SAN DIEGO (NNS) --
Helicopters roared to life on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) as crew members went to work qualifying and passing the Afloat Training Group (ATG) Pacific Aviation Readiness Qualification (ARQ) 1.4 Bravo, April 23.
The crew demonstrated proficiency in flight deck operations, commonly called "Helo Day," by conducting flight operations with MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters. The event marked the first time New Orleans had landed aircraft since their 2014 deployment.
"I am very proud that New Orleans is fully certified and our crew looks forward to operating with helicopters on a regular basis," said Capt. Douglas Verissimo, the ship's commanding officer. The air department worked hard to prepare over the past few months and their scores reflected that hard work."
The ARQ required the crew to conduct several drills, including firefighting on the flight deck and hangar bay. The air department underwent a team evaluation at the firefighting school in San Diego to prepare for the drills.
"For three months, our flight deck team meticulously drilled nearly every single week to prepare," said Lt. Aaron Johnson, the ship's "Air Boss." "When it came time for the assessment, we were motivated and we knew what we were doing."
Before the ARQ, the ship was required to pass the aviation certification (AVCERT), an event designed to ensure required shipboard aviation facilities and equipment are installed and functioning properly. Representatives from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) inspected New Orleans following months of preparation and a variety of work projects to meet the requirements.
The projects included installing a new non-skid surface on the ship's 202-foot flight deck. The hangar bridge crane and folding boom crane were also repaired during the maintenance availability.
"The people who really made this happen were the junior Sailors under the leadership of our leading petty officers," said Lt. Matias Kinsman, the ship's "Mini Boss" for aviation operations. "They all did the labor required to get our facilities ready, and put in the time and motivation during the drills that contributed to our high scores on the first try."
New Orleans air and engineering department personnel worked side-by-side with NAVAIR to prepare for the AVCERT. Electrician's mates and interior communications electricians dedicated several weeks of work to bring the flight deck lighting, homing beacon, stabilized glide-slope indicator and anemometer to full mission capability.
"The electrical division worked as a team to complete all of the requirements for AVCERT," said Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class (SW/AW) Jamel Jones. "After the systems stayed dormant in the yard period, it required a lot of [technical] manuals and long hours to make everything operational once more."
With certification behind them, the New Orleans crew can move forward to fill their role as a launching platform for an embarked Marine Air Combat Element.
For more news from USS New Orleans (LPD 18), visit:https://www.facebook.com/BigEasy18