Narrator: Mention the name "U.S.S. Eisenhower," and you will most likely see a smile cross Mike Chotkowski's face. This isn't just a carrier – it's a floating powerhouse of memories.
Mike Chotkowski: It was déjà vu for sure. I did four cruises on the U.S.S Eisenhower, spent a lot of time on that ship, did a lot of miles on it. And it was quite interesting to back and see what it looks like again after being away from it for almost 35 years.
Narrator: And why did Mike go back? Seeing this – why wouldn't he want to go back? Mike and 15 other Pratt & Whitney employees recently visited the Eisenhower for the second of three phases of carrier suitability and integration testing at-sea for the F-35C. They were all on board in support of the Pax River Integrated Test Force to simulate maintenance operations and fit tests for the aircraft and support equipment, including the F135 engine.
Mike Chotkowski: … for the F-35 in what they call the shadow of the aircraft. Meaning, the engine is removed from the rear of the aircraft, and within the shadow footprint of the aircraft the module is changed and engine is inserted back into the aircraft.
Narrator: Earlier this year, Chotkowski was on board the USS Wasp with the Marine Corps to test the capability of an MV-22 Osprey to carry and safely deliver F135 modules to carriers at sea. The successful trials aboard the Wasp helped pave the way for the Marine Corps in declaring initial operational capability in July.
Narrator: The takeaway from this trip aboard the Ike, however, was confidence – confidence in the Navy's ability to operate the F-35C from a shipboard environment – and confidence that this fifth-generation fighter will also be ready to meet Navy's target for initial operational capability in 2018. With 19 successful flights from the Eisenhower, 66 successful traps and catapult launches, and no unscheduled engine maintenance, the Pratt & Whitney-powered F-35C is well on its way to meeting that goal.
Mike Chotkowski: We have the best interests of the Navy at hand. We wanted to make sure, and all made sure, that this deployment went off safely, securely, the performance of the engine was there …
Narrator: There is nothing quite like a homecoming … and for Mike, it was the perfect present.
Mike Chotkowski: It was my birthday the day I walked on the boat, so I spent about two and a half weeks with the other Pratt & Whitney people …
Narrator: He's got years of memories aboard this floating city – and now, with his continuing support of the mission with Pratt & Whitney – he has one more unforgettable memory.
Mike Chotkowski: I was really looking forward to seeing a burner shot, the F-35 taking off with an afterburner, off one of the catapults so, I got to see that up close and personal. I saw that during my days during the Navy with a Tomcat taking off, so I wanted to see if with the F-35, and I can't describe the excitement within me. From the days that I worked on Pratt engines as a Navy person to being there today, seeing those Pratt engines being used on another Navy aircraft.