Carrier Landing by Bush

So I saw the footage of the Bush aircraft landing on the Abraham Lincoln this evening. Looked real exciting, and something I’d love to try, but that’s not my question.

Now I’ve never seen service on a carrier (they don’t have hills or mud, so my military training would not have helped :D), but I’ve watched lots of documentary shows about the workings of carriers, and the sheer excitement of carrier landings.

It struck me (watching the President’s S3B land) that the aircraft travelled further down the deck than others I had seen.

I know that the plane grabs the wire and a fairly simple but strong mechanism controls the cable so that the plane is brought to a safe and quite swift stop. I also know that they adjust the arrestor cables for various weights of aircraft.

Can they adjust the tension on the arrestor cable to make the landing more gentle (at the cost of increasing the landing roll-out)? And would they have done that in this case, to reduce the chance that the POTUS would be speaking to the nation with his neck in a brace?

Or is it more likely that it was a “trick” of the camera angle?

Any Navy-ators put there with the answer?

Scruff , an ex-Air Force guy checking in so I can’t say for sure but my best guess is that if they dialed down the tension on the wires that it would be the same across all the wires. They would probably figure out how low the tension would be for a 4-wire trap to remain safely on-board and then set that for all the wires, counting on a 3-wire trap in nice day VFR conditions.

I saw the trap myself and it did look a little long, but then again I was an Air Force guy: I land on long runways and spend my nights in hotels! :wink:

I have another question: who was the pilot? Was it some squadron CO type or was it someone who could actually land the airplane (ie some company-grade puke who’s been flying his butt off)?

I watched the video again and it wasn’t clear which wire he caught but it seemed that it wasn’t the four wire as you could see the plane crossing it. I think the illusion of how long it took to stop was due to editing two different shots so the rollout seemed to take longer than it really did. The plane was virtually stopped then the cut to a second angle that overlapped the first by a few tenths of a second.

I can almost guarantee the arresting gear wasn’t set for an “easy” landing as that would be profoundly dangerous. I witnessed an F-14 lost on landing on the Constellation because the #3 wire was not set correctly. The plane went in the water and the crew barely escaped with their lives.

I once flew on “Miss Piggy,” a converted S-3 viking used for cargo and passengers. I only got to experience a cat shot in that plane but took a trap in a C-2 Greyhound, a cargo version of the E-2 Hawkeye with a fatter fuselage and no rotodome. The experience is a real E-ticket ride as the forces fool your middle ear into thinking that horizontal is vertical.

I have nothing technical to add, but when I saw what he was planning, I went “AwwRIGHT!” in my best guy voice. I mean, I disagree with his policies, but I’d love to land on a carrier (even as a passenger). I’d sure do it if I was Prez.

Has it ever occurred to you how foolish it is to think our president might actually have risked his life in a very difficult and perilous stunt? You guys never watched Star Trek, apparently, and never found yourself saying “Shit no, a real captain would never go on one of those Beaming Party missions, no matter how voluptuous the babe.”

Take a moment to look up Global Hawk by Raytheon. I think you’ll be quite surprised how easily a remote site can control some planes. And even – dare I say it – commercial jets! Not to digress, but four Raytheon mucky-mucks died on Flight 11, at least two of whom worked on Global Hawk. Just type raytheon and september 11 into Yahoo! and see what comes up.

Probably less risky than appearing in public at times.

My evening news just showed it, and commented about how the hook missed three of the four arrestor wires. Imagine the ribbing the poor guy would have taken if he had had to fly off the end and come around a second time with the CinC on board!

Oh, and apparently they decided to fly him in on a jet rather than a helicopter because jets have ejector seats. Someone decided that made it the safest way to get Mr. Bush onto a carrier under weigh.

Yeah, they said on the radio he caught the number four wire.

what’s the deal with the 4 wires. Can you catch one of them and be okay? or do you need more than one? Are the 4 wires under different tensions?

Exactly. THe four wires are there to provide a larger ‘landing zone’ and increase the margin of error.

But since by the time you hit the #4 wire you’re a lot closer to the end of the deck, the cables are under successively high tension because the plane has to be stopped in a shorter distance. So catching the first one is easier on the plane and pilot, and is the goal of the pilot. But no one’s perfect. And the deck is pitching up and down by a number of feet. And you’re landing on a goddamed postage stamp in a jet, which is tough enough.

On a significant percentage of landings, all four wires are missed and the Pilot has to ‘bolter’ and go around again. For that reason, the pilot always goes to full power just as he’s hitting the deck. If he snags a cable, it stops him with the engine going full blast. If he misses, he’s off the deck almost immediately, so he’d better have the power on. And jet engines take time to ‘spool up’, so it’s not good enough for the pilot to only increase power if he thinks he needs it - by then it’s too late.

I had always heard that the ideal carrier landing is to hook the number 3 wire. So it’s not like he “missed 3 of the 4 wires”, he more likely was aiming for a 3 wire and missed it, just the one.

Unfortunately I don’t have a cite for this, but I read about a study once where they tested pilots’ stress levels during various activities. The highest stress activity? Night-time carrier landings. Higher stress than combat.

Can anyone vouch for the accuracy of this one? Or have I been taken in by another story that sounds good?

I heard on the news that President Bush took the controls for about 1/3 of the flight. I wonder if it was pre-arranged, or if he just told the pilot “mind if I fly this for a while?” And can you imagine being the pilot and having to either tell the Commander-in-Chief “no” or sweat it out hoping that something bad doesn’t happen?

From CNN:

"Bush said he did take a turn at piloting the craft.

“Yes, I flew it. Yeah, of course, I liked it,” said Bush, who was an F-102 fighter pilot in the Texas Air National Guard after graduating from Yale University in 1968."

“Bush was brought in by plane because the Lincoln was too far off the California coast for a helicopter to bring him aboard.”

“His four-seat S-3B Viking has the safest flight record in the Navy’s jet fleet.”

“The aircraft’s pilot, Navy Cmdr. John Lussier of Orlando, Florida, said the president “enjoyed the heck out of” taking the controls and doing a couple of maneuvers.”

“A second pilot and a Secret Service agent were in the rear seats of the plane when it landed.”

Interesting article that should answer some of the questions brought up here.


First of all, I betcha that flight was even more planned and considered than the average carrier flight. Aside from the small fact that pilots do, in fact, desire to live, no one wants to kill the President. (Well, no one who’d have any access to him or any plane he’s planning to ride at any rate.) The risk of that manuver is considerably less than you implied. Perfectly safe? No - but then neither is driving a car or playing golf (gotta watch out for stray lightning bolts, ya know?)

Second, if he did die… VP Cheney takes over. Cripes, Air Force or Marine One could go down, too, you know? Or he could slip on the soap in the shower. I’d prefer to replace Bush at the election booth, but in reality he could be replaced at any time with minimal disruption to the government. That is, in fact, why the system is designed the way it is with a clear line of succession.

Not quite yet. These systems still need some more real-world testing before trusting the lives of passengers to them.

There is also the security of issue of what happens if the remote site is taken over by hostiles. Same problem as having the cockpit breached, really.

Possible? Sure. Reality? Not yet. Good idea? Debatable.

Personally, I think it more likely we’ll have something like an elaboration of the current autopilot/autoland systems where the whole kit-and-kaboodle is installed on the jet. Solves the remote hacker problem and elminates the possibility of signal interference and jamming. We’re already at the point where a course can be programmed into an airplane and the machine can take off, fly cruise, and land without human assistance - the pilots are there to monitor the machine and deal with unexpected ocurances. The unexpected, of course, being the bane of all automated and machine controlled systems. Humans improvise, machines do not.

[slight hijack] Was the fighter that he arrived in temporarily designated as Air Force One? I seem to remember reading somewhere that any plane the President is aboard is AF1, even though the “official” AF1 is normally used. [/slight hijack]

This was a Navy plane, so its callsign during the trip was Navy One.

The “Three-wire” is the one to catch. “OK-3” means the pilot made a safe landing and caught the 3-wire.

I wonder if Bush is going to apply for membership in the Tailhook Association. I used to be an “associate member” (since injuries kept me out of the Navy and I’ve never made a hook landing). I almost went to the infamous convention in Las Vegas, but the ex-g/f and I were at odds.

I worked on Aircraft Arresting systems for 4 years when I was in the AF.

I will post some tech stuff about how they work later, but yes, they can be adjusted for a softer landing, though a softer landing will automatically mean a LONGER landing, which is not a good thing on a carrier.

Yeah, they let him fly the jet, but note that nobody let him have a pretzel. Some things are just too dangerous.