Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Farewell USS Kitty Hawk

One of the surprise perks of Phil’s job is access to US aircraft carrier receptions. When these super carriers are in town for rest and relaxation visits, these receptions are sought after events, with a wide range of people vying for the spots on board. Recently, with the USS Kitty Hawk in town, Phil and I and some friends had the opportunity to check out one of these receptions. While it was my first such reception, we learned it was the last official reception to be held on the Kitty Hawk before its decommissioning later this year. From our point of view, the Kitty Hawk ended a long tradition of service -and receptions -in great form. It was an impressive event in a whole host of ways, the size of the ship being just one of those!

To get out to the Kitty Hawk, we started off in a ferry from Fenwick Pier in Central Hong Kong. We slowly worked our way out across busy Victoria Harbor. After about 30 minutes, we came in, past 3 support ships anchored nearby, to the Kitty Hawk herself. As the huge Kitty Hawk swayed, our much smaller ferry boat rocked against the side of the carrier. Getting physically on board the Kitty Hawk was harder than expected. And then there was a steep series of steps up to the main deck. With lots of people watching, and lots of seamen helping, we made it up to where we were suppose to be and started learning about where we were.

The Kitty Hawk, first in a class of 3 super carriers, was commissioned in 1961. It is over 1,000 feet in length, with 4 engines and 8 broilers. It is the last traditionally powered aircraft carrier. When the Kitty Hawk is decommissioned, the Navy will transferred aircraft and staff to the USS George Washington, which is powered by 2 nuclear reactors. The Kitty Hawk was stationed in Victoria Harbor by 2 anchors, each weighing 30 tons each, hanging on chains with each link weighing 360 pounds.

The Kitty Hawk has over 7,000 people working onboard and in addition to all the pilots and mechanics, 6 doctors, 3 chaplains and 2 lawyers. All these folks have been based out of Yokosuka, Japan and came to Hong Kong for their rest and relaxation visit. This R&R visit was suppose to happen last Thanksgiving but was cancelled at the last minute when the Chinese government denied them entry. Political differences have been ironed out and the Kitty Hawk arrived in Hong Kong ready to relax.

At the start of the reception, an honor guard came down from the flight deck with an F-14 behind them on a giant elevator. We then got on this elevator and zoomed up to the flight deck, where we met poised and polished pilots ready to talk about everything from the mechanics of flight to life aboard the carrier. Standing with the Hong Kong skyline all around us, talking to pilots from California, the world seemed a smaller place. It seemed that lots of folks end up living and working far from home. Despite the many different reasons we call one place “home,” it was somehow encouraging to be with a bunch of people who were all thinking and talking about your home and you, theirs.


Post a Comment

<< Home