GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A large helicopter hangar, built by Ingalls Shipbuilding in Gulfport, is on the water headed for Maine. The 60 foot wide structure, made from carbon composites, took nearly two years to construct.
The composite helo-hangar, wrapped in white, represents thousands of hours of work. As the proud workers watched it float away on a barge, they felt some much deserved pride.
"Oh man, it's a major pat on the back to see this thing go. It's great. Feels good to see a big accomplishment like this," said Ingalls worker Bill Mason.
Their accomplishment is headed for Bath Iron Works in Maine, where it will be attached to the newest Navy destroyer.
"A lot of veterans work out here too. So, we take a lot of pride in our work out here, building stuff for the Navy you know," said worker Jerry Aubuchon.
The hangar's carbon fiber construction offers several advantages over steel.
"A substantial weight advantage in using carbon fiber composites. Secondly, you have an erosion advantage that the carbon fiber does not rust over time," says Program Manager John Fillmore.
A structure even larger than the helo hangar, the ship's deckhouse, is being built in a large construction bay at the Gulfport facility. Weighing slightly less than 900 tons, it will be delivered later this summer.
"It's a very, very large structure. In fact, it will be one of the largest composite structures ever to go to sea. Certainly the only composite deckhouse on any of the destroyers we have," said Gulfport Site Manager Jay Jenkins.
The helo-hangar launch is a good warm-up for that deckhouse delivery.
"It took a lot of hard work. Yard wide commitment from everybody. A lot of weekends, not a lot of time off. But that's what it takes to get this big accomplishment done for Huntington Ingalls," said Ingalls worker Marcus Davis.
The lighter weight of the carbon composite structure enables the ship to travel faster. It also produces a smaller radar profile, making it less likely to be spotted by an enemy.