Truman Thursdays: How to Launch and Land Planes on an Aircraft Carrier

Posted 02.18.2010

Regular readers of the Next Level Blog know that I’ve been sharing some videos from the trip I made last month to the aircraft carrier, USS Harry S Truman.I’ve been running the clips on Thursdays (here’s the first overview video and interviews with the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer of the Truman) and have focused on what different people I met on the ship look for in a leader. I have more of those interviews I want to share with you in the weeks to come. This week, though, I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction.

To successfully launch from the deck of a carrier, a jet or plane has to go from a standing start to about 150 knots in under three seconds. That acceleration is achieved through use of a catapult system. Conversely, a plane lands on a carrier at about 150 knots and then comes to an immediate stop when its tailhook catches one of four arresting wires on deck. The caught wire is immediately retracted so that, when operations are in full swing, a plane can launch from or land on the carrier about every 45 seconds.

Obviously, there are a lot of crew members who have to work together seamlessly to ensure safe and effective aircraft operations. In this week’s Truman clip, you’ll hear from two of them. The first is a sailor who works in the catapult room below decks. The second is a crewmate who works on the system that controls arresting wire number three. One of the things that most impressed me during my Truman trip was the pride, knowledge and responsibility exhibited by the different sailors who explained to us what they do and how they do it. This video will give you a small taste of that.