August 12, 2011: After nearly 70 years of use, the Ouija (wee-gee) Board is being removed from the flight operations room in American aircraft carriers. This table with a 1:192 drawing of the flight deck on it, and its 1:192 models of aircraft, is being replaced with a computerized version. The Ouija Board was developed early in World War II, to keep track of all aircraft on the carrier deck, and what their status was (fueled, armed, waiting for movement to the hangar deck below, or ready for takeoff). This was particularly critical since you could have dozens of aircraft on the flight deck, in various stages of readiness for takeoff, or having just landed. On a shelf below the Ouija Board, was another one showing the hangar deck, where aircraft underwent maintenance, and were sometimes stored.
To avoid confusion and chaos, the obvious solution (a small scale model of the flight deck, set up in a room, in the towering “island” on the side of the flight deck, with a view of the flight deck) came to be. It was never replaced mainly because the Ouija Board worked so well, was cheap and did not break down. On the down side, each carrier had a slightly different method of using bolts, tacks and other devices on the model aircraft, to indicate their status. So as flight deck control personnel moved from carrier to carrier, they had to learn the new Ouija Board system.
The electronic Ouija Board is part of ADMACS (Aviation Data Management And Control System), a computer database system which tracks all aircraft activities, including use of spare parts, personnel and fuel. ADMACS also handles scheduling and makes all this information available to the hundreds of technical personnel in the Carrier Air Wing who are involved with maintaining, repairing and operating the aircraft.
ADMACS is to be fully implemented on all carriers by 2015. Currently, the ADMACS Ouija Board feature is implemented on only one carrier. ADMACS itself is an effort to combine, or just network, the many computerized aspects of aircraft operations aboard carriers. During World War II, there were no computers on board, and all control systems were manual. But computers began to show up in a big way during the 1980s, as PCs began appearing on carriers. Eventually, computers took over most data tracking and record keeping. ADMACS is the result of that trend, and is now closing in on the few remaining manual systems, like the Ouija Board.