Unscathed by enemy submarines, dive bombers and underwater mines during WWII, the USS Hornet faces a financial foe today that threatens to scuttle its new mission.
One of the most decorated warships in U.S. naval history, the aircraft carrier also distinguished itself in peacetime by flawlessly recovering the moon-walking Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 astronauts after splashdown. Saved from the scrap heap after decommissioning in 1970, the Hornet was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991 and opened to the public in 1998 as a museum and memorial to its crews and pilots.
But the legendary ship stands in harm’s way. The former Alameda, Calif. Naval Air Station where it is moored lies off the tourist path and features no other attractions to lure visitors. Long on tradition, the Hornet finds itself short on operating revenue.
Museum officials aren’t about to let the ship go under, however. While pursuing their goal of relocating the vessel across the bay in tourist-rich San Francisco, they are soliciting donations and adding events to bring more visitors aboard. Shipboard activities include dances, parties, seminars and “Live Aboard” outings where up to 500 visitors, such as Boy Scout Jamborees, can spend the night.
To accommodate larger groups, more of the ship’s heads (bathrooms) had to be restored. Because sewage can’t simply be heaved overboard the way it was in the old days, Chief Engineer Ernesto Zambrano had to build containment tanks to hold sewage and wastewater until it is pumped onto the pier for treatment.
Finding the right pumps wasn’t easy. The first ones Chief Electrician Rich Nabuda purchased had single-phase motors that kept jamming up. Through distributor R. F. McDonald Co., he found a model from Goulds Pumps that was tough enough for the job: a three-phase submersible grinder pump with a powerful 2-hp motor and dual seals.
“The heavy-duty Goulds pumps were just what I was looking for. They’ve kept running for several years now without a problem,” said Nabuda, who retired from the U.S. Navy as a chief petty officer.
“The pump has a durable cast-iron casing, yet is light enough for one person to pull from a containment tank for easy maintenance. The stainless steel cutter can be reversed when the first side wears out, doubling its life. And the silicon bronze impeller has pump-out vanes for mechanical seal protection.”
Yet the feature Nabuda said he likes best is the overload protection.
“The overload current is relatively low compared to other motors, so the Goulds pumps won’t overheat right away and damage themselves.”
When another containment tank was added this summer to handle increased attendance, Nabuda asked Goulds Pumps if it could donate the next pump.
“The request met all of our criteria in terms of community service, educational value and historical significance. Given the legacy of the USS Hornet, we considered it a privilege to donate a pump,” said Joanne Connors, a Goulds supervisor.
To continue the Hornet’s 230-year legacy—the first Hornet was christened in 1775 and fought in the Revolutionary War—an expanded schedule of events was planned, including activities for Blue Star Moms, Gold Star Moms and veterans. Besides touring the 900-ft-long, 18-story-high ship, visitors can inspect eight restored aircraft on deck and watch monthly demos of the massive elevators lifting and lowering planes.
“Everything has been restored to its original condition. You can basically come aboard the same ship that was in active service,” Nabuda said.