USS America passes flight deck recertification

U.S. Navy’s Marine-aviation optimized amphibious assault ship USS America departed its homeport of San Diego for flight deck recertifications on May 16.

This was done to prepare the ship for its future role as part of Amphibious Squadron 3 and Expeditionary Strike Group 3.

Just short of 36 hours after going to sea, the flight deck was recertified — having logged more than 24 total hours of flight quarters and more than 90 launches and recoveries of aircraft assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23 and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163.

Afloat Training Group (ATG) San Diego, the aviation certifying authority, observed and graded America’s flight deck operations for fixed-wing aircraft, tiltrotor aircraft and helicopters and awarded the ship a final score of 100 percent.

The recertification process kicked off with a level of knowledge written test every Sailor involved with the flight deck completed. America’s Sailors passed the exam with a combined overall score of 92 percent, surpassing the fleet average.

The next phase was hangar and flight deck drills which consisted of six different fire scenarios to include aircraft salvages utilizing the crash forklift and mobile crash crane, and fire drills with and without ordnance.

“The drills were hectic, but it felt good to get back out there,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Isaac Morelli, a crash-and-salvage team member. “We (Air Department) knocked it out pretty well. We scored 100 percent on our drill, and knowing our crash crew, we weren’t surprised.”

After the ship proved it could handle the worst of scenarios, ATG began evaluating the crew’s ability to launch and recover aircraft. The ship was required to perform more than 90 aircraft launches and landings broken down by the aircraft type during the day and at night, both with and without night vision devices.

“They are retaining that level of knowledge that is required to do the job and blew the flight deck drills out of the water,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Ian Shaff, V-1 division’s leading petty officer. “With my guys scoring 100 percent on AVCERT (aviation certification), I couldn’t be more proud. We went out there and did it safely and professionally, and it’ll only get better as we go forward.”