An HTii analyst made the trip of a lifetime last summer when she managed data for MV-22 Osprey test flights from the Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, the future USS America (LHA 6), on its maiden voyage around South America via the mountain-lined Strait of Magellan.
Katherine (Kay) Sobien operated HTii’s Test Information Management System (TIMS) to collect and analyze data from updated weapons systems onboard the tiltrotor aircraft from Marine Operational Test & Evaluation Squadron 22 (VMX-22) as it flew from the ship’s deck during the two-month voyage from Pascagoula, MS to San Diego, CA.
“It was a fabulous trip in every respect,” Sobien said. “We worked hard, but there also were opportunities to meet people from the countries we visited,” she said. “I think we made a lot of friends for America along the way.”
For her work, Sobien used TIMS to provide centralized data collection for the systems VMX-22 was testing. TIMS recorded, stored and analyzed data for all recordable flight conditions such as takeoff time and landing time, as well as problems and maintenance actions.
TIMS also imported reliability, maintainability and availability data from maintenance action forms to assist in analysis and reporting.
Although Sobien concentrated on the V-22 testing, LHA 6 had a broader mission that included goodwill stops, visits and joint operations with South American allies. “It’s always great to see the Navy and Marine Corps working with other nations,” she said. “There were opportunities to take tours and meet with local residents during port calls and mingle with guests during receptions onboard.”
LHA 6 began its journey July 11 from the Ingalls Shipbuilding yard in Pascagoula, heading south through the Caribbean and then down the Atlantic coast of South America, with port calls at Cartagena, Colombia; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
To reach the Pacific, the ship cut across the lower part of the continent through the spectacular Strait of Magellan, anchoring for a night off Punta Arenas, Chile, near the strait’s midpoint. There Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, who had embarked on the ship before she entered the strait, addressed the Sailors and Marines on board during an all-hands call in the ship’s hangar bay.
Once in the Pacific, the ship stopped at Valparaiso, Chile, and then traveled north to Peru, where she made landfall at the port of Callao, which adjoins Lima, the national capital.
New world’s oldest
While in Callao, Sobien and others from the ship visited Caral, site of the oldest known urban settlement in the new world. Lying in a high desert valley 125 miles north of Lima, Caral has been dated to 2600 BC, around the time the Egyptian pyramids of Giza were built. “The stone walls and terraces were a great sight to see,” she said. “It’s amazing they were built over 4,000 years ago and survived the test of time.”
Married to the Corps
From Peru the ship headed north to San Diego, arriving Sept. 15. Sobien’s feelings were mixed as she pulled into port. “It was sad that such a great trip had to end, but I’d been away from home a long time,” she said. “Some might think I’d seen enough Marines after two months at sea with them, but I’m married to a retired Marine, and I was definitely glad to see him and my daughter again.”
LHA 6 officially become USS America during an Oct. 11 commissioning ceremony in San Francisco.