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Published: April 25th 2011
I had heard that you could tour an aircraft carrier on Alameda island just outside of Oakland, and that one of the more interesting aspects was riding the flight elevator between the hangar and flight decks. I had been meaning to take this tour, and after arrival realized that spending just half a day there was not going to be enough time. Very interesting indeed. Upon arrival, a docent gives you some high level information about what you can see on the ship, the island, the engine room (you must sign up for this as they can only take 15 people at a time down to the one viewable engine room, there are three others, but the engine room tour is done for no additional fee), the hangar and flight decks, the Apollo mission artifacts on board, what could be seen below decks, and that you could easily spend two days seeing everything available on the ship. No question about that, way too much to see in half a day.
There were several raw statistics that I was told on board which were interesting indeed. When fully staffed the USS Hornet would have 3100 crew aboard, which included all aspects
of operating an aircraft carrier. The Hornet's flight deck was 2 acres of real estate. Today's Nimitz class carriers have 4.5 acres of flight deck real estate. I saw many compact flourescent lightbulbs had been installed aboard Hornet, and even with the ship in museum mode and not fully illuminated everywhere in the ship (there were clearly areas off limits to the public touring the ship), it still costs $8000/month for its electric bill. The Hornet is a mere 894 feet in length, whereas today's Nimitz class carriers are closer to 1200 feet in length.
I was disappointed to learn that none of the flight deck elevators would be operating this day. They do operate at least one of the flight deck elevators on "living ship" day though, so look for when those days are advertised in case you just have to take a ride on one of the flight deck elevators.
You can find out more information about the ship and touring it here
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