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Story Number: NNS081121-06

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin L. Webb, Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS)
-- Inspectors from Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) spent the last two weeks of October completing preliminary inspections on board Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Makin Island (LHD 8).

Prior to Makin Island's commissioning in fall 2009, the ship must pass three air-capable ship aviation certifications. The overall aviation certification (AVCERT) is designed to ensure required shipboard aviation facilities and equipment are installed and functioning properly. The aviation readiness qualification (ARQ) focuses on personnel qualifications, training and readiness. Finally, the Makin Island crew must demonstrate proficiency in flight deck operations - commonly called "Helo Day".

"The inspections focused on visual landing aids, JP-5 fuel stations, pump rooms and the effectiveness of shipboard communication systems," said Timothy Hauck, NAVAIR Equipment Specialist General. "Our goal is to grant level-one certification of Makin Island's aviation facilities prior to sail away. Ultimately, Makin Island will be an airport maintenance facility for Marine Corps helicopter squadrons."

During the two-week visit, Makin Island air and supply department personnel worked side-by-side with NAVAIR to prepare for the AVCERT.

"We took advantage of the verification of the allowance equipage list (AEL) by stenciling 628 MK-1 life preservers [float coats] and more than 200 cranials [helmets], said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW) Aaron Foster. "The ABF's [Aviation Boatswains Mates, (Fuels)] also verified fuel testing equipment and actually used it to test the flashpoint of JP-5 [aviation fuel]."

Air department personnel are also preparing for ARQ and flight deck proficiency by going on temporary assigned duties to other amphibious assault ships.

"We have been underway on various ships such as USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Boxer (LHD 4) and USS New Orleans (LPD 18)," added Foster. "Exercises such as Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), PANAMAX and even fleet week have enabled our Sailors to gain shipboard aircraft handling qualifications such as plane handler, aircraft elevator operator, landing signal enlisted and aircraft director."

Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter officially authorized Makin Island's commissioning to be held Oct. 24, 2009 in San Diego.

For more news from Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island, visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.

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