Story by JO3 John Baughman

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) completed its sea trials Sept. 20 when it returned to the ship’s homeport of Naval Station Everett.  This five-day at-sea period marked the first time the ship has been underway since entering the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard on Apr. 1 for a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA).

Sea trials provided the officers and crew of the Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to test new systems and perform the necessary training which follows a shipyard period.  Abraham Lincoln's sea trials marked the first time that a Northwest carrier has completed such an event in the Northwest vice southern California, saving taxpayer dollars and improving crew quality of life by minimizing family separation.

ABE's first task was to get back into the business of launching aircraft.  This involved a day/night flight deck certification, completed Sept. 18.  “Air Department started preparing for the inspection when the ship was still in the shipyards,” said CWO2 Mike Patrick, Flight Deck Boatswain.   “We worked into the night for two weeks practicing drills to get ready for the inspection.”  

All carriers are inspected by the Naval Air Forces Pacific (AIRPAC) Handling Team in order to gain the important certification.  “AIRPAC went over all of our training records and equipment with a fine-toothed comb,” said ENS Frank Fuentes, flight deck officer.  For certification, an aircraft carrier must also complete four day and night landings. 

“We blew the inspection out of the water,” Patrick said.  He explained that the fleet standard is 140 traps.  USS Abraham Lincoln completed 296 traps during the underway and, if weather had permitted operations on Sunday, would have easily reached a total of 400.

“Abraham Lincoln airmen lead with heart and soul,” Fuentes said, praising the performance of his flight deck crew.    “ABE's airmen have set the standard for rest of the fleet.”

“You think John Wayne had grit?” Patrick added.  “He’s got nothing on these kids.”

                 Following certification, the ship worked with two air wings to keep 35 pilots current in carrier qualifications.  The ship also made history by working out the bugs on its new navigational gyros.  Abraham Lincoln is the Navy’s first carrier to switch over from the older MARK 19 gyro to the ultra-modern ring laser gyro.  The ring laser gyro uses a beam of light to determine ship’s position, unlike the MARK 19, which resembles a big compass.  According to Frank Riebli of Space Warfare Command Charleston, this new technology is ten times as accurate, three times as reliable, and reduces the number of parts required for maintenance by 150 percent.  Riebli headed an eight-man team that evaluated the new system.    

“The big difference is the system remains accurate for 14 days rather than 30 hours, as with the MARK 19,” Riebli said.  “Abraham Lincoln is the guinea pig for the Navy’s 11 other carriers.”  Riebli added that the system also transmits ship position data to embarked aircraft. 

Almost 50 percent of the crew have reported onboard Abraham Lincoln since the shipyard availability started in April.  The five-day sea trial period was not only a time to test equipment but also a time to train sailors.  The ship held "general quarters" several times during the underway period to focus the crew upon the importance of shipboard damage control.  Additionally, Abraham Lincoln's Reactor Department ran several propulsion plant drills.

“After a nearly flawless availability, it's good to be out at sea and back in the groove,” said Capt. J. J. Quinn, commanding officer.  “When the ship heads to Fleet Week in San Francisco next month, I’m looking forward to showcasing all of the great milestones we've achieved in the last six months.  I also plan to ensure that the crew has an absolutely fabulous time--they deserve it.