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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Bush Departs for USS Lincoln

Aired May 1, 2003 - 14:49   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to a live picture now, and I think we've got Frank Buckley there. Frank, are you there?
Oh, Chris Burns? Chris Burns, who is -- has the president departed yet?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, we're waiting for word on that. At last word, just a couple of minutes ago, the president was putting his mask on. The president is in a flight suit. Of course, he used to fly with the National Guard in his younger days, so this is not a big, big new thing for him.

However, he was briefed in the last half hour on what would happen if he had to eject. Of course, these are all precautions that are taken in any case. But if you keep in mind the flight record of the planes on that aircraft carrier -- the USS Lincoln, they flew more than 16,000 missions in the last ten months and they didn't lose a plane or a crew member, so they have a pretty good record there, Miles.

O'BRIEN: That really is an astounding thing when you think about not just the danger that the combat pilot faces, but just the danger on that deck and the danger of bringing a plane in, just as you're seeing now.

This is another one of those cods. This is not the president. Probably some staff members in there we're told, obviously, in advance of the president's arrival. There you see that close-up once again of the tailhook with the arresting cable.

Chris Burns, I don't suppose the president was wearing a G-suit. I don't think they're going to run him through his paces too much. But a flight suit, nevertheless. I suspect he's going to have a fun day. This is about as -- it's a good day to be a president, isn't it?

BURNS: Well, I would think. This is, according to the White House, the first time a president has landed in that fashion on an aircraft carrier with a hook and cable, what some people would even call a "crash landing," a controlled crash landing. So it will be a bit suspenseful.

Nevertheless, even Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman said the president would actually love to take ahold of the joy stick for a while. And if he did, well, we'll see what happens. Ari saying that if the plane is flying in a perfectly straight line, that could be an indication that the president is not flying the plane. The president did want to fly an F-18 and, according to what we hear, the Secret Service nixed that idea because it only has two seats, pilot and co-pilot. No room for that Secret Service agent that's on the plane right now, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, boy, Ari Fleischer dissing the boss a little bit there. He's got to be careful about that, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

BURNS: You know he said, I hope -- in his briefing yesterday, he made a similar kind of quip. He said, well, I hope the president's not watching this briefing right now.

O'BRIEN: We can only hope or he'll be swabbing the deck somewhere. Who knows?

We know that the pilot with the president is the executive officer of the airwing. Chosen, as we are told yesterday -- Kyra Phillips was on board and they told us he was chosen for his maturity and because he's a good ball flyer, good lander. That means in other words, he flies that meatball we keep telling you about effectively and well and is not apt to miss those cables and go off the edge.

And when we say go off the edge, they're flying again because when they land, they give it full power and off they go. It happens quite frequently. Frank Buckley was just telling us what it's like to do that. But they were chosen because of the infrequency with which they miss those cables.

We're getting some pictures here. Looks like a flight of two there, Chris Burns. Can we presume the president is in one of these planes that we're looking at right now?

BURNS: That's correct, Miles. In fact, from what we hear, one of them, which will be flying before the president -- apparently it would be the one in front, we believe. Any case, in one of the planes is flying Andy Card, the White House chief of staff who will, at least according to what our information is, he will be landing shortly before the president does.

I can add one built of color that we just got is that on that plane that the president's in there is on the window, on the outside of the plane where the president is sitting, it says "Navy One, George W. Bush, Commander in Chief." Again, this being a first. The president is on a plane like this taking an arrested landing with hook and cable -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: A nice touch by the Navy folks. Don't want to miss a trick there and take an opportunity to tout the branch of service.

I said, you know, three out of four branches represented today. Marine One, Air Force One, Navy One. I'm sure the Army is wishing they could have snuck in an Apache helicopter in to this day of aircraft. But no luck, obviously. Kyra Phillips is on the line. She's on board the Abraham Lincoln right now. And she's got a special day herself. Now, Kyra, of course, you don't -- are not encumbered by Secret Service protection. And, thus, you will be able to ride in the back seat of an F-18. So in some sense, you're luckier than the president today.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know. He's going to get a chance to fly, Miles. And I don't know if I'm going to be able to score that today. We'll have to see. Actually my pilot's been pretty cooperative. He might let me get on the stick for a little while.

We're looking at the pictures now. of course, you know I'm coming to you via phone. So we're looking at pictures now of the taxiing in San Diego, is that correct?

O'BRIEN: Yes. As a matter of fact we are. And it's a flight of two. They're taxiing out. This is the North Air Station, right?

PHILLIPS: That's right. And, Miles, I wanted to tell you something. I found out more about the president. I don't know what you've talked about thus far because I've been briefing and sort of talking with the F-18 pilots that I'm going to fly with today. But did you know that the president had to go through water survival in order to do this flight?

O'BRIEN: I did not know that. But I do know that there's a couple of things, and you can share with folks on this as well. Among the things you normally have to do when you fly one of these is go into an altitude chamber for -- to get your altitude card unless they limit the altitude to a certain level below where you would need pressurization. So we didn't even ask about that, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Right. This was a tidbit that I learned about last night. And you know about water survival. I've had to go through it and you've done the training and the president had to go through the water survival training.

And what that involved, not only the chamber but he had to also do the dunker. And the phrase of course within the Navy is "panic in a can." And the dunker is where the president gets into this simulated cockpit. He's got to strap in and it goes underwater, fills up with water, he's got to hold his breath. They spin the dunker around and he's got to be able to egress or exit from the cockpit and come up for air without a problem.

And of course that's very intense and a very important part of the training for any pilot that's flying over water because if indeed a plane or a Helo were to go down, you've got to know how to escape. And just the success rate of that training is incredible. You know there's been many aircraft from time to time that has had problems and pilots and rios and passengers have been able to get out because of that training.

So they said the president had a really great time, he really enjoyed it. And he survived the dunker and all the other parts of the water survival training. O'BRIEN: I'm just trying to see -- the Secret Service must be just having fits because just that training has got to make them nuts.

PHILLIPS: Can you imagine -- I can just see about 20 of them circling the pool thinking, is he out? Is everything OK?

O'BRIEN: Lead aircraft is just rolling on the runway. I just wanted to make sure we pointed that out as you continued your conversation. They are rolling. Should be airborne there shortly.

PHILLIPS: And I'm told they painted it for the president, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, yes. It says Navy One on there. And, you know, I guess rank has its privileges, right?

PHILLIPS: Here we go, Miles. Here it goes. You can probably explain better than I can to the viewers that feeling of a launch in an S-3.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I don't which -- who's in which plane. I know that the White House chief of staff Andy Card is in one of the others. This photographer has chosen the lead aircraft. We don't know for sure, because we can't see that Navy One paint job just from here.

Frank Buckley is somewhere also on that 4 1/2 acre aircraft carrier with you, Kyra. I know you're not in earshot of one another. But, Frank, I think we got about 20 minutes, because they're wheels up in San Diego.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That sounds about right, Miles. We can tell you that some of the advance party from the president has arrived here on the deck. I'm told that Dr. Condoleezza Rice is just below me. I'm in the island itself in an area called "Vulture's Row." It's sort of a balcony area that overlooks the flight deck. Couple of cods just arrived.

O'BRIEN: Frank, why do they call it Vulture's Row?

BUCKLEY: Man, I knew you were going to stump me at some point today, Miles. Maybe Phillips knows the answer, I don't.

O'BRIEN: Kyra, you still there? Do you know why they call it Vulture's Row?

PHILLIPS: I sure do. Take a look at the shot that you're seeing right now. Frank is actually right in the middle there. They call it Vulture's Row because everybody comes out on that bridge to watch the flight operations and they look like a bunch of vultures hanging out on the bridge.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: All right.

BUCKLEY: See, Kyra was always the smartest kid in the class.

O'BRIEN: She is a smart one, that Kyra.

PHILLIPS: You know what, Frank, that is not true.

PHILLIPS: She's smart in many places, put it that way.

PHILLIPS: Frank and I went to college together, Miles. That's why he's saying that.

O'BRIEN: Oh, is that it? OK.

PHILLIPS: And here we are having a reunion.

O'BRIEN: What a string place to end up meeting together. I guess you wouldn't have predicted this one.

Frank, let's -- you know, this is the old mood question but let's have at it anyway. What is the mood on the ship? Are people kind of nonplused about the president? More concerned about getting home? Or is there a good deal of excitement?

BUCKLEY: I would say that there is a great deal of pride among the people. They feel that if any ship deserved this, that it was certainty theirs in that, you know, they have been deployed for nearly ten months. These are the guys who, as you -- the story you've probably heard by now, they were halfway home in January after pulling the end of their six-month, normal six-month deployment, were turned around, sent back to the Persian Gulf for the conflict in Iraq. But that also plays into the other side of answer, and that is they are so excited and looking forward to tomorrow in the case of the airwing, seeing their families later next week in Everett, Washington for the rest of the ship's crew.

This is a nice -- I guess it'd be sort of like the Sunday on the ice cream -- the chocolate or the strawberry. They're very happy about it. It makes it that much sweeter but you know they miss their families. You think about everything that we have all done in the past 10 months or nine months, all the family events that you've had, you know that's an entire school year for your kid and it's a long time to be away from home and it's really a difficult period for them.

You may have seen the helicopter shot a moment ago. That's one of the plane guards that's orbiting the aircraft carriers. As Kyra knows, before every event when aircraft launch, the first to launch are always the helicopters. They get off and with the rescued divers, we introduced you to one team this morning, they make sure that they're out over the water in case anything might happen.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) first off and the last back on, right?

BUCKLEY: That is correct and interestingly the aircraft that follow the helicopters are the S3s. The S3s are the second group to go off and also the second to the last to land because the -- because the S3 is where -- these are the aircraft -- by the way, the shot that you're looking at is where I'm standing. I don't think you're looking at me but you can see the island where I am. We're not allowed to have a camera up here but this is the area that we're looking at in the vulture's row but the S3s in addition to their anti-submarine capability, which is what they were built for, more recently they've become -- they've entered this role of being a midair re-fueler. The jets -- the strike aircraft when they take off, they often tank on the way out on a particularly long mission. On the way back if the fuel stayed as low or if they have a pass in which they -- when they're a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), they may have to go back up and tank on these S3s so they -- much of their time when they are deployed is spent orbiting the aircraft carrier and they are always the second group to launch and the second to the last to land.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and we probably should point out this is a type of aircraft that is being phased out of the Navy inventory, isn't it?

BUCKLEY: Yes. The aircraft that will eventually replace the S3 that will replace the famous F-14 Tomcat is the F-18 Super Hornet, and that is an aircraft that -- you know, and when I've talked to the old Tomcat guys, the F-14 guys, they have a great nostalgia for the Tomcat. They love it. They sort of liking it to their first car. You never stop loving your Mustang or your whatever it is that your first vehicle is but then when they transition over to the Super Hornet they say that it's like driving, you know, a new vehicle, a new sports car.

Looking at the super structure right now of the -- of the aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln, the president coming aboard shortly. We are expecting at any moment to see him over the horizon. We're told that he will be coming in on a straight in approach. That is, he will not be doing the traditional carrier break. He'll come in, Skip Lucier (ph), the XO of the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) will be at the helm.

President Bush will be in the co-pilot seat. We're told that he may even take a turn in this aircraft that has been designated Navy One. As you know, the aircraft carrier has to turn into the wind. It has done that. We're told that with the S3 that it can land with as little as one knot of wind over the deck that traditionally you're looking at 20 to 25 knots and as the aircraft comes down of course it will hit one of the four wires. The ideal wire is to hit the three wire and then it will come to a jarring halt in about two seconds. So that is what we are expecting to see at any moment.

Right now the aircraft that you're seeing are the F-18 Hornets that will be taking off later today. Three squadrons of Hornets, our own Kyra Phillips aboard one of those aircraft.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's -- and Kyra Phillips' departure, we will of course bring you like as well 5 p.m. Eastern time, would not want to miss that one and we'll see all about that call sign of hers which you know by now is blow out.

Now, let's move it over to Washington for just a little while as CNN's Judy Woodruff is standing by and lest we forget the President has an important speech tonight. All this talk about airplanes we don't want to forget the real reason he's going to this aircraft carrier -- Judy. JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Miles. Although I will tell you I'm here marveling at your and Kyra and Frank's knowledge of all this Navy and Air Force technology so hat's off to all three of you for helping us understand what's going on as the President approaches the Abraham Lincoln on that -- on that Navy plane. Yet you're right Miles. The President is going to the Abraham Lincoln. He's going to spend the night on the carrier but at 9:00 tonight Eastern time he will address the American people, first televised address for a president ever from an aircraft carrier and in essence he is going to congratulate American armed forces for their successful effort in Iraq to vanquish the regime of Saddam Hussein but he will not declare the war is over. He will say major combat operations are ended and he will say that the reconstruction, that this is the beginning of the next phase, the reconstruction and rebuilding phase in the life of Iraq.

CNN's Chris Burns has been covering the president's trip out west. He's in San Diego, the place the president left from I guess just a couple of minutes -- a few minutes ago.

Chris, the White House put a lot of care and a lot of thinking into choosing this aircraft carrier, this location as the backdrop, if you will, for the president's speech tonight.

BURNS: Absolutely, Judy. There are a lot of -- a number of reasons for all this very well orchestrated. The president will, of course, be changing from his flight suit into a business suit to give his speech tonight at -- on board the deck of the USS Lincoln. In that speech, yes, he will be saying that the major combat operations are over but he will not be giving the V word, the victory word. He will be cautioning that the conflict in some ways continues, that there are still -- that Iraq is still a very dangerous place.

The page must however be turned to the reconstruction of the country, rebuilding the government, formation of a new government but in not announcing victory, this doesn't change the situation legally. This maintains the situation in which the United States would like to hang onto at least some of those Iraqi POWs. There are thousands of Iraqi POWs still in the hands of the U.S. led coalition and go after former Iraqi officials and if the United States did declare victory under the Geneva Conventions it would have to become sort of a status of an occupying force and then immediately release the POWs and stop hunting down those Iraqi officials. So that is very important.

Also, a message to the rest of the country in saying that this still is a difficult situation. We will still have to keep thousands -- tens of thousands of troops in Iraq to maintain stability. This is costing about $2 billion a month and this the president will have to justify in his speech tonight.

WOODRUFF: Chris, we're watching -- Chris, we're watching live pictures from the Abraham Lincoln, the aircraft carrier. We're told the deck has now been cleared, I guess that's the right term, so that the plane the President is on, the S3B Viking four seater can land. I think we were told it's about a 15, 20 minute flight. We were told the president might want to take the stick or take the controls himself and we don't know exactly what that means whether that means they'll make it a little bit longer flight or what.

We don't expect the president to do the landing himself, but you know, we'll see. There's much that's left to be known. The President, as we've said, is coming to the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln to spend the night to congratulate the crew and congratulate all American Armed Forces for the work that they did in Iraq and as Chris just said, there are a number of reasons why the President doesn't want to absolutely declare a victory.

So Miles, we're watching and waiting for the president's plane to come in.

O'BRIEN: All right. Who knows? Maybe he'll get a little refresher course in aerobatics on the way. We don't know.

I just want to show you real quickly. These look like manhole covers. Those are actually some of the spools for the resting cables. One, two, three, there should be a fourth one there. Those are the cables that arrest the aircraft as they come in. You're looking -- there we go. There's those cables there. Those are the key; the tail hook meets the cable and thus ends the flight with a jolt but nevertheless safe and sound. That's the idea.

Kyra Phillips is on board. Frank Buckley's on board, all kinds of people on board the aircraft carrier right now.

Kyra, I want to ask you, was it -- was there anything special that the crew has done by way of security around the ship, additional aircraft, helicopters or is it just like any sort of typical day where they're launching and capturing aircraft?

PHILLIPS: Well, of course, you know the Washington -- the White House group that's out here, Secret Service, et cetera, they have a lot of folks out doing their thing and of course we can't go into detail about that. Military is business as usual. You did see the FH-60 Seahawk, the search and rescue helicopter take off and that's airborne. They have everything in place. They don't always talk about everything that's in place, but it's business as usual, Miles, but Judy asked a question and she wanted to know exactly what the president may be doing ...

O'BRIEN: Kyra, we can see the flight appear right now. I suspect what we're going to see right now is a low pass over the deck, the flight of two.

PHILLIPS: They're going to trap.

O'BRIEN: Navy One and ...

PHILLIPS: They're going to trap once, Miles.

O'BRIEN: I'm sorry.

PHILLIPS: They're going to trap once so the president -- they're going to make a pass and come around.

O'BRIEN: There they go.

PHILLIPS: Then they're going -- they're going to land on the aircraft one time and take off again so the president gets a chance to feel what it's like to launch off the carrier and then they're going to come back and trap again. So you're seeing them now live.

O'BRIEN: Wow. That's something. That's a plan we hadn't heard about.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

O'BRIEN: That's fantastic. So he's going to get a launch and a second carrier capture all in one day, not a bad deal.

PHILLIPS: That's right, and they're going to let him take the stick a little bit. It's very possible he could be flying right now. They've got him in the co-pilot seat. As you know, the president is a former pilot so he knows exactly what he's doing up there. So we're going to see the landing, hopefully going to make that third wire. That's the goal. They don't want to ...

O'BRIEN: Now, Kyra, once a pilot, always a pilot now so the president is a pilot. He may not be current. He may not be current but nevertheless he is a pilot. It would be a little difficult to do that close formation from the right seat I suspect depending on how it's lined up.

Frank Buckley, what do you notice most different about this arrival than any other day when they're capturing aircraft on the Lincoln or the Constellation or any other aircraft carrier for that matter?

BUCKLEY: Well, a couple of differences. One, you've got three helicopters flying alongside the aircraft carrier in a way that you don't normally see during recovery. Three of them, three helicopters, search and rescue capable flying alongside, that's one difference. The other major difference is just how many people are out here on the island, on Vulture's Row, and on the deck itself. In addition to the multitude of fellow reporters and cameras, there are also all of the F-18 pilots all in their flight gear, all in their helmets standing by to greet the President when he arrives. So it's not what they call a foul deck, that is a deck that they cannot land on but there are many, many more people on this deck than you would normally see when an aircraft lands.

We did just have that fly by a second ago with the two S3s flying by and you know we're told that as Kyra was mentioning that the President might in fact do a cat shot when he lands. I talked to one of the LSOs just a moment ago before they went out onto the LSO platform. He said that it's his understanding that's not going to happen. So I think it's sort of a question mark and probably the guy who's going to be in charge of making that decision is the commander in chief.

Right now we're waiting for the jets. I see them down range and they're a little high. I'm not sure if they're coming in on final or not but they're certainly toward the aft end of the ship and approaching the aircraft carrier in formation again, two S3 Vikings coming by the aircraft carrier. It looks like they're going to do another fly by as they come by. Dramatic thing, one thing that's different but these two S3s.

O'BRIEN: Let's listen to the fly by just for a second. Just listen to the fly by.

All right. Now one of them has pealed off and we believe the first S3 to land does not carry the president, correct?

BUCKLEY: Well, to be honest, Kyra may know the answer to that. I'm not sure which one has the President. I was told the president wouldn't be doing a carrier break and that S3 just did a carrier break.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well ...

BUCKLEY: It's coming around in a full multi-g turn so it's coming in on how an aircraft typically lands on a carrier. As you see, it's coming around on the carrier break. It comes in at three quarter mile out. It calls the ball. In the daylight it may not call the ball, it may just get a flash from the meatball, which is the lighting system that corrects its glide slope. We can see this S3 now coming in on final. We will watch it carefully.

O'BRIEN: Frank, the information we have is that the high ranking official in here is Andy Card, the White House chief of staff. So let's -- you'll be able to see closer. Let's watch the landing.

PHILLIPS: Let's see what wire that he hits.

O'BRIEN: All right. How do you grade it guys?

BUCKLEY: Well that's certainly going to be at least -- go ahead Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I have an F-18 pilot here with me.

O'BRIEN: What'd he say?

PHILLIPS: He's actually the one I'm going to fly with. I'm going to have him grade it right now. This is Lieutenant Ken Rogers.

LT. KEN ROGERS, U.S. NAVY: It looks like they're pulling the retract back on the wire. It looks like he probably caught a three or four wire so he was (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when he came in for that landing.

O'BRIEN: All right. I don't see anything there that says Navy One so I'm going to guess this is as we were told Andy Card on board that aircraft there, White House chief of staff and we will be watching (UNINTELLIGIBLE) come in now as he lines up for the meatball and that would jive with what you were just told, Frank Buckley, about the president's aircraft not doing the carrier break.

What are you seeing from where you sit, Frank Buckley? BUCKLEY: Well, it is -- this is the aircraft that is now as you say lining up, getting ready to come in on final. You're right. The aircraft that's carrying the President should have painted on Navy One and it should also say President George Bush on it. This is the plane. I will once again as it comes over the ramp let everyone listen along as the plane lands and let's watch it. Here it comes. The pilot's worst fear of course to miss the cables, but let's see what happens.

PHILLIPS: Miles, this is Kyra. Can you hear me?

BUCKLEY: Navy One is aboard.

O'BRIEN: All right. It looks like Navy One's aboard. Kyra, what do you know?

PHILLIPS: OK. Here you go. I'm going to have Lieutenant Ken Rogers tell you how that trap went with Navy One.

ROGERS: It looks like he ran into the four wire there. It was a pretty good approach just a little bit high, came all the way down and touched down. He's folding his wings and getting out of the landing area.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. All right.

PHILLIPS: Lieutenant Ken Rogers right there.

O'BRIEN: Navy One. Navy One. We have confirmed the sighting of Navy One. The President in the right hand seat, left hand window as it faces your screen here but it's kind of mirrored there so it's difficult to make anything out.

A four wire, Frank, that's not ideal. A three wire's the best, right?

PHILLIPS: Three wire, Miles.

BUCKLEY: The problem with the four wire, the pilots -- now that was a four wire that he hit and the problem with the four wire is of course if you ...

O'BRIEN: Go ahead.

BUCKLEY: That's right. The three is the ideal and he hit the four in that case. The problem with the four of course is if you go beyond four then you're missing it all together and there is sort of a running bet or joke on board that the pilot might (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but everyone that I've spoken with says this XO Skip Lucier (ph) who is in command of Navy One is a fantastic pilot and there was very little, if any, chance that that would happen. Right now they're chalking and chaining the aircraft and soon we should see the President in light.

O'BRIEN: Now Kyra Phillips, on the tail of this one and you see George W. Bush, Commander in Chief, in the left seat there would be the executive who did the flying but the tail on this one has the insignia of the squadron and only certain planes have that. Is that correct?

PHILLIPS: That's right. This is the sea control squadron 35, the Blue Wolves, their the S3B Viking squadron here on the USS Abraham Lincoln Miles based out of North Island, California and I can tell you they were all pretty excited. You probably see right now in the side of the aircraft they had the President's name on the side of the aircraft in addition to the Blue Wolves insignia and of course Navy One. They've been working on painting this plane and getting it ready especially for the President and his visit.

O'BRIEN: All right. Give us quickly because it's worth pointing out that the rainbow of colors that you see on the deck, I don't want to put you guys on the spot but each of these jerseys signifies a specific job. Kyra, let's start with yellow. What does the yellow person do?

PHILLIPS: That's right. Well there's yellow, white, purple ...

O'BRIEN: It looks like red or orange and green.

PHILLIPS: You got it and I'm actually -- I could go down the list. I've got Lieutenant Ken Rogers here with me. He's the F-18 pilot that I'm going to fly with. Miles, I'm going to pass the phone over to him and he's much better with details. Hold on a second.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let's start with -- Lieutenant ...

ROGERS: A lot of different colors as far as the flight deck.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Yellow first. Give us yellow.

ROGERS: Yellow guys are the guys that taxi around. They're the flight tech coordinators and the red shirts that ordering the Army up out there. Purple shirts are the grapes we call them and they fuel up your aircraft. The blue shirts, sort of the yellow shirts in training. They'll chalk and chain the aircraft and get you tied down just before they take out the President like they're doing right now.

O'BRIEN: What about green? Did we lose him?

PHILLIPS: Sorry about that, Miles. We had a little bit of a -- little bit of a glitch there.

O'BRIEN: The one we're missing is green, the green shirt.

PHILLIPS: The green shirts, those are the guys that get us all suited up. As a matter of fact, they make sure every pilot has all their equipment, their flight suit's are ready to go, their oxygen masks are good to go so more than likely it was a green shirt that's going to take care of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) equipment.

O'BRIEN: There's the president seeing the salutes and there he is on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. It looks like no worse for the wear after his first capture. I don't know how many hours he has in fighters but ...

PHILLIPS: He looks like a fighter pilot.

O'BRIEN: Yes. He's got the look, doesn't he? Yeah. That's ...

PHILLIPS: He sure does. Look at the stroll.

O'BRIEN: I'm telling you, that is the fighter pilot strut if I ever saw it. He's got it going.

PHILLIPS: Tom Cruise look at him.

O'BRIEN: Yeah. It's not the most comfortable thing to be standing up in. We'll just leave it at that.

Judy Woodruff is in Washington.

PHILLIPS: And those are his pilots.

O'BRIEN: And they're the pilots. Hardy handshakes to the executive officer there, a four wire but we're not going to hold him, we'll give him an A.

All right. Judy Woodruff in Washington.

WOODRUFF: Miles and Kyra and Frank, I don't know what more I can add but we are watching President Bush as he strides across the deck of the Abraham Lincoln saluting, being saluted to, wearing the uniform of a pilot. He -- and for all we know maybe he took the controls for a few minutes while that plane, the S3B Viking, came onto the deck.

The president is going to be spending the night on the Abraham Lincoln and as I think Miles said, looking none the worse the wear. He had about a 15 or 20 minute -- not even 20 minutes. He took off let's see maybe about a little under 20 minute flight and it came in without a hitch as far as we could tell. The President very much wearing the garb of a pilot because he was there in the co-pilot seat, shaking hands, greeting the crew, no doubt thanking all of them for the work that they've done up and down the ranks throughout not only the war in Iraq but in the period leading up to the war. As we know, the Abraham Lincoln has been out at sea for 10 months, away from home. The president will be on board this carrier as it reaches port, reaches home base, San Diego tomorrow and very much a part of the celebration as these Navy men an Navy women are reunited with their families.

O'BRIEN: Judy ...

WOODRUFF: This is -- go ahead, Miles.

O'BRIEN: You couldn't ask for a better photo opportunity for anybody involved in politics. You almost have to expect to see the film cameras there filming commercials for the campaign. This is -- this is a moment to remember.

WOODRUFF: Miles, you may be right about the campaign commercial. We can -- you know you can almost expect that the people who are worried about that right now are thinking whoa, what a great picture.

O'BRIEN: I would say in the annals of White House travel the logistics on this one have got to be up there among the most -- let's a -- let's go back to Kyra. Kyra knows some of these people because she's been -- spent an awful lot of time on the Lincoln.

Kyra, who are those folks that he's shaking hands with right now?

PHILLIPS: Right now he's shaking hands with all three F-18 squadrons, the FA 113, the Stingers, FA 115, the Eagles and also VFA 25, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fleet. These are all the F-18 pilots and all the colored shirts that are in the squadron that he's mingling with. They're all out there suited up ready to go. The whole point was to have them lined up on the flight deck so the President could mingle, shake hands and kind of meet and greet. This is pretty amazing, Miles, because it's sort of an open forum for the President for all these pilots. They were just allowed to come out and gather and just have time with the President and I'm also told the President is just sort of winging this. They're letting him spend as much time as he wants out there to meet and greet and talk with these F-18 pilots and all the men and women involved in the various squadrons that help those pilots of course get off the deck.

O'BRIEN: Winging it indeed I'd say, Kyra. I guess a ...

PHILLIPS: No pun intended.

O'BRIEN: It quickly became a foul deck as they call it, Frank Buckley, as that gaggle of people surrounded him, everybody wanting to press the flesh and grab a picture.

Frank, what do you see from your vantage point?

BUCKLEY: Well I'm in the Vulture's Row (ph) area looking right down on the President right now shaking hands with the F-18 pilots themselves. When he came off the aircraft he shook a few hands and then was greeted by the senior leadership on the aircraft carrier, the Cag (ph). Kevin Albright (ph) who's in charge of the air wing, Ken Bocard (ph), the Captain and Rear Admiral John Kelly (ph) the Battle Group Commander but this is -- this is the moment that all these folks had been waiting for who are actually on the deck to meet their Commander in Chief, their military leader and he is the man that they have been following into battle recently in Iraq. This aircraft carrier very involved along with several others that were involved in Iraq out of the Persian Gulf, the Lincoln and the Persian Gulf along with the Kittyhawk and the Constellation and two aircraft carriers also working out of the Mediterranean.

Right now continuing to shake hands, the guys in the red shirts are the ordies, the guys who actually load the ammunitions, load the ordinance and those are some of the guys that he's shaking hands with right now. Everyone just standing, looking, exchanging a word. I wish we could listen into what they were saying but we're a little removed.

O'BRIEN: I would say he's got about 4,900 hands to shake yet. He's done about 100 and look who dropped in I guess is what you might say. Certainly this is a group of people that have all kinds of emotions flowing right now. The end of their cruise coupled with this, it's got to be, Kyra Phillips, a real -- a high, if you will and I don't mean that in the bad way. It's just got to be an emotional high for them.

PHILLIPS: Well, it's unprecedented. I mean this has never happened before and just the talk this morning, everybody was really excited. They were a bit nervous. Everybody was talking about hey, do you have your camera? Do you have your video camera? Do you have your film? I mean just look at these pictures. It's pretty amazing. These are young men and women. A lot of these young kids in the different colored shirts, I mean average age is 20 Miles. I mean a lot of teenagers out on that flight deck. This is something they've never ever imagined. They can't believe that -- they couldn't believe it when they heard the President was coming to board and it's pretty much all they've been talking about this morning and just excited to be able to be next to him and see him and shake his hand. It's definitely a highlight for them, 10 months out at sea, not being able to touch land or see friends and family.

They're on their way home. They haven't even seen their wives, their husbands, their kids yet but they get to see the President of the United States standing their with them. It's quite a photo opportunity as you can see and I can imagine this will probably happen for a good time. The President obviously accommodating everybody and enjoying himself. I also heard also through air wing commanders that the president was extremely excited about this and couldn't wait to get on the flight back -- couldn't wait to fly and also meet all these men and women.

O'BRIEN: All right. Well, we're going to have to find out in a little while if he logged any time in his pilot's log book, maybe got a refresher course in some aerobatics or a close formation flying. Who knows but more important let's talk a little bit about what the president's mission is here. In addition to the morale boost, he is going to address the nation 9 p.m. Eastern time tonight. You know, Judy, as I look at this, he's not going to use the V word, victory. This sure feels like a victory lap to me.

WOODRUFF: It sure does, Miles. The president out there congratulating these troops and troops across the globe. This is emblematic of his way of saying thank you to American servicemen and women just as we've seen Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad yesterday. Today he's in Afghanistan but yesterday he was in Iraq thanking servicemen and women for an extraordinary job done in not only his words but the words of the generals involved.

The president, we know, you're right, will not use the word victory but he will pronounce what happened in Iraq as a successful military combat operation, which it clearly was. What he will not go onto say is that the war is completely over. He will say that the major combat phase of the operation in Iraq is over but that the reconstruction and the rebuilding phase is just beginning and we know that's appropriate to say because there are still some fighting going on. There are still skirmishes. Just in the last few days U.S. troops have been firing at protesters, anti-American protesters in Iraq.

A number of Iraqis have died this week at the hands of U.S. troops. It is still a very tense and a very dicey situation in Iraq. So the president really could hardly say that everything is over.

And as we pointed out earlier, that to say that victory is here, the war is over, would then trigger, you know, a number of steps that would have to be taken with regard to releasing prisoners of war, with regard to the role of the U.S. in Iraq. And by doing -- by saying what the president says tonight, he leaves the door open for future decisions to be made down the road.

But the president will make that speech, 9:00 tonight on board the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. And he'll spend the night on board the carrier. You're watching President Bush just a matter of, say, 10 minutes after he landed in a four-seater Navy plane, an S- 3B Viking. Came on, was captured, as they say, his plane, by one of the wires. And a completely safe landing, safe flight, as far as we can tell.

The president now getting around the deck, shaking hands, getting pictures taken with so many of the air -- the Navy men and women who have lived on this aircraft carrier for the last 10 months. This is the time where the president has to be feeling very good because of what happened in Iraq, but it is also what he and the people around him know to be a very complicated moment, because making the peace in Iraq -- almost anybody you talk to will say making peace in Iraq is going to be harder than winning the war.

They've got to find a way to bring stability to that country. When you've got warring religious and ethnic factions, the Kurds, the Shiite, the Sunnis, it is far from clear how all that is going to play out. We're still very early in the process.

President Bush posing for pictures right now with so many of these young men and women, Miles, who, as you said, must be thrilled to have their picture taken with him.

O'BRIEN: You know, Judy, just watching the steady stream of conversations, pressing the flash, the pictures, you know, whatever -- and everybody has an opinion about what has happened and will happen in Iraq. But whatever you may say, you have to be impressed with this group of young people there who are asked to do difficult, dangerous jobs for periods of time which are truly a challenge, physically, emotionally. And you look at them and they're smiling and they've got fresh faces, and you can't help but be proud of this country that produces such wonderful young men and women.

And as we continue -- this photo op could go on for a long time. As we say, there's a crew of 5,000. I suppose everybody wants a picture.

Let's take a look one more time at the landing. It was a four wire, which is not the A-plus landing, but we're not going to quibble. It didn't bolter, which is the thing nobody wanted. That would mean missing the wire and heading off the edge of the deck and onward, full throttles blaring and flying off.

It would have been an interesting ride. And Frank Buckley was telling us a little bit about that. It will be interesting, Frank, to hear from the XO about the flight and what -- if he has an honest assessment of President Bush's stick and rudder capabilities.

BUCKLEY: Yes. I'm looking forward to hearing from the XO about what it was like. I suspect he'll say, look, it was just another flight with an honoree aboard, a very important honoree, my commander in chief.

And one thing I wanted to mention, as we look at the pictures of the president shaking hands of these young people, you'll notice that a lot of their float (ph) coats, the different colored jerseys that they're wearing and the exterior vests that they're wearing, they're dirty. They look like they've been working.

And the instruction that they got out on the ship was, don't go off and scrub everything down. Don't give it a battle paint. That is, to paint over the top of everything.

You know, of course have the ship the way you'd want it to be presented to your president. But they didn't want these guys going off and getting all cleaned up. They wanted this to remain a working warship. And the uniform of the day is just the working uniform.

They were not told to wear their dress whites, any sort of a formal occasion sort of uniform. They are wearing their working uniform of the day.

One little point that I wanted to make that I can observe, and I don't think that you can, as you see the president, also mingling among the crowd, Condoleezza Rice and Ari Fleischer, also shaking hands and smiling and talking to some people who probably have not had an opportunity to meet them. And they are simply wandering around on the deck and working the crowd as well.

Really quite a sight. Something that I know I've never seen. And we've certainly never seen a sitting president take a trap and get recovered on an aircraft carrier.

O'BRIEN: Well, now you mentioned Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. Were they in the plane that preceded the president? Or had they been there?

BUCKLEY: No, there were two cods (ph) two C-2 Greyhounds that landed ahead of the Vikings, and it's my belief that they were on one of those aircraft, because we hadn't seen them on the ship earlier, and then they appeared on the deck. So I believe they came on just before the president did.

O'BRIEN: Now this is the -- that -- excuse me, S-3B that flew in prior to the president carrying Andy Card, the White House chief of staff. We're looking at a replay there. And these pictures are something. Really, it's quite a scene. It's got to be -- we say it was an emotional high for the crew. You know it's got to be a lot of fun for the president as well. Kyra Phillips, what are you seeing?

PHILLIPS: Hi. Right now, I'm seeing the president up close and personal, down from the flight deck. And he's continuing to mingle, of course, with all the various squadrons. He's got three F-18 squadrons down there on the deck, Miles, with all the colored shirts involved in the squadrons, taking pictures with the president.

You've got VFA-113, the fighter attack squadron, the Stingers. You've also got the FA-115, the fighter attack squadron, the Eagles. And that's the Super Hornet squadron, the F18-E squadron. And then also VFA-25 fighter attack squadron (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fleet.

And then all the different colored shirts, of course, we've been talking about. Now you're seeing the wide shot, all of them on the deck.

O'BRIEN: Hey, Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Yes?

O'BRIEN: The president has gotten within microphone shot, if you will. Let's see if we can overhear some of these conversations for just a moment.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let's listen in.

O'BRIEN: Well, actually, it isn't as clear as we would hope it to be. Of course he's not saying anything right at the moment here.

BUCKLEY: Well, Miles, if I can...

O'BRIEN: Yes, go ahead, Frank.

BUCKLEY: You know you can't really overstate how big a deal this is for some of these young folks, in particular. You know, this is -- in the Navy, you've seen it in the movies when the admiral comes into a room, the captain comes into the room, you hear attention on deck and people stand at attention. That kind of stuff really happens in the military.

And you know this is their ultimate leader, their commander-in- chief. So the lack of conversation may be the idea of, look, what do you say to the president, what do you say to the commander-in-chief?

O'BRIEN: That's a good point. What do you say?

BUCKLEY: So there's just a lot of smiles and handshakes.

O'BRIEN: The only thing they might...

PHILLIPS: If I can just...

O'BRIEN: Yes, go ahead. PHILLIPS: Miles, if I can interject. You saw him taking the picture with all the green shirts. The green shirts, they're the ones that hook the planes to the catapult and handle the arresting wire. So just imagine what they were thinking as the president's aircraft was coming in and they were making sure those wires ready to go.

O'BRIEN: Yes. You want to make sure everything is ship-shape, as they say. And like I said, it's not the most comfortable suit in the world to be standing in, the flight suit, the way it's all rigged up with the parachute and so forth. The president making his way in...

PHILLIPS: Water survival.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, I mean, I just -- the president actually had to go through a lot of effort to arrive this way. Obviously, really wanted to do this, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: That's true. You'll see him right now. Obviously the G suit, my guess is his harness is a little tight down there by his legs. You'll see one of the F-18 pilots helping him loosen it up. They're taking off the water survival vest right now.

And in that water survival vest, of course, you've got the inflatable that you're able to pull so you can float in the water. You've got your whistle. You've got your color cards. You've got all the various survival necessities, the radio.

And when he went through his water survival training to come out and do this, he had to learn what was in every single pocket, so if, indeed, he had to get out of that aircraft, he knew where everything was to survive and be able to tread water before a rescue helicopter came to him. Obviously, we didn't have to get that far. We didn't see that.

That's great news. He landed without any issues. But it's all about being prepared, and he was, indeed.

He spent time going through that water survival class and doing the chamber, the oxygen chamber and the dunker, and learning how to basically combat any type of situation that could occur if, indeed, he had to escape from that aircraft and be able to survive in the water until a rescue helicopter came. A lot of intense training goes into flying in an aircraft when you're flying above water.

The Navy is extremely strict about that no matter who you are, including the president of the United States. If you're flying over water in a Navy aircraft, you've got to complete water survival and have a full physical and make sure the heart is good, the head is good, and if, indeed, anything were to go wrong, you would know how to survive and how to get out of that aircraft.

And obviously, the president of the United States made it through that water survival. I'm told had a really good time. And now he's on the deck greeting all of the fighter pilots and squadron members that carried out Operation Iraqi Freedom, Miles. O'BRIEN: All right. I'll tell you what, let's -- you mentioned the training. Let's bring Chris Burns in, who is at the point where the president embarked on his journey.

Chris, like I said before, I can only imagine this whole trip, when the Secret Service got a hold of it, it must have given them fits 40 different ways. But the fact that he went through all that training, in and of itself, is kind of dangerous, isn't it?

BURNS: Well, absolutely, Miles. That training involving, of course, preparing for what could be if the plane did have to ditch, the president would have to be prepared for that. So a lot of difficult practice for that in these tanks, getting very wet, the president getting very wet.

A lot of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he's watching and making sure that everything remained safe. Of course the president did want to fly on an F-18 and the Secret Service nixed that because they said it was only a two-seater. It would only be the president and the pilot. There wouldn't be his Secret Service agent on that plane, on that S- 3B.

So a number of things that obviously the Secret Service wanted to be very, very careful about as the president did this. But it was very important to the president. This is a first for a president to fly and to land as a carrier landing, this sort of so-called crash -- remote controlled crash landing, which is what they call an arrested landing on an aircraft carrier. That is a first.

And of course, also, the first tonight being of a president delivering an address on an aircraft carrier that is steaming on the high seas. And so the president found that very important, even though it probably gave a lot of headaches to a lot of Secret Service agents, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Yes, I've been trying to find the service there. I think as you look at the shot looking down, the gentleman kind of mid lower left there appears to be -- he has the owl-like pan of a Secret Service agent. But clearly, I think once he was safe and sound on the deck, I'm sure they all breathed a sigh of relief. He certainly is in a safe place right now, isn't he, Chris?

BURNS: Well he certainly is. And the president, of course, will be on that carrier, spending the night after he visits with the servicemen and women on that aircraft carrier, 5,000 of them there. The president also will be having lunch with them, and they will have a little bit of down time before he gives that speech at 9:00 Eastern Time.

And he will spend the night on the aircraft carrier and then take a helicopter back to San Diego because, at that point, the carrier will be close enough -- right now, it's more than 100 miles off shore. That is another reason why they had to take an airplane, as opposed to a helicopter.

The president will take a copter back to San Diego and then fly on to Santa Clara, where he'll make another somewhat military-related appearance. He will be going to a factory that builds the Bradley and Hercules fighting vehicles. Once again, the president making an appearance to promote his economic program, his tax cut, while at the same time trying to show that he does remain very, very popular as a wartime president, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Well -- and, of course, the lessons of his father, I'm sure, are -- well, they're probably not on his mind right this minute, but they are on his mind, with that tremendous popularity post-war, translating that into support for domestic programs and, thus, enduring support that fades once the war has faded from some people's memory. That's obviously very important for the White House right now.

BURNS: Absolutely. You might fast rewind, flashback to 12 years ago in 1991, when President Bush, Sr. had won Gulf War I, but in the following year was unable to get reelected because Bill Clinton attacked him on the economy question.

There is, right now, unemployment at 5.8 percent. The president would like to push through a tax bill of at least $550 billion in tax cuts over the next 10 years. A lot of criticism, even from within his own party, about whether that should be passed, whether that would be enough to create jobs.

The president contending that it will create a million jobs in the next year and a half, but a lot of economists also dispute that. And even the head of the Federal Reserve Board, Mr. Greenspan, is even questioning the idea of tax cuts as a way to stimulate jobs.

So President Bush facing this issue. Of course, he hasn't declared his candidacy for reelection, but a no-brainer among most political observers that he probably will seek reelection. And, in that case, he has to prove himself not only the international side, but also on the domestic side. And as you see some of the polls coming out in recent days and weeks, voters are now focusing more on the economy than they are on terrorism and on Iraq, Miles.

O'BRIEN: Let's send it back to Frank Buckley, who is on the deck there somewhere, or looking down on the deck on the Lincoln. You know, Frank, I don't know if you've got into many political discussions when you were on board during the war in Iraq, but I suspect if this were a voting precinct and there was an election, there would be high, high percentages in favor of President Bush. Do you detect a lot of support for him, enduring support?

BUCKLEY: Well, certainly, Miles. You know it is difficult to get into a deep political discussion with young military folks who want to make sure that they don't say anything that they shouldn't say.

But we did find, when we were on USS Constellation, which is where I was embedded in the Persian Gulf, we were able to talk to them. And, you know, this president does have a great deal of support among the ranks that I've spoken with in the military. We should also say that, before the hostilities began, many of the people were telling me that they wished that there was more international support, that they had hoped there had been more international support, and they were able to at least say that.

So, yes, this president does have the support of these young men and women here. But they -- you know they don't march in lockstep with every thought that every leader tells them to think. They all have their own personal opinions. It's just a little difficult to get it -- get them to share that with you, because they do want to say the right thing.

Just so you know, where we are right now on the island, we can see now that the president has entered the structure that we are in. Ari Fleischer just standing outside. And the crew on the deck itself is now spreading to its -- to their various positions, preparing for flight operations that will get underway shortly.

We're going to be seeing three squadrons of F-18s roaring off this deck shortly. And so people are getting into position to begin that evolution of things to come here on the USS Abraham Lincoln -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Frank, they barely missed a beat. They're right back to work, start getting ready to launch some aircraft. One of the aircraft that will be leaving very shortly will be carrying one Kyra "Blowout" Phillips. Kyra, are you suited up and ready?

PHILLIPS: I'm suited up and ready. As a matter of fact, I've got to go walk now. We're going to get into the aircraft.

I'm told the president is actually going to watch us all launch off the deck, Miles. So I guess the pressure is on for all these pilots to have a good launch. And, by the way, you're going to have to stop with the "Blowout" call sign. I ended up getting a new one.

O'BRIEN: What is it?

PHILLIPS: "Sugar Mama." And it comes from Wynn Whitman (ph), the green shirt that helped me suit up with my equipment. He was in one of my live shots with the F-18 squadron, the Stingers.

And he asked me if I knew Barbara Walters. And I said, "No, that's the wrong network, Wynn (ph). We're CNN." He goes, "Well, I really wanted her to be your sugar mama."

I said, "Well, guess what? You're going to have to have a CNN sugar mama." So I went into the PR (ph) shop to get my helmet and my gear, and sure enough, on the back of my helmet, in big letters "Sugar mama."

O'BRIEN: "Sugar Mama." I like that a lot. I hope you're getting plenty of photographic documentation of that.

All right. Lay it out for us. Tell us when you're launching, where you're going, what you're doing.

PHILLIPS: You got it. Right now, we're going to get all our equipment on and make the walk to the aircraft, do the last checks, maintenance checks on the aircraft. And then you'll see the three squadrons taking off.

It takes about a minute for each aircraft to launch, Miles. Three different F-18 squadrons that are taking off. The Stingers, the Eagles and the Fist (ph) of the Fleet.

We'll take you live inside the cockpit. We'll be table to talk to you on deck. And I'll even talk to you as we launch off the aircraft.

So for the first time on live television, keep our fingers crossed, all our technical stars will be in line. You will be able to hear and at least see and get a sense for what it's like to be in the cockpit when a jet takes off. It should be pretty exciting.

O'BRIEN: Now, Kyra, while you've been talking, we've been showing imagery of our destination, the Lemoore Naval Air Station. Now that -- of course, on an F-18, if they lift the after burners, you'd be there lickety split. I hope you're getting a little bit of a detour to explore the envelope of flight, shall we say.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely, yes. Lieutenant Ken Rogers, call sign "Skate Rat," he's my pilot, he's in the Stinger squadron. What we're going to do is, all the aircraft are going to come together in formation and we're going to get in a slot and be able to shoot. I'll have a camera with me in the cockpit and I will shoot the entire formation.

We'll be on top and on the bottom and all around the sides. He's promised me a couple nice turns and from all angles and directions. Now, I told him he's not allowed to make me sick until I've turned the camera off. And then he can do all the dogfighting that he wants.

But the most important thing is for us to be able to get all those jets in formation as they're heading home, thinking about their families, thinking about what they did over the past 10 months. I've got to tell you, they are so excited, and that's all they've been talking about in the ready room is how they can't wait to have their families there on the ground. They can't wait to see them as they're coming in to Lemoore for that landing.

And we'll bring you that feeling and the emotion and the pictures airborne. And as soon as I land, I'll get them on the air and show them to you.

O'BRIEN: Now, Kyra, I've got to ask you, do you think it's right to be censoring your own mal d'air?

PHILLIPS: Miles, knock on wood, I have never gotten sick before, so let's hope it doesn't happen this time. Last thing I need is a third call sign.

O'BRIEN: So "Blowout" was...

PHILLIPS: Especially from you. O'BRIEN: "Blowout" was a misunderstanding, then?

PHILLIPS: Yes, "Blowout" comes from when I caught the carrier (UNINTELLIGIBLE) during the war. Unfortunately, I got sick and was down in the medical ward on an I.V. for a couple days because of this awful virus that was traveling on the carrier. It had nothing to do with the flying, thank goodness.

O'BRIEN: All right, Sugar Mama. You march your way toward your jet and insist on a little bit of stick and rudder time there. I think you're well up to the occasion.

And have a great, safe flight. We'll be listening and watching for you as you disembark probably -- are you going to take off in about an hour?

PHILLIPS: Yes. I think we're going to be live at 5:00 p.m. Eastern during Wolf Blitzer's show. That's the game plan.

O'BRIEN: All right. We will be watching for that.

Frank Buckley, you've had your time in various high performance naval aircraft. What's in store for Kyra? Is Frank still there? I think we have lost Frank Buckley. The president is still in the process of shaking -- oh, actually, this is some tape.

BUCKLEY: Can you hear me?

O'BRIEN: Frank Buckley, there you are. I just was going to ask you, you know you've had a chance to fly in just about every aircraft the Navy has. What's in store for Kyra as she catapults off that deck in an hour or so?

BUCKLEY: I've had a chance to fly most recently in the F-18 Super Hornet, Miles, and it is, to say the least, a dynamic experience. In fact, I took off and landed at Lemoore.

It is incredible the physical forces that you experience in these aircraft. And these guys do it all the time and make it look easy. We were involved, in the flight that I went on, in a dogfight with another Super Hornet, inverted several times. And just trying to keep your eyes on the jet as it's flying by, trying to keep your sense of where the horizon is, is enough to make most people ill.

Now I was pretty proud of the fact that I came back with an empty bag, but it was only because they -- after they did that dogfight, they took it easy on me for a few minutes. But these guys automatic make it look easy, they do it all the time. And the stresses on the body are tremendous. It is truly an exhausting experience.

O'BRIEN: All right, Frank Buckley. Thanks very much.

I know I had an opportunity a few years ago to fly with the Thunderbirds and they pulled me to 9 Gs and I got a terrible case of whiplash. But you can never let on to a fighter pilot if you're feeling poorly, can you, Frank? BUCKLEY: Those guys are tremendous in terms of their ability to withstand it. They -- you know when you're taking those multiple G turns, what happens is -- and you know, Miles -- it feels as though hundreds of pounds are weighing down on you. You physically feel it pushing down against you.

You hear yourself grunting. And they know how to deal with it somehow. And they come out of it and they get out of the jet and it's another day at the office. The rest of us, we go take a nap.

O'BRIEN: All right. Frank Buckley, godspeed to you out there. Have a safe remainder of your cruise, as you steam in to port on board the Abraham Lincoln.

Kyra departing shortly. We'll of course bring that to you.

Here's a headline for you: "President Bush Captured." That's what we saw today. Captured in not that sense, of course.

A little piece of history. And more history to come as the president addresses the nation, 9:00 p.m. Eastern from the deck of the Abraham Lincoln to button up at least a phase of the war in Iraq. Not declaring victory, but ending a phase of the conflict there. We'll, of course, bring you live and comprehensive coverage of that.

That's all the time we have for LIVE FROM. I'm Miles O'Brien at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Thanks to all of our team for bringing us those great pictures and that excellent reporting.

Up next, Judy Woodruff is back with "INSIDE POLITICS." Stay with CNN.

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