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Wed, Feb 01, 2006

Carrier Qualified! Ike Polishes New Pilots

Student naval aviators performed touch-and-goes, arrested landings and catapult-assisted launches aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Jan. 25-28, completing their first carrier qualifications (CQ).

Ike hosted four squadrons throughout the CQ period and qualified 32 aviators. The “Eagles” of Training Squadron (VT) 7; the “Tigers” of VT-9 (both from Meridian, Miss.,); the “Red Hawks” of VT-21; and the “Golden Eagles” of VT-22 (both from Kingsville, Texas) are comprised of both Navy and Marine student aviators.

Typically, CQs are one of the last milestones before students earn their wings. “This was their final exam,” said Cmdr. Wayne Harrison, Ike’s air boss.

The student pilots, or "nuggets," as they are known prior to earning their wings, had to complete 10 touch-and-goes and 10 traps for the final stage of their training.

“They are called nuggets because they are rough around the edges, and we are going to fine-tune them into a fine jewel,” said Harrison.

Though the students had been training extensively on land, simulating different variables and conditions presented on an aircraft carrier, CQs offered the students their initial encounter with a moving landing strip. The experience was an anxious one for many students.

“It varies from student to student,” said Lt. Col. Greg Beeb, officer-in-charge of the Chief of Naval Air Training detachment. “Some students do very well and are confident when they come out here, and others, quite honestly, are a little bit timid about it, seeing the back end of the ship for the first time. For each one of them, certainly it is overwhelming.”

That said, Ike’s crew was ready to welcome the student aviators. “We had to make sure we were very efficient,” Harrison said. “The biggest challenge for us was making sure the student was looking at the right director.”

With all the activity on deck during flight operations, it was important for the student to focus on the right director to maintain a safe environment.

“The whole process was developmental for the students,” Beeb said. “When they were taxiing on the flight deck, they felt like they were in a foreign land.”

Ensuring safety guidelines are followed throughout the underway period really begins with the crew prior to leaving Naval Station Norfolk. “We do the same preparation for every underway check period,” Harrison said.

The student pilots were flying the T-45 Goshawk training jet. The aircraft, the Navy version of the British Aerospace Hawk aircraft, is used for intermediate and advanced portions of the Navy pilot training program for jet carrier aviation and tactical strike missions. The Goshawk features one Rolls-Royce Adour Mk 851 turbofan engine and has a maximum range of 1,400 nautical miles. The Goshawk aircraft is small in size, with a wingspan of 30 feet, 8 inches, and a length of less than 40 feet, but its versatility allows the student pilots an opportunity to get all their work in efficiently.

With the completion of this set of qualifications, Ike has done her part to ensure this batch of nuggets can soon polish their new wings and become a U.S. naval aviator. [ANN Salutes Journalist 2nd Class Paul Simonds, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower PA]



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