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Level: Gallery deck
- Intrepid’s pilots awaited their missions in ready rooms.
- Squadron leaders briefed pilots before their missions and reviewed the results afterward.
- Between flights, pilots socialized and relaxed.
Flying airplanes from the short, bobbing deck of an aircraft carrier is inherently dangerous. Combat missions are even more stressful. Preparation is essential for success.
This is the ready room, where pilots went over the details of their missions before they took off and were debriefed when they returned. Intrepid had four to six of these rooms at any one time. The ready room open to visitors is a long, narrow room about 20 feet (6.1 meters) wide and 30 feet (9.1 meters) long.
The room looks just as it did during active duty in the late 1960s. You’re looking in through a glass wall at the front of the room. There are rows of chairs facing you, four on the left and five on the right. The rows extend back into the room, with an aisle down the center. At the far end of the room is a desk and some file cabinets.
Right in front is a wooden lectern with notes resting on it. This is where the squadron’s commanding officer stood to brief the pilots before they headed to the flight deck. Flight suits, bags, helmets and other pilot gear hang on hooks along each side of the room. Midway down the aisle is a film projector, used for reviewing footage of takeoffs and landings.
Pilots had an important and dangerous job. As a result, ship designers made sure that their accommodations were comfortable. The ready room features special chairs. They look like brown upholstered theater seats with headrests at the top. Pilots could recline and relax here and even have a smoke. The armrest of each chair has a built in ashtray. Coffee was another important staple for the crew on board Intrepid. The pilots’ coffee mugs hang on a pegboard on the rear wall of the room.
Photos & Videos
Video description: Curator Jessica Williams discusses how pilots were briefed for their missions. She begins on the flight deck, with airplanes in the background. Historical footage shows airplanes taking off and landing on Intrepid. Jessica then enters the squadron ready room, filled with rows of brown chairs facing a podium. Historical photographs show pilots in the ready room.
Originally, Intrepid‘s ready rooms were located on the gallery deck, which is right below the flight deck, so that pilots could reach their planes as quickly as possible. The ready room that is visible to visitors is located on the gallery deck.
During World War II, the flight decks of American aircraft carriers were built from wood planks on top of a thin steel plate. The Navy knew that this design had trade-offs. The unarmored flight deck allowed the ship to operate a larger air group, and it was easy to repair. However, it offered little resistance against a deadly tactic that Japan introduced in the fall of 1944: crash-diving airplanes.
On November 25, 1944, Intrepid was operating in the Philippines. Twenty-six radarmen waited in a ready room—usually reserved for pilots—for their shift in the nearby combat information center. Two kamikaze aircraft plunged through Intrepid‘s flight deck. The first plane’s bomb exploded on the gallery deck. All 26 radarmen perished.
Kamikaze attacks demonstrated the vulnerability of the ready rooms. When Intrepid was modernized in the 1950s, most ready rooms were moved down to second deck, one deck below the hangar deck, which is the Museum’s main exhibition space today. The new location offered better protection from attacks. However, air crews now had a long, slow climb to the flight deck while carrying their helmets, bags and other cumbersome gear. To help pilots reach their airplanes, the Navy installed escalators on Intrepid and other aircraft carriers. Visit the hangar deck to see the escalator and learn more.
Intrepid’s air wing changed from deployment to deployment.
Here’s one example:
|Intrepid’s Air Wing 1966|
|Attack Carrier Air Wing 10|
|Mission:||Intrepid’s first Vietnam War deployment|
|Number of squadrons/detachments:||5|
|Types of aircraft:||A-4 Skyhawk, A-1 Skyraider, UH-2 Sea Sprite|
|Officers in air group:||Approx. 110|
|Enlisted personnel:||Approx. 520|