USS Wasp Passes Aviation Certification

Helicopters and AV-8B Harrier jets roared to life on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) June 24-27 as crew members went to work qualifying and passing the Afloat Training Group (ATG) Atlantic Aviation Certification (AVCERT) 1.4 Bravo.

A large portion of the crew tasked with major parts of the graded AVCERT are fresh from boot camp or newly transferred making the process even harder than normal, but Wasp Sailors were ready for the challenge.

“When the ATG staff came aboard Wasp for the AVCERT they came to a ship whose crew was fully prepared,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Steven Vlasich, flight deck leading chief petty officer. “We knew from the last underway when ATG was aboard our crew had a good grasp on the operating and safety procedures for aircraft.”

To prepare for the upcoming AVCERT Air Department Sailors spent their time between USS Bataan (LHD 5) and numerous training courses to reacquaint themselves with the different types of aircraft slated to land.

“More than 45 percent of the Air Department Sailors are new, and do not have hands on experience dealing with aircraft,” said Master Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Jimmie Gardner, Air Department leading chief petty officer. “Our Crash and Salvage team had a scored above the fleet average in the firefighting team trainer and they were all new Sailors who took it, so I did not worry much when this assessment was taking place because I knew we had the best of the best in the fleet on this ship. These guys knew the importance of this assessment and they put their best foot forward.”

Day and night, AV-8B Harrier jets, MV-22B Ospreys, MH-60S Seahawk and CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters launched and landed on deck working with flight deck personnel and practicing night vision operations using aided and unaided methods.

“During night time flight quarters the flight deck crew and pilots use night vision goggles to safely land on the ship, and since the ship has to dim its lights to avoid blinding the pilots, this is the aided method,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jesse Seagrave. “The unaided method is landing aircraft without night vision goggles. Performing both methods gets the flight deck crew and pilots comfortable with landing aircraft in any situation.”

Sailors below decks worked hard before and during AVCERT including air traffic controllers who went to team trainers in preparation for the assessment and were instrumental in landing aircraft safely.

“Our job for this mission was to control the Harriers to perform different landing approaches aboard Wasp,” said Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Nathaniel Alspaugh. “To make sure we were prepared for AVCERT we went to Pensacola, Fl., and the training we received allowed us to simulate controlling aircraft and perform landing approaches on the flight deck during day and night flight quarters. The majority of the Sailors in my division are new and the fact that they were able to complete this evolution with no problems is truly an amazing accomplishment and I am proud of them.”

Wasp passed AVCERT with flying colors and is one step closer to Joint Strike Fighter Developmental Testing Phase II schedule to occur later this summer.

Press Release, July 1, 2013