What Is Daily Life On An Aircraft Carrier Like?

What is it like to live on an aircraft carrier? Well, it depends who you are and what you do. While there are some things - including dial-up internet and small spaces - that apply equally to everyone aboard, there are certain perks to higher ranks, such as special menu items, the ability to skip long lines, and having those of inferior rank step aside as you make your way down countless narrow, dimly lit corridors. Such is the life of a sailor.

Aircraft carriers are like floating cities. They typically have a 4-5 acre flight deck that can house upwards of 100 aircraft and hold in excess of 5,000 personnel. The experience of living and working on a carrier will vary broadly depending on rank and job specialty. There are some pretty exciting jobs - and there are some that are far more mundane, and some in which you may not see sunlight for weeks at a time.

So, if you've ever wondered how sailors spend their time and what life is like on-board an aircraft carrier, read on.

  • Temperatures Routinely Surge As High As 140 Degrees Below Deck
    Photo: Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Temperatures Routinely Surge As High As 140 Degrees Below Deck

    Most places on an aircraft carrier are hotter than you may think. Even the laundry rooms average about 120 degrees. In order to avoid heat-related illnesses, those assigned to work the machinery rooms often cannot work more than an hour at a stretch.

    It gets even hotter for the engineers working on the engines and boilers down below the waterline, where temperatures regularly reach 140 degrees. This area is known as the carrier's inner circle of fire.

  • The Flight Deck Is The World's Most Dangerous Place To Work

    Airplane propellors, jet engine blasts, helicopter rotors turning - just a few of the many dangers of the flight deck. When fully loaded, a carrier can house around 100 aircraft, and working with and around them - especially in limited space - is a dangerous job.

    In fact, an aircraft carrier's flight deck is the world's most dangerous place to work. One veteran pointed out: "[Aircraft] can even blow you over the side, which is a near 90-foot fall, and might necessitate a helo rescue." Those dangers don't even factor in wartime perils.

  • Every Room Has Coded Coordinates To Prevent The Crew From Getting Lost

    In a place like an aircraft carrier, it's easy to get lost. There are winding corridors, which often look remarkably similar to one another.

    The Navy's answer to this problem: coded coordinates. Now, it's just a matter of learning to decipher them. The Carrier Deployment Guide for the USS George H.W. Bush recommends new sailors "follow someone around the ship that has been before." That's good advice considering there are approximately 3,000 rooms on a carrier.

  • Roaring Plane Engines Can Be Heard Throughout The Below-Deck Living Quarters
    Photo: SurfaceWarriors / Creative Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Roaring Plane Engines Can Be Heard Throughout The Below-Deck Living Quarters

    Ever had noisy neighbors? Imagine having the roar of military might taking off and landing overhead.

    Geoff Dyer, a writer-in-residence on the USS George H.W. Bush, described this noise as "inconceivably noisy, but the noise of jets taking off was as nothing compared with the noise of jets landing." A carrier is a 24-hour operation, so coupled with other noises of the ship, there is rarely a quiet moment.