An historic aircraft carrier is about to sail for the first time in 24 years.
The USS Intrepid, which first gained fame in the Pacific during World War II as the "Fighting I," was destined for the scrap heap. But a campaign by the Intrepid Museum Foundation saved the ship, which was converted, in 1982, into the floating Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, docked on New York City's Hudson River.
The ship sets sail again on Nov. 6 to undergo a $58 million renovation, beginning in Bayonne, N.J., and completing in Staten Island, N.Y. Eric Boehm, the Intrepid's aicraft restoration manager, said the repair work will be done by volunteers, adding that the repairs are "overdue, and everybody who's on the ship is excited about the prospect of this [the museum] being a much better place."
An E-Bay auction is under way to choose six lucky passengers who will be on the ship when it sails. The auction, with an opening bid of $100 thousand, closes Oct. 31 at 3 p.m.
The package includes a VIP breakfast with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a helicopter ride around the Statue of Liberty, a gift bag of Intrepid memorabilia, and participation in a ceremonial salute to 9/11's Ground Zero. Among the special guests on the Nov. 6 trip will be some of the Intrepid's original crew members who served on the aircraft carrier in World War II.
One of the big attractions that has drawn New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike to the museum over the years is the incredible aircraft collection kept on the ship's flight and hangar decks. Visitors can get right up close to displays of helicopters, World War II jets and modern-day supersonic aircraft.
As part of the preparations for the Intrepid's upcoming overhaul, the first of nine aircraft has been shrink-wrapped on the ship's flight deck. The process takes about three hours per aircraft and must be completed in one sitting. The plastic covering protects the jets and helicopters during both the move and renovations, which are expected to last 18 months to two years.
The USS Intrepid retired after 31 years of service, during which thousands of aircraft were launched from her flight deck in times of peace and war. The ship is now a national historic landmark.