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The Most Dangerous Work Onboard an Aircraft Carrier

The most dangerous work onboard an Aircraft Carrier? What comes to mind when you imagine “a city in the sea”? Some kind of Atlantis that was lost centuries ago and only recently re-discovered?

Well, I’m actually talking about aircraft carriers, and they really are like full-on cities floating out in the middle of the ocean! Actually, to put it more specifically…

8. An aircraft carrier is a ship, an air force base, and a little city.

An aircraft carrier doesn’t just “carry aircraft” like the name implies. These things serve 4 major functions: transport aircraft around the world, launch airplanes, serve as a mobile command center for military operations, and house the crew that’s responsible for doing all that.

So, it’s basically an air force base and the surrounding city on one huge ship with different parts serving different purposes. There’s obviously a flight deck with a runway on top of the ship. And it’s equipped with 4 catapults that help the planes reach a high enough speed to get up in the air over a short distance.

Below the flight deck, there’s a hangar deck for aircraft currently not in use, and it can house up to 100 of them! So, I guess you can add “aircraft garage” to the list as well! There are also massive elevators that lift the aircraft up to the flight deck.

The Most Dangerous Work Onboard an Aircraft Carrier
The Most Dangerous Work Onboard an Aircraft Carrier

Besides all that, there’s also a sorta island on top of the flight deck for officers to control flights, a room where the crew stays, a power plant to generate electricity, and a propulsion system to keep the ship moving. Oh yeah, and you can’t forget about the life-support systems that provide food and fresh water, sewage, and even radio and TV stations onboard.

Nuclear reactors generate steam that keeps the fan blades rotating. And onboard turbines help produce electricity for the systems that run on it. Phew! All of that on a big boat floating in the middle of the ocean!

7. They’re huge and few in numbers.

Obviously, with all that stuff going on, these things need to be massive. But you can’t even begin to fathom just how big they are. Most aircraft carriers cover up to 4.5 acres and can be as long as 1,000 feet. So, you can easily set a whole football field on it. This gigantic ship can move at an impressive speed of 35 knots (or 40 mph), so it can relocate to pretty much anywhere in the world within weeks. That’s possible thanks to those nuclear-powered engines and propellers I told you about.

They’re huge and few in numbers
They’re huge and few in numbers

Also, those things weigh up to 30 tons and can be 20 feet long. An aircraft carrier is built to function for about 50 years. There are currently only 19 in the world, and 11 of them belong to the US. Other countries with this type of floating military base are China, India, the UK, France, Brazil, Thailand, Japan, Russia, and Italy.

6. They are sovereign territories.

Thanks to international Freedom of Navigation laws, aircraft carriers are officially sovereign territories no matter where they find themselves in the ocean. So, it’s no wonder they’re so important for the military might of a country. You can’t just set up a land base without special arrangements, but you can move a carrier anywhere around the world.

After completing their missions on land, the aircraft can just fly back to their home base. This can go on non-stop as long as the carrier gets a regular stock of supplies.

5. They employ thousands of people.

An aircraft carrier’s size isn’t the only reason it’s called a city at sea. It has a legit population, housing and employing anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 people. They live on 7 decks stacked under each other and elevators take them to the main decks. Of course, the conditions in the living decks are far from luxurious.

The sleeping quarters are super tight with compartments for 60 people that sleep in single bunks called “racks” piled one under another in stacks of 3. Crewmembers get lockers for clothes and personal belongings. Every compartment has one bathroom and a small TV area. Officers get slightly better housing, but it’s not much better in terms of space. The crew dines in one of the “mess halls” onboard that serve a total of 18,000 meals a day.

There’s also a laundry room, health clinic, small gyms, barbershops, a few stores, and a satellite phone room where personnel can call their families. You’d think that people living on an aircraft carrier enjoy sunlight and fresh sea air every day, but the fact is that most of them rarely see the sun. Only a few people are allowed on the flight deck, while the majority of personnel stay below it most of the time.

4. There are tons of different kinds of jobs onboard.

Around half of the jobs on an aircraft carrier are connected to actually flying, controlling, and maintaining the planes. That is, people like pilots, air traffic controllers, and mechanics. The remaining half does more of the ship-related work. They make sure things run smoothly and take care of everything from meals to the nuclear reactors.

The US navy has a color-coding system for aircraft carrier crews that you can see by looking at their uniforms. Depending on their rank and position, air wing personnel wear one of seven colors: yellow, green, white, red, blue, purple, brown, and black.

There are tons of different kinds of jobs onboard.
There are tons of different kinds of jobs onboard.

So, for example, catapult and arresting gear officers wear yellow, while their crew will be in green. (Work connected with the catapults and arresting gear is considered the toughest and most dangerous, by the way!) Purple uniforms are solely reserved for the fuel handlers, which is a pretty dangerous position as well if you consider the fact that they have to deal with explosive liquids and hot engines all day! The same goes for black uniforms being reserved for final inspectors.

Anyway, if you ever make a trip to an aircraft carrier, don’t be surprised if you see a whole rainbow of uniform colors around you!

3. Aircraft carriers get busier than airports

Yes, the advanced ones can be a pretty hopping place, launching and receiving different aircraft left and right like your typical airport. For instance, the French Navy’s Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier launches a plane every 30 seconds at its maximum rate, and that’s more than its namesake – Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.

Helping a plane take off and land at an aircraft carrier at such a rate is one of the most difficult, dangerous, and loudest jobs in the world. One wrong move and you can easily get swept off into the sea. And just imagine how skilled a pilot has to be in order to take off and land on a constantly moving platform! And even though the flight deck seems huge, the runway is only about 500 feet long. It sounds like a lot, but it’s just a fraction of the ones typical “land” airports have. If the pilot isn’t experienced and attentive enough, he risks crashing into the back of the carrier or missing the target wires that help the aircraft slow down.

2. They can sail for years

Like I said before, most carriers today run on nuclear power. That means they don’t need to refuel as often as they used to and can function for 20 to 25 years straight on one fill-up! However, even if they have enough fuel to last this long, they still need extra supplies of food and jet fuel for the aircraft themselves.

But since it’d be too dangerous to enter ports once every few weeks to restock, aircraft carriers get their supplies brought to them out in the open sea. Supply ships travel to the nearest port to pick up fuel, ammunition, food, and mail. Once they reach the carrier, they have to sail right next to it, which is no easy feat! The crew then shoot lines to each other, and they pull the ships closer together. Helicopters are also sometimes used to get supplies off of one ship and onto the other.

1. You can send mail to a US aircraft carrier.

While you can’t exactly send a birthday card to your pal who’s living and working in a submarine (because of, well, obvious reasons), you can totally send mail to an aircraft carrier! Yep, these gigantic ships do have actual mailing addresses.

You can send mail to a US aircraft carrier
You can send mail to a US aircraft carrier

For instance, if you wanna mail something to someone serving on the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, you just have to get a regular ol’ stamp, address the envelop to “USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78)” and write the zip code (you can find it online), and it’ll be delivered! What’s even cooler, crewmembers can even shop and make orders online, and those packages typically get delivered within 10 days! So, would you like to visit an aircraft carrier or maybe even live and work on one? Let me know down in the comments!

Credit: Bright Side

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