Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point -- Members of Marine Attack Squadron 231 performed field carrier landing practice with AV-8B Harriers at Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Dec. 3.
The squadron is slated to depart in the near future with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit where carrier landings play a key role in supporting the Aviation Combat Element of the MEU. Naval aviators are required to reach a minimum amount of day and night practice landings before embarking aboard a naval vessel for qualification landings.
According to Maj. Matthew A. Seavitte, a naval aviator with the squadron, the pilots met their minimum practice landing requirement in August, but sustain the training bi-monthly to keep skills and techniques fresh.
Field carrier landing practice replicates the approach and landing procedures pilots use to land on decks of moving amphibious assault ships while at sea.
“Bogue field is unique in that it has an entire outline along with signal lights of an LHD deck for pilots to train on, which mimics the boat decks the pilots will land on during the deployment,” said Seavitte, the landing signal officer during the training.
There are many differences between landing on a moving ship and a static runway, said Maj. James S. Tanis, a naval aviator with the squadron.
“Vertically landing on a specific area of a ship with personnel and aircraft is completely different than touching down on an empty landing strip,” said Tanis, the executive officer of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365 Reinforced. “That is why we spend the time to practice these techniques in a controlled environment where the pilots can develop confidence in their skills.”
According to Seavitte, once the pilot hovers over an aircraft carrier in preparation for landing, the only radio communication allowed is between the pilot and the landing signal officer guiding them.
“Having only one voice helping you allows you to concentrate on the landing,” said Tanis. “Even for the most experienced pilots, I believe the most difficult part of the hover is the stop just prior to the landing. You can get a little more accustomed to it with time, but you need to be able to trust the LSO and, most importantly, trust yourself.”