As USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) begins the second year of her refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH), thousands of shipbuilders are working hardafter to get the ship Several months leaving Dry back to the fleet on budget and on Dock 12, thousands of shipbuilders schedule. Staying on schedule is no are continuing to get the nexteasy task because every ship arrives generation aircraft carrier Gerald R. with challenges. Forto Ford unexpected (CVN 78) ready for delivery Lincoln, 25 years at sea had left the Navy. To date, the ship’s mainall four of her catapults badly corroded. engines have not been turned on – but that’s about to change. “We needed to replace the bottom 22 inches on both wallssteaming down thethe “We’re working toward full length of the catapult,” said main engines, which is like turning Shipfitter Kenneth Freeman. “After the engine on for the first time,” said cutting the old steel out, we needed Kyle Cox, foreman of the outside to bring in 52 new steel plates, each machinists who have lead on one weighing 320 pounds.” of the propulsion plants. “We are certifying that each system is ready Moving heavy steel is a routine for steam, which involves a lot of fluid task for shipbuilders, but this task flushes – kind of liking flushing the oil was unique. The catapult shed, a in a car, but on a much larger scale.” temporary structure that protects the catapults from uses weather While a car engine fourduring quarts of RCOH, posed a serious obstacle engine oil, Gerald R. Ford needs about to getting a crane in to that could get 25,000 gallons of oil flush its main the new plates into the catapult. engines. “The flush ensures that each Every solution proposed system is clean – no dust affected or particles both cost and schedule for thesaid team that would harm the engines,” of 14 shipbuilders overhauling the Pompeyo Go, a mechanic on the team catapults. They needed to find a who also served in the Navy. simpler solution. Although turning an aircraft That simpler solution came in the carrier’s engine on is not as simple form of a skateboard, a long plank as turning a key, Cox’s mechanics on skateboard wheels that could are well-versed in how the system carry new steel plates down works.the Zach Higgins, a young, eager the length of the catapult. Using mechanic who started at NNS less materials available, than a yearalready ago, can already the mapteam it all even added roller conveyors on top, out.
so the steel plates could be easily transferred without heavy lifting to avoid an obstacle in one of the catapults. It took only two hours to assemble, and the idea worked beautifully. “I moved here from California “The whole concept is to move the 320-pound plate because I heard the shipyard was a without hurting your back,” said Luis Bonilla, a shipfitter good place to work,” said 21-year-old who has worked every overhaul since USS Enterprise. Higgins. “Now I work with people He had the initial idea of adding the roller conveyors, who really care about each other. I having worked with them on other projects. “We would love what I’m doing.” have had five people lifting these plates. This is not only simpler – it’s a lot safer.” The whole team shares that attitude. Despite working 7-day weeks for Freeman agreed. “My biggest thing is to work smarter, several months, Cox’s team is about not harder. Before, we would have had to schedule a to celebrate two years accident-free. crane, remove the shed and hope the weather would be The team stretches every morning in our favor. Now, two guys can do the work on a rainy and pins photos of their loved ones day. This is definitely something we can use on future on their community board to remind overhauls.” | By Peter Stern them of why safety is so important. Shipfitters Kenneth Freeman (left) and Luis Bonilla move steel plates on a James Collins is the fourth generation simple, innovative system of conveyors on “skateboarders” in a catapult on USS of his family to work “My Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), the at ideaNNS. that saved money, reduced risk of injury and kept grandfather was anbyapprentice the team on schedule. Photo Chris Oxley who
started as a pipefitter and ended up doing pipe design. He always talked about working on Enterprise while she was being built. Now, I come to work and there she is – the old ship beside the new ship that will replace her.” | By Peter Stern
James Collins (left) and Pompeyo Go are part of the team flushing Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) main engines in preparation for steam this summer. The steaming milestone is the equivalent of turning the ship’s engines on for the first time. Photo by John Whalen
Yardlines is a monthly magazine published ten times per year featuring Newport News shipbuilders and major events at the shipyard.