VT-7 CVA-66 Running the deck

"Running the Deck" is a term meaning to repeatedly catapult (take-off) and trap (land) on an aircraft carrier. The pilot catapults off the ship, turns down wind, and then comes back in for a trap; after the trap he taxies back to the catapult to do it all over again.

May 2, 1998 photographs by Bud Southworth.


02 MAY 1998: head on view of Eagles Skyhawk BuNo 156914, A-715, manned and waiting on the JFK's forward starboard elevator for launch off of Jacksonville, Florida.


02 MAY 1998: left rear view of Eagles Skyhawk BuNo 156914, A-715, manned and waiting on the JFK's forward starboard elevator for launch off of Jacksonville, Florida. Note the mast with weather vane for wind speed and direction.


02 MAY 1998: right front view as Eagles Skyhawk BuNo 156914, A-715, taxies to the starboard catapult for launch. The crewman with the tiller bar is manually steering the Skyhawk for precise placement on the catapult.


02 MAY 1998: six o'clock view as Eagles Skyhawk BuNo 156914, A-715, drops the bridle and leaves the JFK's deck.


A picture taken on the flight deck from between the catapults and looking aft at JFK's island and superstructure. A Training Squadron 19 (VT-19) North American T-2C Buckeye 948 waits to taxi to the catapult. The Air Boss sits about six stories above the flight deck in the suite prominently overhanging the deck. Please note the Jet Blast Defector (JBD) erected on the left. Off Jacksonville, Florida on May 2, 1998 photograph by Bud Southworth.


JFK Island From the Bow. A picture taken from between the catapults and looking aft at JFK's island. A VT-19 Buckeye 953 BuNo 158888 rests in chains in the background. Behind the T-2C is a VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk 725 BuNo. 153678 in the forward "Whale Hole".


VT-7 Skyhawk 715 on the Elevator. A head on view of VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 715 manned and waiting on the JFK's forward starboard elevator for launch off Jacksonville, Florida.


715 Still Waiting to Taxi. Please note the mast with weather vane for wind speed and direction.


715 Finally Off to the Catapult. Skyhawk 715 taxies to the starboard catapult for launch. The man with the tiller bar is manually steering the Skyhawk for precise placement on the catapult. May 2, 1998 photograph by Bud Southworth.


Catapult Weight: As the Skyhawk taxies, one of the catapult crew establishes the Skyhawk's weight. The Skyhawk's basic weight (11,700 pounds) is stenciled on the nose gear door and by adding the 3800 pounds of fuel onboard, the Skyhawk catapult weight is 15,500 pounds as shown on the sign. After agreeing with the pilot about the weight, the sign is shown to the Catapult Officer and catapult Deck Edge Operator to set the right amount of catapult thrust to get the Skyhawk airborne.


Tensioned and Ready to Go: After taxiing into position on the catapult, attaching the hold-back and bridle, the catapult shuttle is moved forward applying tension to both the launch bridle and the hold-back cable. The pilot now releases his brakes, applies full power and is ready for launch. The catapult crewman signals thumbs-up as he runs clear of the aircraft. At this point the aircraft is tensioned up (cocked) on the catapult. The Skyhawk is at full power, brakes off and straining against the holdback. Notice the bridle cable looped around the shuttle and attached to hooks on the Skyhawk's belly. The Naval Aviator checks his instruments and when ready to be shot off --- salutes the Catapult Officer. (Requesting permission to leave the ship)


Catapult Officer The Catapult Officer (Shooter) receives the Naval Aviator's salute and determines that everything is safe for launch. The Catapult Officer then leans forward to signal the launch to the catapult Deck Edge Operator, and it's a go.


Catapult Deck Edge Operator This is the crewman that actually fires the catapult. When an aircraft is on the tensioned catapult this man keeps his hands above his head until he gets the launch command from the Catapult Officer. With his hands still over his head the catapult Deck Edge Operator turns forward and looks up the deck to be sure everyone and everything is clear. He then rotates his scan back down the deck to the aircraft to make sure everything is safe to launch. The catapult Deck Edge Operator then looks at his console and for the first time lowers his hands to push the catapult launch button. A note: On this day the JFK port catapult Deck Edge Operator when looking back down the deck noticed a catapult bridle had come loose on the subject aircraft. He then made emergency hand signals and stopped the launch, thus preventing aircraft damage or loss, and probably loss of life.


715 Airborne The Skyhawk leaves the JFK behind.


725 Waiting to Taxi to the Catapult The man with the brown shirt is a squadron aircraft mechanic.


Taxiing Onto the Catapult The man under the wing is getting the holdback ready.


Taxiing Over the Shuttle The nose wheel runs over the frog.

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Ready for the bridle hook-up 725 waits for the deck crew to come hook up the bridle to the aircraft and shuttle.


Bridle Hook-up The deck crew hooks up the bridle to the aircraft and shuttle.


Airborne: The pilot raises the Skyhawk's nose to the flight attitude.


Skyhawk 732: VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 732 BuNo. 153463 chained to the deck aft (behind the island) in the "Whale Hole".


Skyhawk to the Catapult: An aircraft handler guides VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 765 BuNo. 158465 on the JFK's starboard catapult for launch off Jacksonville, Florida. April 29 or 30, 1998. United States Navy CV-67 Photograph.


Skyhawk Tensioned on the Catapult: VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 766 BuNo. 158492 in the holdback and ready for launch on the JFK's starboard catapult. Please note the holdback cable just aft of the Skyhawk's left wheel. Flight deck handlers, safety persons and the Launch Officer are to the Skyhawk's left.

Training Squadron Seven #700 Running the Deck

VT-7's TA-4J Skyhawk A-700, BuNo. 158094, "CAG's Bird" Running the Deck. (Modex number x00 for the Carrier Air Group Commander, x01 for the squadron CO., x02 for the squadron XO, and so forth. Actual fight assignment, pilot to a/c, is made based upon a/c availability.)


VT-7 A-700 BuNo. 158094 is Waiting for the Big Show. VT-7 A-700 Skyhawk BuNo. 158094 (CAG's Bird) waiting for launch time.


How Long Before Its Our Turn? The VT-7 Naval Aviator signals to the deck crew while waiting for launch time --- passenger in rear is praying.


The Skyhawk Takes a Drink. Skyhawk 700 is being fueled through the air-to-air refueling probe. Deck crew wearing purple shirts deal with fueling aircraft.


Moving Out. With a crewman steering with a tiller bar 700 leaves its parking spot.


Onto the Catapult. 700 eases into the catapult spot.


Team Work. The catapult crew had to adjust the starboard catapult. After the pilot taxied clear and the catapult was adjusted, the crew pushed the Skyhawk back onto the catapult. Please note the catapult shuttle (frog) just aft of the Skyhawk's nose wheel. Deck crew wearing brown shirts are Plane Captains, Green shirts are Maintenance, and the far left Blue Shirt is a Plane Handler.


Tensioned and Ready to Go. After taxiing into position on the catapult, attaching the hold-back and bridle, the catapult shuttle is moved forward applying tension to both the launch bridle and the hold-back cable. The pilot now releases his brakes, applies full power and is ready for launch. The catapult crewman signals thumbs-up as he runs clear of the aircraft. At this point the aircraft is tensioned up (cocked) on the catapult. The Skyhawk is at full power, brakes off and straining against the holdback. Please notice the bridle cable looped around the shuttle and attached to hooks on the Skyhawk's belly. The Naval Aviator checks his instruments and when ready to be shot off --- salutes the Catapult Officer.


Halfway To The Bow. VT-7 A 700 Skyhawk BuNo. 158094 on the cat stroke halfway to flying.


A the End of the Catapult Stroke. The catapult stroke can provide an end-speed of 180 miles per hour.


Rotating Off the Catapult. Upon leaving the catapult the pilot raises the Skyhawk's nose to the flight attitude.


The Meatball: Located on the port side of the JFK flight-deck is the "meatball." In olden days a concave mirror focused a beam of light about three degrees above the horizontal to display a proper glide-slope for landing pilots. And before that a LSO stood on a platform with flags signaling the incoming pilot. Today a Fresnel optical lens is used to illustrate the pilot's path to the flight deck. The secret is to line-up the horizontal green index lights with the yellow light in the center of the device. Please note one of the waist catapults under the Buckeye's right wing.


The LSO Platform. The Landing Signal Officer (LSO) platform contains the crew responsible for controlling landing aircraft. The LSO has radio contact with the pilot and an array of electronic devices to monitor the pilots approach which the sailor in white is adjusting. The black wall with windows is a windbreak for the LSOs as there is usually a 20 to 40 mile per hour wind down the flight-deck. The Landing Signal Officer grades each approach and landing and visits each pilot after the recovery to discuss landing performance. Carrier landings are the most demanding part of a Naval Aviator's life, especially at night.

After launch the pilot flies straight ahead for about a mile while climbing to 600 feet and then turns left to reverse his heading. When along side (abeam) the Kennedy he starts another left turn to approach the landing area. He should roll into the groove at about three hundred feet altitude, on the ball and ten seconds flying time to the landing point. "Wheels down, flaps down, hook down, harness locked, brakes pumped firm, fuel 1200 pounds, roger ball."


VT-7 Skyhawk in the Groove. The pilot is trying to catch the third wire from the end of the ship. Please note the tailhook hanging to catch a wire when the Skyhawk hits the deck. As the Skyhawk passes over the "round down" the "hook" is only about six feet above the ship's deck. Engine power controls altitude and nose attitude controls airspeed. The pilot using these axioms maintains his speed at L/D (lift over drag) Max, plus or minus a knot and a half, while SMOOTHLY descending down the glide slope to the target three wire.


700 Over the "Round Down". The pilot is trying to catch the third wire from the end of the ship. Please note the tailhook hanging to catch a wire when the Skyhawk hits the deck. As the Skyhawk passes over the "round down" the "hook" is only about six feet above the ship's deck.


He's Got the Three Wire! The hook is on the deck two feet before the three wire, while the Skyhawk is still in the air.


Roll-out. The wire drags the Skyhawk to a stop while the deck handler assists the pilot drop the wire and when clear of the wire raise the tailhook.


The Skyhawk quickly clears the landing area. There is another approaching Skyhawk at the "ninety" just twenty seconds behind him.


The Skyhawk taxies back to the catapult area.


Back Onto the Catapult.


Rotating Off the Catapult.


Airborne. Around we go again until the pilot has qualified for carrier landings. Note the Jet Blast Defector being lowered to allow the next Skyhawk onto the catapult.

Training Squadron Seven #732 Running the Deck

VT-7's TA-4J Skyhawk A 732, BuNo. 153463, running the deck.


Skyhawk 732. VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 732 BuNo. 153463 chained to the deck in the aft (behind the island) "Whale Hole." (The Whale is the A-3 Skywarrior, the largest aircraft to run the Navy Deck's for many years. Due to it's size, special spots were picked to park it.


On the Way to the Catapult.


Launch Me! The pilot salutes the Catapult Officer to let him know 732 is ready to be launched.

Skyhawk 732 Airborne Off the Catapult. VT-7 TA-4J Skyhawk A 732 BuNo. 153463 launches off the JFK's bow, rotating to the flight attitude. Note the catapult bridle cable to the left on the flight deck. April 29 or 30, 1998. United States Navy CV-67 Photograph.


A VT-7 TA-4J 732 Turns to Final. At about 450 feet above the water the VT-7 Skyhawk pilot turns to line up with the landing area on the flight deck. The speed breaks are open and the gear, flaps and hook are down. The large yellow vehicle is "Tilly" the crane. Off Jacksonville, Florida.


TA-4J 732 in the Groove. Framed by "Tilly" and two helicopter rotors the Skyhawk rides the "ball" to the arresting wires. The flight deck is about sixty feet above the water.


732 Over the Wires. The Skyhawk Driver flys a "centered ball" which will result in catching the third wire from the JFK's stern.


Three Wire! The Skyhawk catches the desired third wire from the JFK's stern.


Run Out. The Skyhawk is dragged to a stop by the three wire. Flightdeck crewman supervises the wire release procedure.


Outta Here! The arresting wire has dropped from the hook and the hook is coming up. The Skyhawk must now quickly clear the landing area because another Skyhawk is already in the groove for landing. In the fleet landing come every twenty seconds.


Clear of the Landing Area.


Taxiing Back to the Catapult Area.


Airborne. The Jet Blast Deflector is being retracted.

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