Saturday, June 27, 2009

Aircraft carrier trivia

I chose to put a ship picture in the blog today because I ran into a new site that has some pictures of ships at the time, or close to it, that I was either on them or saw them. This is my ship, the FDR and was taken a few months after I got off in the fall of 1965. The FDR made a WestPac cruise in 1966, the only one she made during the Vietnam War. This picture comes from her WestPac cruise. She was an east coast carrier and spent years in the Mediterranean Sea, which is where I rode her in 1964 and 1965.

She had two sister ships, Midway and Coral Sea, which meant that when it came time to strip one ship to keep the other two going (after 30 years of service) the Navy stripped FDR and sold her for scrap in 1977. It kept the other two going for 15 more years.

There was speculation as to which of the three were the best even when I was on board. FDR was built at Brooklyn Navy Yard (technically New York Naval Shipyard) during WWII and they had a terrible reputation. The other two were built at Newport News, VA which had a stellar reputation. That is important because when they put ships in dry dock and do extensive maintenance on them, they tend to go to their "home yard." Reputation has to do with capability to do certain things well (or not) and, of course quality of workmanship. Although, I have to say, FDR underwent a major conversion in 1956 in Bremmerton Naval Ship Yard in WA. However, she just came out of NYNS after almost a year when I went on board in late 1963.

If you notice in the picture there is a curl of smoke coming out of the stacks. We always had trouble with smoke. Smoke is bad for a carrier because when planes land the smoke trails the ship and it makes it difficult for the pilot to see. "Smoke in the groove" was a common complaint we would get from the bridge. We put a "smoke watch" up near the stacks to tell us when it happened and which boiler (discernible from the stack...there were 12 of them) was causing the problem. "Two-charlie, clear your stack, you're smoking black," is how the smoke watch might report it. (There were three boilers for each engine, A, B, C and they used the phonetic alphabet.) Of course, the only carriers today are nuclear powered and they do not smoke!

I mention all this because, if the pilots do not like flying on the ship that creates obstacles for safe flying, you can imagine the reputation the ship gets.

The smoke was caused by our air intake fans (blowers) not being strong enough to make sure the air/fuel mixture was proper. We burned up the bearings of our "forced draft blowers" many times in the two years I was on board FDR. The boiler room had a periscope-like apparatus in the exhaust, but it was hard to tell when there was just a little smoke. So among other things, BNSY got the blame for our smoke problem.

I suspect smoking and the fact that we had one boiler that had been flooded with sea water and never did work well after that meant the early demise of FDR as compared to Midway (now in San Diego as a museum) and Coral Sea (scrapped in the late 1980s to keep Midway going.

There is a bit of aircraft carrier trivia for you.

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