ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, GULF OF ALASKA -- High above the flight line, the Air Boss watched as flight deck crews, each wearing brightly colored shirts that delineate their job, moved quickly to prepare for the next launch of a fighter jet. In less than a minute, another F/A-18 Super Hornet took off, catapulted to 150 mph in less than three seconds. The boss, Scott Campbell, hadn’t spoken a word.

Three jets fly by the island of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier on Wednesday in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. The island contains radar and other sensors, air traffic control, flight deck operations, and the ship's bridge. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

“Everybody has a radio,” Campbell said, “but when things are going smoothly nobody needs to talk.”

For Campbell, who is essentially the air traffic controller for the carrier, smooth means a jet taking off every 30 seconds or one landing every 45 seconds, all on a flight deck that is just barely over 1,000 feet long and 250 feet wide.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt participates in Exercise Northern Edge on Wednesday in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. Northern Edge is the largest training exercise that takes place in Alaska, and this marks the first time in 10 years that a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier was participating in the multi-service training exercise. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

“It’s a ballet,” said Alex Diaz, the ship’s handler. Diaz is tasked with coordinating the ballet, getting planes parked once they are landed, refueled, sent to the under-deck hangar if they need repair, and positioned on the flight deck so they are ready to launch at a moment’s notice.

Flight deck crews walk through steam left over from the launch of a F/A-18 Super Hornet on Wednesday from the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. The fighter jets are launched with the help of a steam-powered catapult, which can accelerate a 66,000 pound aircraft like a fully-loaded Super Hornet from 0-150 mph in under three seconds. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

This was a job that was especially challenging earlier this year, when a film crew was aboard the Roosevelt for two weeks shooting the movie “Top Gun 2,” which is scheduled for release in 2020.

Handler Alex Diaz explains the ’Ouija board ’ to visitors on Wednesday aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. The handler is responsible for making sure everything flows efficiently on the flight deck and in the hangar bay. The carrier can hold over 60 aircraft at a time, and at peak efficiency can launch a plane every 30 seconds and recover one every 45 seconds. The board contains scale models of all the aircraft, and pins placed on each indicate action required or readiness status. Much of the same information is also duplicated in electronic form in the Aviation Data Management and Control System, but Diaz prefers to use the Ouija board. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Diaz prefers to coordinate his ballet using what he calls a “Ouija board,” a map of the flight deck and hangars with scale-model airplanes that he and his assistants move around by hand. He places colored pins, metal washers and bolts on each plane to mark actions that need to happen to each. For a plane that needs maintenance he uses a jack, because the plane has to go up on jacks. Ones that need washed get a washer.

A teddy bear sits in the commanding officer's in-port cabin aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Wednesday. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier is named for America's 26th president, as are the stuffed bear toys. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

One level below Diaz is the commanding officer’s in-port cabin, one of the only formal places on the massive ship, which can house around 5,000 people at a time. The wood-paneled cabin is adorned with pictures, plaques and memorabilia honoring President Roosevelt, the ship’s namesake. One wall holds a row of baseball bats, a nod to Roosevelt’s famous saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” On another wall is a shelf with a teddy bear.

Two jets take off simultaneously on Wednesday from the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. Northern Edge is the largest training exercise that takes place in Alaska, and this marks the first time in 10 years that an aircraft carrier was participating in the multi-service training exercise. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

The Roosevelt is in Alaska as part of Exercise Northern Edge, Alaska’s largest military training exercise. The last time an aircraft carrier participated was in 2009, when the John C. Stennis came up.

Flight deck personnel monitor a landing plane on Wednesday aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. Aircraft landing on the carrier are caught with one of four cables, which quickly bring the airplane to a stop. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

“Having a carrier participate, along with three U.S. Navy destroyers and a replenishment ship, increases the level of complexity of the exercise,” said Navy public affairs officer Julie Holland. It also presents unique challenges to the pilots aboard the carrier, who normally have to maintain night proficiency by performing a night landing once a week.

Landing signal officers monitor an aircraft landing on Wednesday aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. LSOs are tasked with ensuring the safe landing of aircraft aboard carriers. In addition, each landing is graded and feedback is given to the pilot. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

“There’s not a lot of night flying opportunities this far north,” said Campbell, “so we’ll have to deal with that when we we get back down south.”

Members of the Eightballers, a combat search and rescue squadron, check a MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter Wednesday aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. A search and rescue helicopter is always in the air when fixed-wing aircraft are taking off or landing from the carrier. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
A F/A-18 Super Hornet takes off on Wednesday from the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. The Roosevelt can carry over 60 aircraft at once, including fighter jets, airborne command and control aircraft, helicopters and cargo aircraft. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
Flight deck personnel prepare for an aircraft launch on Wednesday aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt Nimitz-class aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska south of Seward. Flight deck personnel wear color-coded shirts that correspond to their job. Yellow shirts are tasked with directing planes, managing the catapult and arresting cables, and handling aircraft while they are on deck. (Loren Holmes / ADN)