Once out to sea, F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, E-2D Hawkeyes, and MH-60S Nighthawks assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 conducted operations to prove the ship’s and crew’s capabilities. To achieve certification, Ford conducted more than 400 day and night catapult launches and trap recoveries. Prior to getting underway, Ford’s air department was evaluated on its ability to respond to flight deck emergencies and firefighting.
“Ford and Carrier Air Wing 8 were meticulous during the whole certification evolution,” said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain Mate (Equipment) Carl Higdon, the air department’s leading chief petty officer. “Every Sailor aboard contributed to our success of the mission. I’m really proud to be a part of this team.”
Following flight deck certification, flight operations continued to keep pilots’ carrier qualifications and proficiency current, demonstrating Ford’s contribution to air wing and fleet readiness through capabilities provided by the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launching System (EMALS) and Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG).
“Flight deck certification is a significant milestone in preparation for our first deployment,” said Capt. Paul Lanzilotta, Ford’s Commanding Officer. “We have more tests and evaluations to complete during our next underway periods, and I have no doubt that our Sailors will rise to the challenge and accomplish the mission.”
Ford will head underway again this month for additional milestone events that will prepare the ship for a scheduled deployment later this year.
“We put our first-in-class warship to the test and our crew delivered,” said Lanzilotta. “From the air controllers and flight deck crews, to the catapult and arresting gear teams, our crew showed a level of professionalism that enabled a successful air wing integration with Carrier Air Wing 8. The best part, I think, is seeing our teammates from Carrier Air Wing 8 come aboard and fit right in with our enthusiastic and motivated approach to getting the job done. I look forward to seeing what we can do together in the coming months.”
USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first of the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers and represents the first major design investment in aircraft carriers since the 1960s. Ford’s flight deck certification and carrier qualifications are part of the basic training phase prior to the ship’s first deployment.