PACIFIC OCEAN – Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 successfully completed flight deck certification Dec. 12, after a 16-month Docking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA) period.

Representatives from each CVW9 squadron embarked aboard Stennis Dec. 5 to perform aircraft launch and recovery operations over the course of three days.

Flight deck certification started about 120 days before this underway, said Lt. j.g. Mark Rodriguez, Stennis’ flight deck officer. “We have to be certified to launch and recover aircraft by the Commander of Naval Air Forces handling team prior to conducting flight operations.”

The certification was the first time that Stennis and CVW9 operated together since deploying in 2013.

“It’s been a good experience getting familiar with shipboard life again,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Wendell Ramos of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14. “It’s important to build that relationship between the air wing and ship.”

For many of Stennis’ and CVW9’s personnel, this underway was their first time to see flight operations.

“It’s scary but exciting at the same time,” said Logistics Specialist Seaman Edward Mitchell, from Fayetteville, N.C. “There [are] propellers spinning, planes taking off and landing, things that you normally only see in movies.”

Stennis and CVW9 performed 160 launch and recoveries during day and night operations throughout the certification process.

“The purpose of flight deck certification is to make sure all the pieces fall in together,” said Lt. j.g. Mark Trask, an aviator assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14. “The equipment, personnel, catapults and carrier air traffic control have to be certified and ready to launch and recover aircraft in support of future air missions.”

Completing flight deck qualifications brings Stennis one step closer to becoming fully combat ready.

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