Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jets on the Lex

The Little Red Corvette beneath the wing of an A-3 Skywarrior aboard USS Lexington. Launched during World War 2, when good men were hard to find, "Lady Lex" was 90% built by women. In postwar years she became better known as the US Navy's training carrier. As a training ship, Lexington was the first aircraft carrier to have women in the crew. Naval Aviators, including many future astronauts, learned the difficult art of carrier landings on this deck.

Lexington was berthed in Pensacola, Florida, cradle of Naval Aviation. At "P-Cola" the candidate experienced the discipline of Marine Gunnery sergeants and the famous obstacle course. She would get basic flight training in a Cessna 172, followed by the T-34 Mentor (right). Jet training was in the T-2 Buckeye (left), culminating in carrier landings on the Lexington.

The top of the flight school class aimed for the F-14 Tomcat. The coolest squadron markings were worn by VF-84 Jolly Rogers, part of Carrier Air Wing 8. VF-84 and USS Nimitz were featured in the time-travel movie THE FINAL COUNTDOWN. The colour scheme even ended up on the space fighters of MACROSS. Real Space flyers Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and many other wore the gold wings of the Naval Aviator. The skills and discipline of Naval Aviation have been a huge contribution to Spaceflight.



Blogger CarlBrannen said...

Joe Weber, who taught me general relativity, was serving on the previous Lady Lex when she was sunk in the battle of the Coral Sea.

Wikipedia says that she was named after the battle of Lexington, but I think that this is incorrect. All the US aircraft carriers were named after revolutionary warships. The first USS Lexington was a brigantine purchased in 1776.

Later, they began naming aircraft carriers after politicians which I think is a sad fate for a free people.

10:16 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Later, they began naming aircraft carriers after politicians which I think is a sad fate for a free people.

Carl, now that older carriers are retired, some better names are available: Midway, Saratoga, Independence Kitty Hawk, Constellation and Coral Sea! Australians fondly remember the battle of Coral Sea.

3:19 PM  
Blogger CarlBrannen said...

I just looked through a list of US aircraft carriers and about half of them are recognizable US sailing ship names. Reminds me of the (starship and frigate) Enterprise and all that. Some were ships captured from various enemies such as the Boxer and the Intrepid.

By the way, you've been to so many interesting places and done so many interesting things that eventually you will have to write an autobiography.

10:00 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Thank you, carl!

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