and down the streets to the carrier pier. He will stage it for loading onto a barge. We have a load tested sling to go along with the airplane, in addition to several pallets of tires, radomes, etc.. I will go to NORIS on 2 Feb and prep airplane and pallets. Hoist configuration will be with wings folded and fin erect, no strut locks.
On 7 Feb, the NAVFAC yard barge crane will move from the Naval Station on 32nd street, across the bay, and arrive at the North Island carrier pier at 1100. The A3 will be hoisted onto the barge, and at 1300 the barge will depart across the bay back to the Naval Station, and tie up to a pier alongside the USS Bon Homme Richard, LHD-8. The crane will hoist the A3 onto the flight deck of the Bon Homme where we will move it behind the island and tie it down for the Transpac. Ship will furnish tiedowns, and I have already furnished the AIRPAC Chief the NAVWEPS 01-40ATB-2-1 MIM so they can see the tiedown requirements. Barge will return to it's berth.
The Pacific Aviation Museum is funding the hoisting, passing the monies thru the USS Midway Museum as they have Job Order Numbers with NAVFAC. Cost of the barge and craning is estimated at about $11,000, and PAM has placed that money with Midway. Crane costs $966 per hour, so if they can get done quicker it's cheaper. Crane cost is from startup to shutdown.
AIRPAC has agreed to have two of my guys at NORIS and two of us aboard ship so we have A3 people on either end. I would suppose the NORIS guys could even ride the barge over on the bay trip.
Ship is estimated to depart to Pearl about 15 Feb or so, date to be finalized in Jan, and myself, two Chiefs from AIRPAC, and the PAM Restoration Director will transit with it. Ship insisted on having a qualified Plane Captain on board for the transit. They said they may move it during transit. Kinda cool as I did my blue water ops on the old Bon Homme, CVA-31.
I have not seen the setup for the Hawaii end, but we will retain the sling with the airplane, and PAM is setting up the unload and movement over there. Transit is estimated at about five days, ship is going to perform some helo ops while in transient.
So if any of the Association guys want to witness the last bay ride and hoisting, the 7th is the day.
Ford Island is a 441-acre island located in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. It was purchased by the United States Army for use as an airfield for the defense of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor in 1918 and was named Luke Field in honor of Lt. Frank Luke, an Army aviator killed in action during World War I. Air Corps flying was the only human activity on the island until the Navy moved its flying operations from the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in 1923. As technology improved and aircraft became more powerful and capable in the 30's, joint flying operations made the small airfield a congested and somewhat dangerous place. The Army finally decided to move its flying operations to the newly constructed and more spacious Hickam Field, leaving Ford Island entirely to the Navy.
In 1941 the ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet surrounded Ford Island. Moored off its shores on Sunday, December 7th, were some of the largest ships of the fleet. Among them were the cruisers Detroit and Raleigh, the seaplane tender Tangier and eight battleships- Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, West Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, California and Utah. Navy patrol and scout planes filled the airfield and hangars. Numerous carrier-based planes that would have normally been parked at Ford Island were at sea aboard their aircraft carriers for exercises that fateful morning.