Aircraft carrier gets test drive after tune-up

By Brad Lendon, CNN

(CNN)When you get your car out of the shop, it’s always fun to take it out on the freeway to see how well the tune-up went.

When the U.S. Navy gets one of its aircraft carriers back after a 23-month tune-up, it sort of does the same thing.

The 1,092-foot-long, 95,000-ton USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) returned to sea in late August after spending 23 months in what the Navy calls a “dry-docking planned incremental availability,” basically one huge tune-up that should keep the “Ike,” well, ship-shape for the next decade.

All four of the carrier’s catapults were overhauled, the shafts for its four 66,000-pound, five-bladed bronze screws and its rudders got needed maintenance, “150,000 square feet of non-skid surface on the flight deck was removed and replaced,” and 117,000 square feet of interior space was “revitalized,” according to a Navy press release.

“We’re back and we’re more than ready to begin putting this great warship through its paces,” Capt. Steve Koehler said in the Navy release.

After the Nimitz-class ship left Norfolk Naval Shipyard, the crew did just that, posting video on its Facebook page of a series of high-speed turns the huge carrier executed in the waters off Virginia.

The ship’s “facts and stats” page puts its maximum speed at more than 35 mph. That might not sound like much compared to your Chevy Camaro, but it’s impressive for something 73 times longer than the Camaro.

And some of those commenting on the “Ike’s” Facebook page swear it goes even faster.

“About 52 knots (60 mph). We ran the crap out of this ship,” says one commenter.

Another talks about Ike’s sister ship, the USS Carl Vinson, hitting 70 mph. “They ran her so hard the whole ship vibrated,” he says.

And then there’s this: “I remember back in the 80’s when they used to let us water ski behind it. The wakes were INSANE!”

The waterskiing and freeway speeds are unconfirmed, of course. And sailors going to sea for the first time on Ike’s trials were a bit more reserved.

“My favorite part about sea trials was seeing the open water, the sunrise and sunset from the hangar bay,” Yeoman 3rd Class Kirsten Cavanah said in a Navy press release. “It was absolutely beautiful to see those from the ship for the first time.”

“My favorite part was being out in the channel when we were transiting through downtown Portsmouth,” Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Tyler Sanders is quoted as saying.

The Eisenhower is back in its home port of Naval Station Norfolk for further testing and training.

It’s scheduled for deployment next summer.

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