New York – A Navy-backed dredging operation to clear bottom mud from around the USS Intrepid is complete, and high-powered tugboats are ready to drag the historic aircraft carrier from its Hudson River mooring, but there is no word when the ship will be moved to a New Jersey dry dock for a two-year overhaul.
A much-touted plan to move the 36,000-ton World War II relic on Nov. 6 was called off after the ship's rudder and four 15-foot propellers dug into the mud, thwarting efforts by tugboats to dislodge it.
Officials have indicated they plan a second try before winter sets in, but Suzanne Halpin, a spokeswoman for the floating military museum, said Thursday she had "nothing to announce" concerning a timetable.
The Navy hired a private contractor to clear mud from the ship's stern and starboard side, and the project was completed this week, said Pat Dolan, spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Navy Sea Systems Command. She said the dredging had removed more than 35,000 cubic yards of mud.
The Intrepid, a legendary Pacific war campaigner that survived torpedoes and five kamikaze plane attacks, is overdue for rehabilitation after sitting idle for 24 years at the Hudson's city-owned Pier 86.
The aging pier itself is to be demolished and rebuilt while the ship undergoes a $60 million overhaul at a dry dock in Bayonne, N.J.
On Thursday, Craig Rising, spokesman for McAllister Towing Inc., whose powerful tractor tugboats would handle the towing job, as they did on the first attempt, said his firm was waiting for a go-ahead from Intrepid officials. He said what matters is not the amount of mud but whether the propellers and shafts are clear.
"Does it need to be floating free? Probably not," he said.
Major warships such as aircraft carriers, which have a projected life span of 50 years, normally undergo extensive overhauls every eight years or so. Intrepid's last overhaul was in the 1960s, nearly a decade before it was decommissioned for the last time in 1974.
Slated for the scrapyard, it was rescued in 1981 by New York developer Zachary Fisher and turned into the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, a popular tourist attraction that has drawn 700,000 visitors annually.
Also soon to be moved is the Concorde supersonic jetliner that has been part of the Intrepid museum since 2004, when it was retired by British Airways. The sleek aircraft, which still holds the speed record for a commercial flight across the Atlantic, is destined for a temporary home at Floyd Bennett Field, a historic airport in Brooklyn.