Monday, May 18, 2009

Aboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Nimitz: Part 1.

A few years back I shared a story with you about my day spent aboard the guided missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain. I’m a member of the United States Navy’s Leaders to Sea program.

Leaders to Sea allows business, government and community leaders to get a first-hand look at how the wonderful men and women of the United States Navy do their jobs when at sea. It’s a great learning experience for all involved. During a standard six-month deployment, crewmembers work 12-hour days, seven days a week. No days off. Watching how their commanders keep them motivated is a great lesson for any CEO.

Note to taxpayers: I pay all my expenses from travel to food.

I was fortunate enough to get a second opportunity at sea, this time aboard one of the largest military ships in the world, the CV-68 aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.

My day started at Naval Air Station, San Diego where I received a briefing about the ship, and of course all that’s involved when a civilian flies out to land on an aircraft carrier! Our transportation was aboard a Grumman C-2 Greyhound, a military twin engine turboprop for carrier onboard delivery, also referred to as COD. It ferries crewmembers, equipment, mail and any other necessities to and from ships like the Nimitz.

For those of you who’ve traveled on an airliner, you make a nice level approach, a gentle landing and you slow down gently until you taxi up to your gate. A carrier landing is completely different.

As we approached the Nimitz, it felt like we were just a few feet over the ocean. Because we were! We circled in a holding pattern on the starboard (right) side of the Nimitz until we were cleared to land. Then came a left turn for our downwind approach to the ship. Looking out the window, you see what a magnificent ship the Nimitz is.

At this point the aircrew is flying at an airspeed just fast enough to keep us in the air. The crew constantly adjusts the angle of the C-2 to compensate for the pitching of the deck, winds, etc.

Then, BAM! We hit the deck and stop. I mean STOP! As the tail hook catches one of five arresting wires on the ship, the pilot immediately goes to full throttle in case we miss the wire and have to take off and try again. Our crew gets it right the first time.

We quickly taxied into the very limited space available on the 4.5 acre flight deck, the crew folding the wings of the C-2 to take up less space, which is at a premium on the flight deck and below decks.

As we were escorted off the plane and inside the ship, a variety of planes were either taking off or landing within a few feet of us.

Exciting? You bet. What was especially impressive was the professionalism of the crewmembers as they choreographed all this. They’re mostly just kids in their late teens and early 20’s.

It’s truly an organizational wonder.

Aircraft carriers like the Nimitz and others in the fleet are the fastest and best way for this nation to deploy air power to protect America.

The ships are literally cities at sea. On a full deployment, over 5-thousand crewmembers call the ship home. In next week’s blog I’ll try and give you a sense of what life is like aboard the USS Nimitz.

My first impression so far is simply, WOW!

John W. Scherer
John is CEO & Founder of Video Professor, Inc.You can reach him at