Editor’s note: Thanks to Bosun Robert Hayes for this article that he wrote, and for submitting the accompanying photo. This snapshot and additional ones from the testing are available on the SIU Facebook page (@ SeafarersInternational). The Seay is operated by U.S. Marine Management.
On Oct. 1, the USNS Seay set sail from the port of Baltimore to embark on unique mission. The Seay was going to do dynamic interface testing off the coast of Maryland to see if it was possible to land a V-22 Osprey on its flight deck.
The Seay is the first LMSR of the Bob Hope-class ships to attempt this. A team of about two dozen civilians from various government and private agencies was on board for the testing. They brought with them thousands of pounds of gear, mostly instrumentation to test wind levels, pressure, light levels, and temperature.
The test included hours of flight quarters each day to do “touch and goes” where the V-22 would land, immediately take off, and then fly around the ship as we made minor course adjustments and then land again. This testing provided the military with the critical information it needs to develop safe wind envelopes to fly in and try to land on this specific class of ship.
The unlicensed crew members aboard, all of whom are SIU members, were directly involved in flight quarters. From fire teams to hospital team members, and even the guys who put on the chocks and chains, at every level and in every department, the SIU members involved did an outstanding job. The highest praises were given not only from the testing team aboard the Seay, but from all the pilots of the V-22 and Cobra helicopters. One said, “Bosun, you and your crew here put Big Navy to shame. You guys did awesome. Best-looking civilian flight deck crew we’ve ever seen.”
Personally, I’ve done some cool things and been to some cool places in my career, but this takes the cake. Standing on the flight deck and bringing in a V-22 was an awesome experience that few will ever get to enjoy. There are days I truly love my job as bosun.