Let it not be claimed that one’s daily flying of a fixed wing (contrasted to rotary winged) aircraft in the USAF is precisely the same as that when one is flying in the Navy. Without a doubt, the most significant difference between the two experiences is when it comes to landing and taking off.
The Navy (and some USMC) pilots don’t take their machines into the air the same way at all: The Naval aviator is literally – and violently – shot into the air – which is done by a huge steam driven catapult* apparatus aboard the Aircraft Carrier; while, on the other hand, the USAF pilot uses (unless flying a vertical take-off aircraft) a very stable or fixed-in-space long runway for the procedure. When it comes to landing, the difference experienced is even more dramatic – and without a doubt, the Naval Aviator’s experience is far more dangerous – – – and demanding.
The following two video clips were first made public by the Public Broadcasting System in cooperation with the Department of the Navy. They are laced with white-knuckled attempts at landing – one failed attempt after another – on the severely pitching Nimitz’ s seemingly minuscule landing platform or deck.
Everyone on board, from the Captain on the Bridge to the non-flying pilots down below at their live TV screens along with other crew members, all had their eyes fixed to their repeater screens as the airborne pilots struggled to safely land their racing jets back on board the mother ship. Would they all make is safely down – or not? And all their missed approaches were gobbling up their fuel, requiring them to be refueled by Carrier borne tankers, since the ship was more than 700 miles from the nearest safe shoreline.
So, let’s go aboard the USS Nimitz at sea – and not a typical day at sea – but a day with rough seas and a PITCHING DECK. Remember, you can take these videos to full screen mode and keep your sound turned up to get the most meaningful experience from these two cliff-hanger videos.
This first video is 10 thrilling minutes long – as is the second one, too.
* The newest USN Aircraft Carrier (the USS Ford) to join the fleet has a radically new launching catapult system, one that is magnetically, rather than steam driven:
EMALS. The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is designed to replace the steam catapult systems currently used on the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is the first carrier to use EMALS.
The two videos above are courtesy of the United States Navy.