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Article and Photography by Britt Dietz | Published on September 19, 2011
All this touring had made us work up an appetite, and conveniently enough the call for dinner meant we could go grab some more delicious food. After taking a break from standing on our feet and walking around the ship along with going up and down ladders all day, we sat in the First Class Petty Officer mess hall and enjoyed a nice dinner. After the meal, we headed back to the hangar bay where the Carrier Fire Department had laid out on display various tools and hazmat outfits that are used for fighting fires aboard the ship. Younger kids were putting on the oversized and very heavy equipment and getting their pictures taken. Because of the close quarters and flammable substances onboard a Carrier, a lot of different tools are used to combat any type of fire that can happen. Systems onboard the ship, as well, will activate when there's a fire to help. The hangar deck, one of the most busy and active areas aside from the flight deck aboard a Carrier, can be a dangerous place if something catches on fire when it's backed with aircraft loaded with not only fuel, but possible ammunition. With three lookout observation posts up high protected from fire and explosions with armor plating monitoring everything that happens in the hangar bay, at the sight of any fire or explosion they can trigger a fire suppressant system that will fill one section (of three) or the entire hangar bay full of fire retardant foam. Because of the intense heat of fuel, only the foam would stop a fire if it got out of hand in the hangar bay. The thick foam can nearly fill a hangar deck section in minutes or less. Comforting to know that in a life or death situation with fuel and weapons at stake, systems have been put into place to immediately stop them from spreading.

After spending some time checking out the firefighting equipment, it was time to head up to the flight deck to check out the sunset and get some sunset photos with the various aircraft. Because of the windy and rocky conditions the Carrier was in, we went and got float jackets as ordered for anyone on the flight deck. These float jackets would automatically inflate when water is sensed, which left me wondering what would happen if rain water got on it. A Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet from the VFA-137 'Kestrels' squadron sits on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier loaded with practice missiles in preparation for the Air Wing fly-off. - Photo by Britt DietzA Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet from the VFA-137 'Kestrels' squadron sits on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier loaded with practice missiles in preparation for the Air Wing fly-off. - Photo by Britt Dietz Heading up to the flight deck from one of the catwalks on the side, we found ourselves pummeled by incredibly hard winds and an occasional sprinkle of water. The winds were so powerful, in fact, that only a few minutes on the flight deck we decided to head back down. Besides, we had misjudged the time and it wasn't quite sunset yet, plus a lot of the jets were still doing runups and we'd need cranial hearing protection to be near them. I managed to get a few shots from the catwalk before we went back inside. We then headed back down to the security office, where the evening meeting was about to take place. I was a little worried we'd miss the sunset on the flight deck, but we found out the meeting had been cancelled for now. So, we decided to search for two cranial flight deck helmets and then head back up to the flight deck to get the photos. The search for the flight deck helmets, unfortunately, wasn't a success so we had to search the ship for an extra pair. The cranial I would use ended up being all the way on the other side of the Carrier in the security storage room at the stern of the ship. After all this time search and walking around, I was a bit worried we'd missed the sunset at this point and would pop out onto the flight deck to meet dusk and low light conditions, but as we walked up on one of the catwalks on the stern of the Carrier, the sun was in perfect position for photos. The wind was still blowing pretty hard, but the rain had stopped for the moment and the flight deck was slowly drying. Even without the rain, at times the wind was so strong you could spread out your hands, slightly lean forward, and the wind would keep you from falling.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was still pitching pretty wildly at times, and it was pretty amazing to watch the water appear and raise high above the flight deck edges, then suddenly sink below the edge and disappear from view. Watching that happen, you think to yourself why you don't seem to feel it as bad as that looks, then you realize you are standing on top of a floating skyscraper laying on it's side. Boeing F/A-18C Hornets and Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets from various squadrons aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier sit lined up on the forward catapults being prepped for launch in a few days. - Photo by Britt DietzBoeing F/A-18C Hornets and Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornets from various squadrons aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier sit lined up on the forward catapults being prepped for launch in a few days. - Photo by Britt Dietz There were very few people up on the flight deck aside from occasional flight deck crew members working on various F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. It was actually quite peaceful with the muffled noise of jet engines running up with the very large (but awesomely cool to wear) cranials on. I instantly loved having the cranial, and knew I'd do everything in my power to get ahold of one once I get back home. Walking around the flight deck and snapping photos like crazy, the sun slowly set into the liquid space and produced some really awesome colors and clouds for me to shoot. A picture perfect background one might say, and exactly what I was hoping to get! After heavily photographing the stern (back) of the ship, we carefully headed to the forward section where they had lined up a ton of F/A-18C Hornets on the forward left catapult much like you iconicly see in movies. There were more flight deck crew in this area, fueling jets and prepping them with fake ordinance to carry back to NAS Lemoore. The neatly lined up Hornets made for some really great shots, especially with the lack of any civilians, unlike airshows. Walking to the forward catapults took a bit of effort, as the gusting wind rushing across the deck tried really hard to keep you where you were, sometimes causing you to miss a step and have to try again. It made me wonder how those flight deck crew members seemed to so fluidly walk around as if there was no wind at all. I guess after months of this in various windy locations all over the world and you'll be really good at it too. As we neared the forward catapults, the wind picked up, almost to the point you could lean forward 45 degrees and the wind would graciously keep you from falling on your face. Jumping in the air would push you back a few inches as the wind caught you. It's easy to see why a float jacket is necessary on the flight deck, especially with the Carrier not even doing full power. After successfully photographing every possible angle and aircraft on the flight deck as the sun slowly slipped behind the clouds sitting low on the horizon, it was time to head back in. It was sure a beautiful sight to be up there with such amazing colors and light dazzling around these beautiful machines.

HDRI PHOTO: F/A-18E Super Hornet - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 4
Flight Deck    - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 4
Boeing F/A-18F Super  Hornet  - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 4
Grumman E-2C Hawkeye    - USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) Tiger Cruise 2011 - Day 4

Heading down from the flight deck, we made our way down to the furthest aft part of the ship you can get, the Fan Tail, to watch the rest of the sunset. Standing on the furthest aft point of the ship leaning on the railing watching the sun set over the incredibly long wake trail of the floating city while hearing the roar of the churning water from the enormous screws: and you just can't help but smile at how beautiful things can be aboard a Carrier. A cloudy sunset over the Pacific Ocean aboard the US Navy USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier as seen from the aft Fan Tail section of the ship just outside the hangar deck. - Photo by Britt DietzA cloudy sunset over the Pacific Ocean aboard the US Navy USS Abraham Lincoln Aircraft Carrier as seen from the aft Fan Tail section of the ship just outside the hangar deck. - Photo by Britt Dietz Unfortunately, that was short lived as apparently it was Cigar Party day on the Fan Tail, and the horrid smell of many different cigars made it almost unbearable to be back there. To each his or her own when it comes to cigars, but after the last bit of sun vanished behind the horizon and darkness crept in, the beauty of the ocean was losing ground to the smell of the cigars, so I headed back into the hangar deck and down to the berthing area to get out of the float jacket and set down the cranials. At this point, all that was left for the day was the evening entertainment, which was movie night. I'm not sure how the movie was chosen, but I wasn't going to complain when we found out it was the latest Toy Story movie from PIXAR/Disney ("Toy Story 3") which wasn't even out on DVD yet. I guess that's another perk of being in the US Military, you get to see movies while they are still in theaters! I rather enjoyed the movie when I saw it in theaters, so I sat down with numerous others and watched the movie. It struck me, half way through, about the irony and awesomeness of the current surrounding environment. Here I was, in the hangar deck of a US Navy Aircraft Carrier, sitting under the tail of a supersonic multi-million dollar F/A-18 Hornet, watching a wonderful animated movie that was still out in theaters on a large blow up screen. I chuckled at that thought, and decided I always wanted to remember this moment, asking the question to myself of how many people could experience such a thing being a civilian? I could think of no better place to watch a movie than sitting in an Aircraft Carrier under the tail of my favorite jet fighter of all time.

Once the movie finished, the crowd slowly dispersed to their various berthing areas to get ready for another night's sleep. A long day of travelling throughout the Carrier over, I was pretty tired and ready for some sleep. The pitching of the Carrier had gotten a bit worse through the night, so I made sure to secure everything with extra care so they didn't end up on the floor by the morning. After climbing up to the bunk and getting comfortable, I drifted off to sleep wondering what other fun memories would have make tomorrow aboard this incredible city at sea...

CONTINUED IN PART 5 OF THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN TIGER CRUISE 2011 STORY, COMING SOON! CHECK BACK ON WARBIRD PHOTOS FOR THE REST OF THE 7 DAY TRIP ONBOARD THE CARRIER! FOR THE ONLINE REPORTS FROM THIS SERIES, CHECK OUT THE LINKS BELOW:

PART 1» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 2» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 3» STORYPHOTO GALLERY
PART 4» STORYPHOTO GALLERY

Author and photographer BRITT DIETZ has been attending airshows for as long as he can remember.  Growing up with the former Marine Corps Air Stations El Toro and Tustin in his backyard, he's been exposed to every type of modern military aircraft.  Britt began shooting photography at Airshows during the last El Toro airshow in 1997, shortly before the base closed and soon found an intense passion for the aviation photography trade. Continuing to harness this love traveling to airshows all over the West Coast, in 2003 Britt launched his first Aviation Photography website called Warbird Photos Aviation Photography, and has been shooting professional aviation photography ever since having been published in various magazines, newspapers, books, and calendars.

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