Tag Archives: Steam catapult

New Navy and Marine Pilots Qualify for 1st Carrier Landings

Once again, from our ever alert Aviation News Scout, Virg Hemphill, comes another great video post regarding Naval Aviator in training – – – when they are ready for their first attempts to land  a fast moving jet on the mother ship – and Aircraft Carrier.

Virg and I were USAF jet pilots, so we didn’t have to endure this experience, in fact we not so jokingly used to refer to all Navy landings aboard ship as either good or bad “controlled crashes.”  That’s because, as you can see, there’s simply no such thing on an Aircraft Carrier as a “smooth” landing.

The arresting gear that so suddenly jerks your hurling machine to a sudden stop, simply cannot provide a “smooth” end of flight experience.  In fact, when you stop to think about the Navy shipboard landing process, if the pilots were not tightly constrained by a strong shoulder and seat harness, they’d likely be gravely injured or even killed by the sudden stop – as would they be had their plane hit a brick wall.  Of course the jets are purposely designed to be exceptionally strong, enough to safely take the sudden stops involved with every Carrier landing.

Without further ado, here’s “The Day of the Tests.”  It is 6:52 long.

When Air Force model aircraft are re-designed for Navy Carrier Service, they must be especially reinforced to be able to withstand the extreme landing forces they’ll have to endure.  The result is, of course, that the USN version of the jet will be considerably heavier because of the extra weight of the reinforcement metals involved.

As you can see in this video, there’s a tendency for understandably nervous new pilots to come in too high – – – and to thereby miss the arresting cable altogether.  One pilot even forgets to put his tail hook down.

One of the most difficult parts of the new carrier landing technique is for the fledgling pilots to remember to immediately put on full power the instant they touch the deck.

This must be done to be sure that, should the pilot not snag the arresting cable, they’ll have sufficient power to “go around” or make another attempt to land.  Missing the arresting cable is called a “bolter.”  Doing this sudden application of power upon touching down is an unnatural or non-instinctive procedure, yet critically necesary.  If it’s not done with precise timing, they risk rolling straight off the Carrier’s deck and into the ocean.

Your editor spent three years in the Navy before switching to the Air Force and found this videos’ pilots’ reference to the “Boat” as startling.  When I served in the Navy, one never used the term “boat” for a large ship, such as an aircraft carrier, so the acceptable language has certainly changed in the past fifty years!   We were literally scolded, if we referred to our ship as a boat!


Contrast Between AF Pilot’s Day & Their Navy Counterpart’s

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.