NORFOLK, Va. - Ever wonder what it’s like to go from over 100 mph to a dead stop in less than two seconds? Probably not. It doesn't come up in conversation very often. But I found out in January, when I had the chance to land on an aircraft carrier.
One of the first things we discovered as we prepared to board our flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln is that Navy travel is the opposite of luxury travel.
We boarded a Grumman C2 Greyhound, what the Navy calls the COD, which is short for “carrier on board delivery.”
We entered through the cargo ramp in the back.It’s a pretty good step up.
Ear protection is mandatory. So is head protection. We are wearing helmet-like head gear the Navy calls a cranial. We are also wearing eye protection that looks like ski goggles.
The flight attendant won’t be bringing us any drinks on this ride. And he won’t be showing us how the seat belts work; the crew straps everyone in tight to a four-point harness.
By the way, did I mention that the seats in this plane face backward?
This is life on the COD. It transports people and packages daily to the carrier, landing on its deck just like the jets. It holds about 20 people. Some pilots wear Amazon patches because at Christmas the plane is full of packages for those serving at sea.
It’s rough inside. We can see exposed wires and hydraulic lines. If something breaks, the Navy needs instant access to fix it.
As we take off, a mysterious mist comes down the aisle. When we exhale, we can see our breath.
It smells of hydraulic fluid and maybe oil. But they warned us it would. We had to trust the Navy.
After about an hour of bumpy flying, the crew let out a loud, “Here we go!” while whirling their hands in a circle above their heads.
That meant we were about to land on the ship and hope the hook on the bottom of the plane would catch the wire, stopping us in two seconds. Remember the ship is a moving target – underway in the ocean and pitching in the waves.
There was a loud thumping noise and then suddenly we were there. Our heads were thrown back for a moment. And we were down safely.
After a bit of taxiing, the ramp opened, we deplaned and we were on the Lincoln, a small city of 3,000 steaming in the open Atlantic.
We would spend the next 24 hours on the ship. Our immersion in Navy life was coming into focus.
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