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On Nov. 14, 1910 the U.S. Navy launched an airplane from a ship for the first time, less than six months later on Jan. 18, 1911 Eugene B. Ely landed on the USS Pennsylvania, completing the first successful landing on a stationary warship; it would be nearly six years from that date before someone landed a plane on a moving ship at sea.
These milestones can be said to be the true start of Naval Aviation, which has become the backbone of the Navy’s maritime superiority and invaluable to our national security.
Capt. Cassidy “Dudley” Norman, has been part of the legacy of Naval Aviation for nearly 30 years, and is one of few naval aviators who have experienced its transformation first-hand.
“I was anxious when I flew a jet aircraft out to the USS John F. Kennedy 25 years ago, but after my first landing I was very happy because I had demonstrated the operational capability that sets apart naval aviation,” said Norman. “As part of a powerful and respected U.S. Navy, I could safely launch and recover airplanes not only at airports on land, but also on aircraft carriers at sea that operate all over the world.”
In the 109 years of Naval Aviation much advancement has been made to both aircraft and the aircraft carriers that launch and recover them. Most aircraft carriers today rely on a steam catapult system operating on the release of pressure to launch aircraft. Aboard the Navy’s newest class of aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) steam catapults have been upgraded with an electromagnetic catapult launch system (EMALS), the newest catapult system in the fleet.
Norman has witnessed not only the evolution of Naval Aviation but also the evolution of aircraft carriers. On Oct. 31, he completed carrier qualifications on Ford, making her the sixth class of supercarrier he’s flown on to include Forestall class, USS Independence (CV 62); Kitty Hawk class, USS Kitty hawk (CV 63); Kennedy class, USS Kennedy (CV 67); Enterprise class, USS Enterprise (CVN 65); multiple Nimitz-class carriers, and now the newest Ford-class, USS Gerald R. Ford.
“Flying out and landing on the Ford was also exciting because this new class of carrier is a leap forward in many capabilities like the next-generation launching and arresting gear systems, which were immediately apparent on the flight deck,” said Norman. “I thoroughly enjoyed landing on and catapulting from the most advanced version of the 11 most survivable airfields in the world.”
Norman landed aboard Ford as part of a Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) carrier qualification (CQ) wave with the “Gladiators” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. During his CQ he conducted two touch-and-goes and four arrested landings using Ford’s state-of-the art Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) to complete his curriculum. He also had the opportunity to spend some time aboard Ford to experience internal differences built in to the Ford-class.
"It is extremely important for carrier Commanding Officers to regain aircraft carrier landing currency and watching Dudley requalify on our ship brought a huge smile to my face," said Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford's commanding officer. "Dudley is a career Hornet guy, flew some wicked nice passes during CQ and made it look easy, which is impressive after being out of the cockpit for several years. I know he was fired up to get some cats and traps on EMALS and AAG before he takes command of [USS John C.] Stennis, and we were proud to have a ready and steady deck for him and all of the FRS aviators who qualified on mighty warship 78."
Cummings added that Ford has been the primary CQ asset on the east coast this year generating readiness for the fleet. "It has been extremely rewarding for our crew, especially given the challenges of getting underway virtually every month in this current health environment," he said.
Norman is nearing completion of the Aviation Nuclear Officer pipeline with follow on orders as the Commanding Officer of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) in December 2020.
Ford is underway conducting an independent steaming event as part of her 18-month post-delivery test and trials phase of operations. For more news from USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78