F-35C Mishap on the USS Carl Vinson 1/24/22

9 months 1 week ago #17436 by Westcoast
You may remember hearing about a F-35C crash on the carrier Carl Vinson last January.  It got a good deal of press at the time, including bootleg video of the aircraft skidding along the deck and  then dropping into the South China Sea.  Here is a link:

It's from another of the UTube channels to which I subscribe (I do this so you don't have to).  It is a channel hosted by a retired naval aviator named Ward Carroll, who goes by "Mooch".  His channel is interesting for all things military aviation related, including the Russia/Ukraine conflict.  This episode is a recorded livestream between Ward and two colleagues, all of whom flew F-14s and/or F-18s off carriers in the 80s and 90s.  This episode is particularly interesting for two things: (1) the enormous difficulty and complexity of carrier landings compared to even the most challenging land landing, if that term makes any sense.  Check out the diagram of the standard carrier approach and landing.  Imagine doing this at night and in high seas. and (2)  The story about the gradual evolution of increasingly sophisticated guidance systems for carrier landings, starting with the meatball and LSO flags and proceeding to the addition of autothrottles to the F-14, evolving through the systems for the F-18, to the "PLM" system for the F-35.  While not completely automated, the PLM is apparently something like an ILS display which only requires the pilot to hold pitch and roll within fiducials and routinely sets the aircraft down to catch a particular wire on the carrier deck, and accomplishes all this without a "tractor" beam from the carrier.  That would be like an ILS that required no equipment installation at the destination airfield.  It seems that the Vinson incident either involved a failure in the PLM (this is the first operational carrier squadron with the F-35C and only five months into her first deployment), or the failure of the pilot to get his aircraft into the "start box: (my words) for the system.

I was fortunate to work with several Navy carrier pilots while I was working in a joint Air Force/Navy communication satellite program office back in the early nineties.  So, I have heard enough carrier landing stories (over beers) to convince me that carrier pilots must have nerves of steel.


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