Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Massive U.S. Aircraft Carrier Visits Halifax: 'This Is a Floating City'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Massive U.S. Aircraft Carrier Visits Halifax: 'This Is a Floating City'

Article excerpt

Massive U.S. aircraft carrier visits Halifax

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HALIFAX - The FA-18 Super Hornet revs its engines to maximum thrust, and the jet fighter's nose wheel is locked into a steam-powered catapult on the aircraft carrier's flight deck.

The thunderous noise reaches an overwhelming, bone-jarring intensity, and in less than three seconds, the jet is gone -- hurled over the bow of the ship at 200 kilometres per hour.

That was the scene aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Tuesday as the U.S. navy played host to a select group of Canadian journalists, politicians and military officials in advance of the ship's week-long visit to the port city, which started Wednesday.

"This is an acknowledgment of our respect and our celebration with you for Canada 150," U.S. Rear Admiral Jim Malloy said from aboard the nuclear-powered ship, which at 333 metres is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall.

The spectacular 45-minute air show, which was kept secret until Wednesday for security purposes, included a simulated dogfight between two screaming Super Hornets, a search-and-rescue demonstration with a MH60 Sierra helicopter and a high-speed pass featuring a Super Hornet hurtling past the flight deck at more than 900 kilometres per hour.

Crew members in brightly coloured helmets and vests -- they call themselves "skittles" -- hurried about their tasks, most of them communicating by hand signals.

Below the busy deck, Petty Officer, 2nd Class Samuel Canning took a break from his job as an aviation ordnanceman, which means he works on the jets' weapons system.

"This is essentially a floating city," said the 32-year-old, who was born in St. John's, N.L., and has an elaborate network of tattoos crawling under the sleeves of his blue coveralls. "You do everything you would do back at home, but you're on a ship."

One of the few Canadians aboard, Canning said he was looking forward to Canada Day.

"I'm pretty excited that I get to visit my home country," he said while standing in one of the ship's huge hangars, decorated with gigantic Canadian and American flags. "I haven't celebrated Canada's birthday since I was about 18."

It has been almost 18 years since an American aircraft carrier visited Halifax.

The Eisenhower is so big, it has its own zip code.

There are more than two dozen decks. If you don't like steep ladders, stay away. Crew members say it's virtually impossible to meet everyone aboard, even during an extended tour.

The ship even has its own TV studio and a hospital with an operating room.

"Short of cardiac or neurosurgery, we pretty much do everything," said Lt. Doug Pokorny, the ship's surgeon.

Named after the 34th U.S. president and launched on Oct. 11, 1975, the 86,000-tonne Eisenhower is the second-oldest Nimitz-class vessel in the U.S. navy's fleet. Its flight deck, which can carry about 60 aircraft, is larger than three football fields, and its crew can include up to 6,200 sailors and airmen. …

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