Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) undocked U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) on time, on Aug. 29, a key milestone in the carrier’s Drydocking Planned Incremental Availability (DPIA).
Bush has been on blocks the past 18 months, undergoing the most extensive maintenance period in the carrier’s history and one of NNSY’s most complex CVN CNO availabilities ever. This drydocking period marked the first time Bush had not been waterborne since 2006.
“Congratulations and well done to Project Superintendent Jeff Burchett and ship’s Commanding Officer CAPT Robert ‘Aggs’ Aguilar, and to every member of the project team and Ship’s Force for getting us to this significant milestone,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Kai Torkelson. “Now we focus on the pierside phase of the carrier’s availability before returning it to the Fleet in ‘like-new’ condition ready to conduct its vital mission.”
For the first time in NNSY history, two aircraft carriers will be sharing a pier. Bush is now neighbors with USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75), currently undergoing an Extended Carrier Incremental Availability which began in July.
Undocking on time, despite challenges associated with COVID-19, is something Burchett credited to teamwork and perseverance across all working levels and groups supporting the availability, from the project team and Ship’s Force to Alteration Installation Teams and contractors. “We have been laser-focused throughout on getting Bush out of dock on time, and the folks that worked throughout the pandemic kept us on schedule,” said Burchett. “They stepped up their game, and it was incredible how they kept us going to make us successful. I can’t stress enough of how proud I am of this team. The camaraderie and the relationships have been amazing, and the driving force behind the success of this availability.”
“The crew and the project team have worked tirelessly for the past 18 months to get to this point,” said Aguilar. “I couldn’t be more proud of their work and I look forward to completing future milestones as we get closer to bringing our warship back in service.”
NNSY has been implementing a number of 21st century capabilities and innovations to facilitate work throughout the availability, including the use of cold spray to repair components in the U.S. Navy’s first organic cold spray repairs conducted at any of the four public shipyards. Laser scanning was used to facilitate installation of sponsons onboard, supporting first time quality in the fit-up. Burchett added the shipyard’s special emphasis group developed unique weight handling equipment using electric winches for servicing components while in the dry dock.
In addition to working innovatively, the team is also working safely. Bush currently has the best safety record of the past three DPIAs at NNSY.
Now that the carrier is pierside and the team turns to testing work and restoration of habitability, Burchett looks forward to the availability’s final phase and getting the crew back onboard. “I know how important undocking is to this availability,” he said. “What’s even more important is returning the ship back to the Fleet to conduct its mission. There’s a quote from George H.W. Bush himself that we took on as the project team motto: ‘This is my mission and I will complete it.’”