Enterprise Conducts Night Flight Operations

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USS Enterprise (CVN 65) conducted its first nighttime flight operations in more than two years May 13-14 with elements of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 as the "Big E" completed another milestone toward flight deck certification.

Enterprise has launched more than 60 sorties from the ship's flight deck just 20 days after completing a two-year extended maintenance availability.

Flight deck certification has been conducted aboard Enterprise since May 12 by Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, VFA 11, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, and the Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23.

"We're going to have our varsity team up there tonight," said Enterprise Commanding Officer Capt. O.P. Honors in a message to the crew over the ship's loudspeaker prior to beginning the nighttime event.

Honors cautioned nonessential crew to stay away from the catwalks surrounding the flight deck due to the inherent danger involved in this particular event, but also flight deck operations in general.

Without the aid of moonlight, the squadrons faced additional challenges during these highly complex nighttime maneuvers.

"We call it flying into a black hole," said Lt. Jason M. Simon, a landing signal officer from VFA-211. "The sky is black, the water is black, and the ship is black, and all the pilots have to land on is their instruments. Despite the challenges, the evolution went smoothly thanks to the expertise of the flight deck personnel, the pilots, and the Enterprise crew."

Aircraft carriers launch night sorties routinely, but since this was the first night of flight operations the crew had conducted in so long, everyone aboard felt the added pressure to get it right.

The event was one of the final hurdles the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier faced as it moved closer to flight deck certification and continued to build on its storied history.

Enterprise is underway conducting flight deck certification in preparation for her work-up phase and 21st deployment.


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