The Air Department has the largest number of personnel assigned. The department ensures the safe and efficient launch and recovery of aircraft and is divided into four major divisions. With an assigned staff of officers and enlisted personnel, the Air Department also assumed the responsibility of shipboard-control over the aircraft.
|Flight Deck Personnel Group Function|
|V1||V1 sailors responsible for moving aircraft on the flight deck and "spotting" catapults. They are also responsible for making sure the flight deck is free of foreign object debris (FOD).|
|V2||V2 sailors maintain and operate all of the aircraft catapult launching and arresting gear.|
|V3||V3 sailors are Aircraft Handlers, Tractor Drivers, and Aircraft Elevator Operators.|
|V4||V4 sailors work on the flight deck; fueling aircraft, defueling aircraft and repairing fuel stations.|
|Misc.||Landing Signal Officer (LSO), Air Transfer Officers (ATO), Medical Personnel, Visitors/VIPs, Liquid Oxygen (LOX) Crews, Squadron Plane Inspectors|
|G||G Division is in the ship's Weapons Department and is responsible for the stowage, assembling and transportation of all bombs and rockets aboard ship. The G Division personnel worked in many areas of the ship from the seventh deck in the magazines to the flight deck where bombs are readied for loading aboard aircraft.|
|Air Wing||Air Wing Aircraft Captains; Air Wing Line Leading Petty Officers|
The department determined the positions the aircraft would take both on the flight deck and in the hangar bays using three base locations. Primary Control governed all the actual launchings and recoveries. Flight Deck Control maintained control of the planes parked on the flight deck and insured that space was available for aircraft not already parked on the flight deck. Flight Deck Control was responsible for the movement of aircraft and it kept a path open along the catapults in case of emergency launching. Hangar Deck Control assumed responsibilities for the movement of aircraft below the flight deck in the hangar bay. The movement of aircraft out of the hangar bay onto the flight deck in preparation for launching was also the responsibility of Hangar Deck ControlFlight Deck Control is responsible for handling, spotting, and movement of aircraft on the flight and hangar decks.
Tradgedy on the Flight Deck
The flight deck of an aircraft carrier conducting flight operations is a notoriously hazardous place to be ... rarely is a cruise completed without casualties among the flight deck personnel.
January 8, 1969: AA Norman Franklin Ridley, V-4 Division was struck by the starboard wing of an aircraft during launch. He is ON THE WALL: Panel W35 Line 54. Ridley was a "grape", called that because of the purple shirts worn by the fuels personnel.
Airman Ridley is remembered by another CORAL SEA sailor - AO Michael L. Murphy of Attack Squadron 153. Murphy was within feet of Airman Ridley when Ridley was struck. His recollections and remembrance follow:
I never knew you in life.
We may have passed each other at some time on the ship or in port and never knew it. We met on the flight deck the day you died.
We had just armed the plane on the catapult and were waiting to launch it. For some reason they kept it on the cat for a long time and we started to recover the aircraft from the earlier flight, and they started to bunch up on the deck. I kept thinking, "just scrub the damn flight, what the hell different will one more plane make." Then the plane was launched just as you were pulling the fuel hose across the deck. My back was to you and I saw part of your ear protectors and goggles blow down the deck, I knew that something terrible had happened. You were lying on the deck about 20 feet from me. The wing had hit you in the head as the plane was launched. I looked down at you as I walked by. I did not stop, I had planes to de-arm, I just walked by.
When I finished my job, I went below deck to the ordnance shop and thought about your death. Where was God this day, why did this happen, what purpose did your death accomplish. It happened it was over. Another sacrifice had been made to the "Prince of Death" and it wasn't me. That may sound crass to those who weren't there, but I know that you understand. I went down to dinner and on with my life, but I never prayed again.
You have never been far from me, sometimes I wonder about what your hopes and dreams were, what you wanted to do in life. At 18 we think we will live forever. In 1979 I cried for you for the first time, I cried again when I went to the Wall in 1987, I was back on the flight deck I could hear the jets and the helos, I could smell it, feel it and I could see it. You will be in my memory till the day I die.
I only knew you in death.
Copyright © 2019 Bert McNamee, Harleigh, PA. All rights reserved.