As I mentioned on Friday, Parker was away last week getting qualified to land the jet on the carrier. This is a really big step in his Naval aviation journey and a dream come true for him. I wanted him to write it down before he forgot any details from this accomplishment (consequences of having a blogger for a wife), and I am really excited to share it with all of you. Take it away, Parker!
God has given me many blessings in my life. One of these blessings is the opportunity to serve my country in the United States Navy as a Student Naval Aviator (SNA). Naval aviation has a proud and distinguished history of carrier based flight operations. As you can imagine, a big milestone for any SNA is their first time to visit “the boat.”
For anyone that has read the blog for any amount of time, you know that I have been in training for a while. Since I have selected tailhook, I have known that at some point in my future I was going to be landing on a moving ship at sea. Despite countless hours in the airplane practicing for this culminating event, there are a lot of nerves associated for the first visit to the boat.
My first view of the boat was coming in a division with my “foxes.” From our vantage point at altitude, the boat looked more like a tugboat than an aircraft carrier. Exiting the marshal pattern to come in for the break was both exciting and terrifying. If there is one thing that we have learned from the guys (and gals) who have come before us, it is the importance of being on your A game around the ship.
As a student, we start out the first day at the boat with touch and go landings. The first time I rolled into the groove, my heart was pumping and adrenaline rushing. There are a few things that are more difficult than landing on shore. The ship (and thus the landing area) is constantly moving away from you (left to right). Also, the ball, our glide-slope indicator, is “heavier” due to the ship’s movement. Luckily, training kicks in and saves the day. After the Landing Signal Officer (LSO) thinks a student is safe to land aboard the ship, he instructs them to put their tail hook down.
My first arrested landing was a bit of a shocker. Imagine going from ~120 knots (140 mph) to stopped in 1 second. This is what I imagine driving my car into a brick wall might feel like (sans airbag deployment). After this car crash, I am safely on deck and taxi to get gas. Unfortunately, there was an issue with my aircraft that required me to change jets. After hot switching, (getting out the jet while it was still on) I taxied to the catapult.
|This photo is not of me but is from the same detachment I was on. Credit: Navy|
The catapult uses steam to accelerate the jet from zero knots, back to 120 knots in just a couple of seconds. This was by far my favorite part of the carrier experience. There is a brief exchange of information between the pilot and the deck crew, the pilot salutes the shooter, the shooter salutes back, and away the T45 goes.
In total, each student who qualified got 10 traps (arrested landings aboard the ship) and 10 catapult shots. It was hard, but I completed the training and became carrier qualified. It was definitely a great experience and a great way to end my training in the T45.
|Chocked and chained. Waiting to start day 2.|