LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Navy’s night flights are necessary
October 9, 2012 · Updated 2:57 PM
To the editor:
In reference to Caralyn Haglund’s letter to the Whidbey News-Times:
First of all, I condemn those who acted like jerks in reply to Ms. Haglund’s letter to the editor. I hope that whoever harassed her, threatened her in any way are found and prosecuted.
I offer the following to her and others who do agree with her.
Landing on an aircraft carrier is nothing more than a controlled crash landing. It takes nerves, concentration and sometimes a little luck to be successful. Night flight landing operations are the most demanding and dangerous of all, and even more so in rough seas. Hours of practice and training go into this before they are allowed to do their first carrier landing. The landing area (cable arresting area) is a very short area on the flight deck. A miss means a go around or an on-board accident. A carrier at sea goes fast enough to get at least 30 knots of wind across the flight deck, which also can be pitching and rolling, when launching and recovering aircraft.
I served aboard a U.S. Navy destroyer. One of our missions was to screen the carrier, provide plane guard detail in case of a plane going into the drink or other emergencies that needed to be addressed, such as a man overboard from the carrier.
While doing this on a training mission during night flight operations, an accident happened when an aircraft landed, lighting up the flight deck with fire. Also at that time there was a possible man overboard from the carrier. We went into a search mode until the carrier took muster and accounted for all hands.
The worst accident, again at night, was when a pilot came in too low and crashed his plane into the stern. Plane parts were on the flight deck, the hangar deck, but most went into the sea. All that was found in the water was the pilot’s helmet and some papers.
Another time was when the pilot ditched his plane right alongside our ship. This was during day operations in rain and rough seas. We were at flank speed when it happened. We went to an emergency full stop, but before we could pick him up a helicopter from the carrier picked him out of the water. We even had an officer, who was disqualified to fly, assigned to our ship because he had ditched two aircraft when he was unable to land on a carrier. Too expensive to give him another try.
A naval aviator who flies off and onto an aircraft carrier must be sharp and practiced at all times. That is one reason they need to practice. If they go past a certain number of days of not flying they must be re-qualified. In other words, they must practice, practice, practice. When a flight squadron is deployed to a carrier they must be ready to go.
To those who are complaining about the night use of the Outlying Field for practice carrier landings, I say why would you want to jeopardize human life, pilots as well as flight deck personnel and multi-million dollar aircraft because you might be discomforted by these operations? For God sakes, the sound of our Navy jets is the sound of freedom. Freedom even for those who complain.