"Underway, shift colors!" With that phrase, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) sailed into the afternoon sun of Puget Sound
's Sinclair Inlet
, having just completed its third Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS).
While accomplishment of a large maintenance and repair period is noteworthy in a number of ways, Carl Vinson's most recent PIA at PSNS was marked by a number of "firsts."
Carl Vinson's Fiscal Year 02 PIA was already in a planning stage for well over a year and a half following its January 2002 return from a Western
Pacific deployment. The PIA was to include installation of support equipment for the F/A-18 Super Hornet, upgrading computer systems and
installation of SMART Carrier - a 21st century computer system that vastly improves monitoring and control of various systems.
In addition, Vinson would receive major improvements to the crew's living quarters, heating steam piping replacement, aircraft repair and maintenance systems capabilities upgrade, catapult and aircraft elevator repair, major weapons elevators modifications, and repairs and modifications to various key systems throughout the ship. When all was on the table, three hundred thousand man-days of work would
be accomplished in the scheduled PIA timeframe -- the largest maintenance package ever planned for a six-month period, anywhere in the United
States. World events benchmarked by 9-11 would force PSNS, the ship and the other organizations working on Carl Vinson (including Supervisor of
Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair Puget Sound, Todd Pacific Shipyards Corporation,
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and other independent contractors) to step up the pace. Shortly after commencing the PIA in April 2002, Commander, Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet (COMNAVAIRPAC) said he needed Carl Vinson
back operationally sooner than scheduled, and the new target for completion was five months, not six. What happened over the next four and a half months was reminiscent of shipyard scenes from movies of World War II. Pier 3 at PSNS turned into a beehive of activity that ran 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People from everywhere inside PSNS were redirected to work on Carl Vinson to make this project successful. Personnel from Northrop Grumman Newport News
Shipbuilding, Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock and Rockwell International arrived in large number to ensure the SMART Carrier
computer systems installation and testing were completed to support the new timeline.
Vinson's crew sometimes worked seven days a week to support the maintenance organizations working on their ship and to prepare the systems aboard
for light off and testing. At its peak, more than 5,000 people were working on Carl Vinson daily to install the system upgrades and repair other ship's systems and fixtures. New ways to perform work were tried and "thinking out of the box" became normal business practice.
The Carl Vinson team
answered the COMNAVAIRPAC call to action. When Carl Vinson put to sea on September 4, the men and women of the Carl Vinson team were proud to have finished that PIA in five months and four days, demonstrating Puget Sound Naval Shipyard's commitment to superior fleet