The trip from Norfolk to New York City aboard the USS Wasp was something you have to see to believe, so it’s a good thing I took a lot of pictures.From Sunday night to Wednesday afternoon a small group of visitors were given free reign to wander the ship and talk to the sailors and Marines aboard.
I went from the engine room to the bridge talking to people and seeing what I could find. This set of photos are more or less what I saw from on the flight deck alone.
The flight deck is where the aircraft come and go, and the ground crew choreograph an elaborate ritual of time tested maneuvers.
It was quite a sight, and these photos would not have been possible without some serious help, and mighty patience, from the crew.
I will follow this up with a day in the life of a sailor and a tour of ship life from stem to stern.
My first day aboard the Wasp I did not have the cranial unit with hearing protection or the float vest required to be on the actual flight deck
But on my second day I found the gear I needed to get right on the flight deck where the aircraft come and go
The cranial unit is the helmet, goggles, and ear protection — the float vest inflates and sends a distress signal once it gets wet — once I had this stuff on all I had to do was stay out of the way
And wait on the weather to clear so these choppers could lift off and fetch the press from NYC that did not want to ride up from Norfolk
The V-22 Osprey wasn't going anywhere, but I made my way up and asked to look inside while waiting for clear skies
The Osprey has had its share of problems, but Whatley had been the mechanic on this bird for years and all he said was the transition from vertical to horizontal flight was something he couldn't even describe
And the back of the chopper — that heads up display shows the most vital readings from the gauges below so the pilot doesn't have to look down
And has the best mechanic assigned to its upkeep — he took me up top and couldn't keep from explaining all the things he loved most about its design and performance
And then just like that the weather broke and I scrambled over to watch these guys pull the blocks and chains off the Sea Stallion
Seconds before it took off...The prop wash and the turbine wind from this Sea Stallion were so powerful I had to kneel down and lean in to take this shot and the camera was bouncing up and down in front of me
After the choppers were secure the Harrier 'Jump Jet' came screeching in from the distance and hovered over the deck
The blast from this was much stronger than from the Sea Stallion and just after I shot this I stepped behind a crane to get out of the way
The Harrier was loud and spectacular and even the flight crew seemed more engaged than they were with the helicopters
Once the aircraft were secure, the USS Wasp needed to bring on fuel and supplies so this USNS ship met up with us
And just as it did the weather turned again and the decision came down to receive only fuel — 400,000 gallons of it over three hours
Tricky, but not impossible and the Wasp sailors did all they needed to make it happen — enough for another photo essay
And once we were refueled, we disengaged and this destroyer pulled up alongside the tanker in the fog to receive its share of fuel
It was a long day for everyone and when it was over the Marines and Sailors enjoyed a USO show and Men In Black 3 ...
The following day it was back on the flight deck and standing at parade rest for hours as the ship slowly crawled in to New York harbor
Moments later the ship sailed past the Statue of Liberty as this Marine stood silently by and watched
As we approached Ground Zero and the Freedom Tower — it became totally silent on deck with cheering and whistles coming from crowds ashore — unforgettable
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