Hard, Exciting & Dangerous: USN Carrier Pilot Pilots at Work

To enable you to appreciate the hard, exciting – and extremely dangerous (particularly in inclement weather and at night) work of today’s U.S. Navy Carrier pilots, we’ll start out with some fair weather operations, all using the Boeing F/A-18F “Super Hornet” strike fighters of the current Navy inventory, and then move on to some videos taken during bad weather operations.  This first video shows you what the experience is like during fair weather, this clip is only 2:06 long.

The below Naval Aviator’s helmet says “No PRO” but after you watch him land his F/A-18F on an aircraft carrier, we think you’ll agree that he is a true professional. When you think about it, unlike Air Force and land based Marine pilots, Naval Aviators on shipboard always have an audience when they land on board a carrier, so they are at least more strongly motivated to perform at a higher level.  But, regardless, audience or not, this type of landing a high-speed jet fighter is vastly more dangerous than landing the same type of fighter on land – – – at an airfield.

Next, below, we’re going to show you what’s involved during bad weather and night operations, using the same FA-18 Hornet Aircraft.  Here, then, are two https://www.pbs.org/ produced videos to give you this bad weather ops insight.  Each is clip approximately 10 minutes in length.  You’ve seen what flying the Hornet is like during good weather, above, and now you’ll witness the huge difference during night and foul weather operations.

With a “pitching” deck, getting safely back aboard the carrier becomes, at times, almost impossible, and is fraught with extreme difficulty – – – and danger.  Watch as pilots on the USS Nimitz miss numerous attempts to land, but end up “bolting” (failure to land with need to go back up and “around”), all while simultaneously devouring their valuable load of fuel during the futile or aborted attempts to put their fighter safely back down on board.  This heavy fuel consumption resulting because of the numerous “boltings” poses new problems, requiring the ship to launch even more aircraft tankers just to refuel the fighters.

Notice the large flight deck oriented crew that it takes to make these kinds of operations successful – each one playing a vital team role in the success of each aircraft “recovery” (return and landing on the ship), as well as each successful launch.

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