Pilots who make it safely to the deck of an aircraft carrier have seen the light.
- By Sam Goldberg
- Air & Space magazine, May 2005
Naval Air Warfare Center
(Page 2 of 2)
If a pilot sees amber, he is seeing the meatball through the upper part of the IFLOLS window, and his wheels should hit the deck. But if the meatball turns pinkish or red—meaning he’s seeing one of the bottom two cells—the poop deck is just seconds away, so he should pull up and peel off for a second try.
Under normal circumstances—average wind and seas—the ideal glide slope is centered at 3.5 degrees above the deck, which equates to 14.1 feet of clearance between aircraft hooks and the aft edge of the deck. But according to F/A-18 pilot Matthew Pothier, a former LSO school officer in charge, stormy seas can call for adjustments: “If the aircraft carrier is [pitching up and down] plus or minus 10 feet…that clearance factor starts to get a lot lower than 14.1 feet, because the lens itself—the meatball—is stabilized not to the aircraft’s movement but to the horizon, basically. So we’ll go ahead and adjust that glide slope up to four degrees. That’s usually the maximum we’ll land at, and that’s going to give us more hook-to-ramp clearance, basically—a couple more feet.”
Conversely, if winds are high, the glide slope will actually be lowered.
And if the glide slope is flown perfectly—“What we always want guys doing is flying the ball all the way to touchdown,” says Krasinski—each aircraft’s hook should smack the deck in the middle of the landing area’s four arresting cables, between the 2- and 3-wires.