625. Navigation Bridge

On This Page:

  1. Level
  2. Fast Facts
  3. Exhibit Description
  4. Photos & Videos
  5. More Information
  6. Statistics

Level: Flight Deck

Floor plan of the flight deck. A red star marks the center of the Navigation Bridge in the ship’s Island.

Read directions to Navigation Bridge

Fast Facts

  • The bridge is a ship’s command station.
  • Intrepid’s bridge was located on the navigation bridge level in the island.
  • Intrepid’s crew steered and navigated the ship from here.
Color photograph of the pilot house on board Intrepid. A child turns the ship’s wheel at the center of the photograph. A plotting board hangs at right.
The helm, or ship’s steering wheel, is at the center of the pilot house, located on the navigation bridge level.

Exhibit Description

The captain’s bridge is located in the ship’s island. It’s the highest level of the ship that is open to visitors. From here the commanding officer of the ship could oversee all of the ship’s activities.

If you make the climb, the first room you’ll pass through is the chart house. Knowing Intrepid’s position was essential for carrying out missions. The chart house is filled with big tabletop maps where crewmembers plotted the moves of Intrepid. Next, you’ll pass the captain’s sea cabin. The captain spent most of his nights here when Intrepid was at sea. It’s simply furnished with a single bed and a small desk.

The next space is the pilot house, which contains the controls for steering the ship. In the center of the room is the helm, the wheel used to turn the rudder and change the ship’s direction. It’s a solid shiny brass disc about two feet in diameter with a wooden handle around its edge. The wheel is no longer connected to the rudder, but you can touch it.

To the left of the wheel is something else you can touch. The engine order telegraph is a cylinder with brass handles on its left and right sides. With this piece of equipment, the bridge communicated speed orders to the engine room. Various other instruments allowed crew members to monitor Intrepid’s speed and course.

When you step out of the pilot house, you’re on the bridge. This is the forward side of the Island, so the windows face the bow of ship. Today, they offer a view of Midtown Manhattan. Speaking of windows, they were only added in the 1950s. During World War II, this area was open to the wind and weather. There are two chairs on the bridge. As you exit the pilot house, first you’ll see the navigator’s chair, which is on a platform about a foot high. You can step up and have a seat. Around to the left is the captain’s chair, which is behind a glass wall. From here, the commanding officer could observe flight operations.

Photos & Videos

Video description: Museum Volunteer Tom Fisher explains the function of the pilot house on Intrepid. Behind him is the ship’s helm, or wheel, and the engine order telegraph, a communication device. Historical footage shows sailors steering the ship and officers issuing commands on the bridge, and an airplane taking off from the flight deck.

Go to transcript

Black and white image of two men standing at helm, a light-skinned man grasps a wheel and a dark-skinned man wearing headphones rests his arms on a cylindrical drum.
Sailors at the helm (left) and engine order telegraph (right). (USS Intrepid Cruise Book, 1972–1973)
Colored image of a man wearing headphones kneeling down to write on a clear glass board.
A sailor marks a plotting board in the pilot house, 1968–1969. (Collection of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Gift of SN Danny Camp 1967 & 1968 Vietnam Deployments. P2014.12.294)

More Information

The bridge is a ship’s command station. On Intrepid, the bridge was located here on the navigation bridge level. When the ship was at sea, a minimum of 10 people worked in this area. Together they oversaw the safe navigation of Intrepid, under the direction of two important officers: the commanding officer (CO) and the officer of the deck (OOD).

The CO, also known as captain or skipper, is the person in command of a Navy ship. Intrepid’s CO had ultimate authority over the ship and its crew. Commanding an aircraft carrier is prestigious assignment, and most captains held the position for about a year. While Intrepid was at sea, the CO spent much of his time on the bridge, especially during flight operations.

The team on the bridge answered to the OOD. Designated by the commanding officer, the OOD oversaw the safe operation of the ship and carried out the ship’s daily routine. The OOD gave commands to the other men working on the bridge.

Neither the captain nor the officer of the deck steered the ship. That responsibility typically fell to enlisted sailors who were trained as helmsmen. To qualify for this job, each sailor manned the wheel for a minimum of 25 hours in open seas. They also practiced tricky maneuvers like refueling from tankers and steering a sinuous course. The ship’s navigator observed each sailor before he could qualify as a helmsman.

Other enlisted sailors also worked in this area. They plotted the ship’s course, maintained the ship’s log, made announcements and served as lookouts, among other tasks.

Statistics

Intrepid’s top speed:33–34 knots (38–40 mph or 61–64 kph)
Typical cruising speed:15 knots (17 mph or 28 kph)
Number of people working on bridge:Approx. 10–16
Length of helmsmen’s shift:4 hour watch, with 4 helmsmen on rotation
Total number of commanding officers (1943–1974):31