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Sunday, April 23, 2006

USS Midway

The IslandI was in San Diego last week and toured the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier.

San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum website

The USS Midway was in service for 47 years. It was commissioned in 1945 and served as a flagship in Desert Storm in 1991. Apparently no other carrier has served as long.

Initially I was skeptical. I didn’t really want to tour an aircraft carrier, but then I listened to a radio documentary in Tod Maffin’s workshop. The documentary was “Somewhere in the Arabian Sea” from This American Life. You can listen to it online by searching the site for “arabian”. The documentary is about life aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea. The bombing missions and military aspect of aircraft carriers are still not interesting to me, but the people who live onboard are. And, the stats are certainly interesting.

There’s 2,000 feet of anchor chain aboard the USS Midway.
Each chain link weighs 130 pounds.
Anchors weigh 20 tons each.
The Midway is 1,001 feet long: 3+ football fields
The flight deck is 4.02 acres.
The catapult power is 0 to 170 mph in 3 seconds or less.

(An aircraft carrier does not have the space that an airport does, i.e., no runway. In order to get the planes airborn they are launched or catapulted into the air—0 to 170 mph in 3 seconds.)

The landing area within arresting wires is equal to the size of a tennis court.

(This means the planes must land within an area the size of a tennis court. They also must hook one of three cables or arresting wires. The cables stretch up to 273 feet. The plane must stop by then otherwise it crashes. One vet I talked to, Bob, said that stress tests have shown landing on an aircraft carrier at night is more stressful than surprise attack. Bob had 1243 launches. He said you want to have equal number of landings. He did.)

The flight deck is 50 feet off the water.
The aircraft carrier draws a 35-foot draft under water.
4,300 crew worked to support 200 aviators: approx. 750 men/women in engineering; 225 cooks.

I toured the hangar deck with the berthing spaces, where they slept, and then went up the Island, which is like the air traffic control tower. I missed the second deck with the mess, food galley, sick bay and post office. According to someone who did visit that area, it is impressive.

10 tons of food per day
13,500 meals a day
10,500 cups of coffee at a time
4,500 pounds of beef per meal when served
3,000 pounds of potatoes per day
1,000 loaves of bread a day
650 pies when served

The aircraft carrier weighs 70,000 tons. I wonder if that is before or after a meal. Regardless, it was all rather interesting.

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