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The United States Navy has developed an incredible technique to help pilots land on aircraft carriers at night

Written by Bruno Teles
Published 14/06/2024 às 16:46
The United States Navy has developed an incredible technique to help pilots land on aircraft carriers at night
The world of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers is full of challenges, especially when it comes to landing planes at night. This task requires skill, courage and nerves of steel. Pilots have to trust their instincts while flying over the dark ocean, but the United States Navy has an ingenious method for making these landings safer and more effective. Photo: Navy Productions/Disclosure

The world of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers is full of challenges, especially when it comes to landing planes at night. This task requires skill, courage and nerves of steel. Pilots have to trust their instincts while flying over the dark ocean, but the United States Navy has an ingenious method for making these landings safer and more effective.

After a mission, the planes return to the aircraft carrier using one of three approaches depending on weather conditions: clear day, night, or inclement weather. Each approach follows specific procedures to ensure the safety of all aircraft by the United States Navy.

Air traffic controllers at the vessel's Air Traffic Control Center closely monitor returning planes. These controllers are responsible for ensuring that all planes land safely. They are as qualified as their civilian counterparts and can give orders that even officers must follow without question.

Flight operations on aircraft carriers follow a cycle that lasts around 90 minutes, involving 10 to 12 planes

The planes are launched at the beginning of each cycle to free up deck space, allowing the US Navy crew to reposition the other planes for the next landing. The landing method involves numbered prison cables on the deck. The pilots' main target is cable number three, which is in the ideal spot for a safe landing.

During landing, the pilot accelerates as much as possible to ensure that, if he does not catch the cable, the aircraft has enough power to take off again. This is known as a “bolter”. If the plane is unable to take off again, the pilot will need to eject.

During the night, adverse weather conditions make everything more difficult

United States Navy pilots enter a complex holding pattern called the “Marshall stack,” which functions like a stack of pancakes, with each plane at a different level. This helps maintain safe separation between planes.

On the deck of the aircraft carrier, Air Traffic Control monitors all aircraft. Crucial information about each plane is displayed on status panels and broadcast over the ship's internal TV system. This includes details such as fuel quantity, pilot name and landing attempts.

During landing, the United States Navy pilot approaches the aircraft carrier using the Instrument Landing System (ILS)

Which provides pitch and elevation signals to the pilot's display, helping him to correctly align the plane. United States Navy landing signal officers, positioned on both sides of the landing area, give verbal instructions to pilots via radio.

Conditions at sea could make landing even more difficult. Strong waves can cause the ship's stern to rise and fall dramatically, disorienting pilots. At these times, landing signal officers are essential, guiding pilots with precise commands.

When the plane touches the deck, the pilot feels the deceleration as he grabs one of the arresting cables.

This feeling is a relief and a sign of success after a challenging evolution. Precision is essential to ensure a safe landing. The skill and courage of US Navy pilots, combined with this ingenious method, make it possible to land on a moving aircraft carrier even in the most difficult conditions. This technique is a testament to the bravery and expertise of these aviators.

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Bruno Teles

I talk about technology, innovation, oil and gas. I update daily about opportunities in the Brazilian market. Agenda suggestion? Send it to brunotelesredator@gmail.com

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