Naval aviators from four squadrons completed carrier qualifications on US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) on February 2.
During this period, Abraham Lincoln qualified pilots from the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106, the “Flying Eagles” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122, the “Salty Dogs” of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, and the “Vikings” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129. The “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 40 and the “Chargers” of Helicopter Strike Squadron (HSC) 26 also worked with the ship in support of carrier qualification operations.
Carrier qualifications are a time for Naval aviators to hone their skills to launch and land fixed-wing aircraft on an aircraft carrier. Each pilot must complete at least 10 landings during the day and six landings at night to qualify.
The student pilots must complete 150-200 flight hours in their aircraft to even have the opportunity to land on the flight deck for their carrier qualification.
“It’s gratifying to train the next generation of pilots,” said Lt. Justin Grofik, an instructor pilot assigned to VFA-122. “Seeing these pilots progress from their first flights, to their first night operations, to having the potential to fly with them in the future, is the most gratifying part of being able to teach them.”
The success of the mission relies heavily on the interoperability between both the squadron and ship’s personnel. Abraham Lincoln sailors who work in the carrier air traffic control center (CATCC) play a vital role in assisting pilots as they approach for recovery.
“During night and inclement weather flight operations, we are the only point of contact for the pilots,” said Air Traffic Controller 2nd Class Joshua Huncheck, a Sailor who works in Abraham Lincoln’s CATCC. “Being able to guide a pilot down to the point of qualifying, especially when they aren’t able to see, makes my job beyond satisfying.”
Abraham Lincoln’s air department accumulated more than 135 sorties and 576 arrested recoveries, putting in more than 700 man hours during the carrier qualifications.
“This is what our job is all about; recovering aircraft,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Donny Hunsaker, Abraham Lincoln’s arresting gear leading petty officer. “Without the long hours and demanding work we do making sure the ship is ready to catch and launch aircraft, the main mission of an aircraft carrier would fail.”