NEWPORT NEWS (AP) -- USS Enterprise left Naval Station Norfolk for the last time.

The inactivated nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will be in Newport News Shipbuilding, where the nuclear fuel aboard the ship will be removed. It is the same shipyard where the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier was built.

About 100 shipbuilders who helped construct and maintain the ship during her 51-year career were aboard for her final voyage. The whistles and horns of docked ships and those at Newport News Shipyard blew to honor 'Big E's' return Thursday morning.

Several people were outside the Carrier Innovation Center at the yard to see the ship's arrival.

'With Enterprise at Pier 2, we have our oldest nuclear carrier at one end of the shipyard, and our newest Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) at the other end, in Dry Dock 12. These carriers represent our remarkable past and our bright future. They represent innovation, strength and diplomacy, and they represent the greatest shipbuilders in the world,' said said NNS President Matt Mulherin.

During her career, the ship took part in the blockade of the Cuban Missile Crisis, launched strike operations in Vietnam, and conducted combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

NNS will defuel the ship's eight reactors and prepare Enterprise for its transit to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS&IMF). The ship is scheduled to depart NNS in 2016.Enterprise was taken out of service in December and at that December 1, 2012 inactivation ceremony, Navy Secretary Ray Maybus announced another carrier will be named Enterprise, the ninth ship to bear the name.

CVN-80, the third Gerald Ford-class ship, will be built at Newport News and is tentatively set to be commissioned in 2021 and in operation by 2025.

-WF-06-18-13 0606GMT

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