May 9, 2017

HAPPY LANDINGS: New Carrier Landing Tech Wows Pilots on First Deployment.

On the Bush, a Nimitz-class carrier, pilots have 786 feet of flight deck to work with, less than a tenth of a traditional runway length. But the requirements of landing are far more precise; pilots told they needed to fly the nose of the aircraft through a an imaginary box about one foot across in order to properly align their descent and snag a landing cable. On a dark night, Hornet pilots have described the experience of executing such a landing on a carrier as “emotional.”

One pilot assigned to the wing’s Strike Fighter Squadron 87, the Golden Warriors, which flies the F/A-18E Super Hornet, said the use of the new technology had caused accuracy rates to skyrocket — so much so that the target arresting cable, usually the second of three on the Bush, was wearing out faster than the others and had to be rotated.

“We were statistically too accurate,” said “JoJo,” the training officer for VFA-87, who asked to be identified by his callsign.

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, head of Naval Air Forces, said something similar last August about the carrier-variant F-35C, which was designed with native PLM technology, known in that platform as Delta Flight Path.

“They were landing in the same spot on the runway every time, tearing up where the hook touches down,” he told a Washington, D.C. audience about field testing of the capability. “So we quickly realized, we needed to either fix the runway or adjust, put some variants in the system. So that’s how precise this new system is.”

That’s not a bad problem to have.

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