NAVY WIRE SERVICE (NWS) - February 24, 2000 - NWS24feb-8. Kitty Hawk Sailors undergo sea trials By JO1 Scott Mishley, USS Kitty Hawk Public Affairs USS KITTY HAWK (CV 63), At Sea -- USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) returned to sea the morning of Feb. 23 for 12 days of sea trials. During that time, a team of nearly 5,000 men and women -- comprised of Kitty Hawk's crew and the embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 -- will be putting what they have to the test. This not only includes everything from the aircraft on the flight deck to the boilers beneath the water line, but the skills and flexibility of the Sailors themselves. "It's the time to check our readiness levels, flex our muscles and test the equipment," said EWC(SW/AW) Glenn Coughlin, leading chief petty officer in Kitty Hawk's Electronic Warfare Division. "If we find any flaws we can make corrections on the spot or while we're in port before the spring deployment." Kitty Hawk's last major deployment, which included an unscheduled three-month trip to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch, ended as the ship pulled in to Yokosuka late last August. In October, the Hawk/FIVE team returned to the waters off the Korea Peninsula and Japan to participate in the multi-national Exercises Foal Eagle 99 and ANNUALEX-11G. Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka Nov. 10. Since then, Kitty Hawk, America's only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier, has gone through an aggressive regiment of repairs, upgrades and personnel training. Critical units from three of the ship's five arresting gear engines were taken apart and two of the flight deck's four steam catapults had power pistons replaced. "We had to physically lift Catapults One and Three and inspect the other two," said ABEC(AW) Paul FitzRandolph, Hawk's arresting gear leading chief petty officer. "With the help of Yokosuka's Ship Repair Facility and Carrier Air Field Support Unit, we did a lot of work. Catapult One was a major job." Because aircraft need the catapults to launch and the catapults use steam for power, the chain of responsibility for launching aircraft begins with Sailors who rarely even see the flight deck while underway: the men and women who operate and maintain the ship's boilers. Without them, the Hawk/FIVE team wouldn't be able to leave the pier, let alone run tests during sea trails. "Basically, the boilers are the heartbeat of the ship," said MM3(SW) Jon Koppari, a native of Palm Bay, Fla., and Boiler Technician of the Watch (BTOW) for the Engineering Department's P-2 Division. "Like a pressure cooker... they create the steam and pump the life into the main engine and the ship's electrical supply." You can almost say Kitty Hawk's sea trials actually began the morning of Feb. 8. That's when Boiler 2A was lit off in the carrier's Number Two Main Machinery Room -- the first boiler light-off since returning to port in November. According to Koppari, Engineering normally lights off boilers at least two weeks prior to getting underway in order to conduct steam tests. Unlike lighting off a boiler at sea, which can be done by using the power of another boiler that's already running -- almost like jump-starting a car -- doing a cold light-off after completing pier-side renovations that included overhauling a generator can contain some uncertainty. "I've lit off hot before, but this was my first time doing a cold light-off," said BT3 Eric Plummer, a Seattle, Wash., native and BTOW. "It's an adrenaline rush. And now we know it works and we can safely operate the boilers." Chief Machinist's Mate James Thomas, from Garden City, Mich., is the leading chief petty officer for P-2 Division and stood as safety observer for the cold light-off: "Nothing ever goes exactly as you expect. We thought we'd have at least a few small problems (during the light off) but everything just dialed in. It went great from light-off to securing." While addressing the ship's crew during a recent captain's call, Captain Matthew Tuohy, Kitty Hawk's commanding officer, echoed Thomas' words, "Light-offs and steam tests are extremely important ... and they did a great job." The ship's boilers were shut down after a week of tests. On Feb. 20, Boiler 4B in the Number Four Main Machinery Room was lit in preparation of the current underway. And now that Hawk's "heartbeat" has been tested and revitalized, the entire Hawk/FIVE team is ready to put the recent months of preparation and training to use. "During a six-month deployment things can take a beating. Most of the time in port consisted of attending schools and working on the preservation of equipment and spaces," said Coughlin, who works in the ship's Combat Direction Center (CDC). "A lot of what we do in CDC can only be done while underway, so sea trials are important to us." One of CDC's challenges during the sea trials is a semi- annual testing of the ship's capability to react to simulated missile attacks by jamming radar signals sent from the shore. "It's a graded evolution and the biggest part (of this underway) for me," said Coughlin. Although the next two weeks will test the past four months of hard work, there's a confidence on board the ship that's turning these sea trials into a welcome chance for the men and women of the Hawk/FIVE team to prove their mettle. "Our energy level is way up," said FitzRandolph. "There's an attentiveness and a focused energy. You can feel it and it shows through the actions of the crew. We have the confidence that when the first aircraft lands, we're ready." "We got everything done that we had to," said V-2 Division's ABE2 Casey Morrison, of Orlando, Fla. "We had to wait for the holiday stand down to finish in order to do some of the things and complete some of the maintenance that required a lot of people. But we did it and we're ready to get underway." For more information about the USS Kitty Hawk/Carrier Air Wing 5 team, go to: -USN- -USN- -USN-