The bi-prop rotodome planes each sat with their propellers turning. Sailors darted about like crazed smurfs. Between the rattle of the engines, the powerful purr of the propellers, and the dual layers of hearing protection the world was a deafening vibration of adrenaline and jet engines. For the launch crew, it was the same old blaring symphony.
In front of each E2C Hawkeye stood a Plane Captain, whose arms expertly directed chaos. After port engine, starboard. Pilots' hands. Mechanics to the nose. Airframes to the hell hole. Warm the gyros. Spread wings. Wait. Lock wings. Check. Check flaps, lights, brakes. Systems go. Close the door. Pull chalks. Release brakes. Let's go, sir. Here we are, yes. Nice flight. And, salute.
Three Plane Captains relax, lower their right arms, and watch as the E-2Cs roll down the flight-line taking the din with them. One by one the planes reach the tarmac and begin their ascent. When the E-2Cs banked right, they glowed as embers in a giant fire. The rotodomes, like halos cast in light sent up from the sun as it dipped below the horizon.
In the falling dusk, sailors trailed slowly into the hangar bay. The Plane Captains nodded to each other, threw their thumbs high. Launch successful: Bravo Zulus all around. They removed their Cranials, plucked out their ear plugs, and kept walking towards the hangar. Cold wind whipped at their freed flesh, whispered in their ears, and caused their eyes to water.
One of the Plane Captains stopped, turned towards the tarmac, forever guarded by the watchful eyes within the air traffic control tower. Hues of orange and yellow shot from behind the darkened tower. The rays bounced purple and pink off the cumuli. Not a bird turned. Not a sound except the wind and the residual buzzing of the launch. "I can't believe," the Plane Captain spoke to the fading dot of a Hawkeye, "that they give this job to 18-year-olds. But, we can't drink, 'cause we're not 21. I call bullshit."