Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A cautionary tale

I've been out of the naviating game for a very long time. I am not, nor was I ever, a navy pilot. I never had a set or orders reading "for duty involving actual control of aircraft." I was an aircrewman; a SAR corpsman and rescue swimmer. Like many of my peers I managed to collect a good chunk of bootleg stick time in H-1's and H-3's, but that was all daytime fun and games. Toward the end of my career I did get some right seat time in the Intruder both ashore and afloat including 27 day traps and 13 night traps. During my 14 years of active naval flying I spent nearly all of my time intimately involved with the day-to-day operations of fixed- and rotary-wing squadrons attached to deploying carrier air wings. I made eight major deployments and served in Nimitz, America, Coral Sea and Theodore Roosevelt. And Eisenhower. Yike, how could I forget Ike?

With that experience under my belt I feel like I'm just a little bit qualified to make an observation. I hope you can understand that I'm not trying to bash anyone, nor m I trying to make the "my generation was better than your generation is" argument.

In viewing the video below I was rather taken aback at the fact that  so many people were freaked out over the pitching deck. This video was made in 2005, btw, so it surely doesn't represent carrier aviation in 2016.

In my day a pitching deck wasn't loved and embraced, but it was par for the course. You didn't like it, but you lived with it. And as the Captain says in this video, the skills of carrier aviation are perishable and have to be practiced and kept current -- including operating when conditions are marginal.

In 2005 these folks were clearly surprised and dismayed to see a pitching deck. They'd spent the last two years operating in the Arabian Sea, dropping smart bombs on discrete targets under mostly ideal conditions and with total air supremacy. Unless I miss my guess this really hasn't changed much in the last 11 years. We now have fewer jets and fewer, smaller air wings. We have an enormous emphasis on preventing mishaps, which is perhaps less about safety and risk management than about avoiding black marks.

Today I find myself wondering exactly how degraded our blue water warfighting skills have become. Again, not to bash anyone, but I wonder whether we have the raw capability to execute real world missions around the globe under adverse conditions. We did in my day. Can we do it today?

In contrast, watch and listen to this barricade arrestment from 1987. BTW, Bug (the LSO) and Atlas (A-6 pilot) have been gone for more than 20 years now. They each died while flying naval aircraft. 

Food for thought.


  1. Knowing quite a few of the kids who are out there, yes, we can still do it.

    The kids are all right.

  2. I have seen a film of a STOOF taking off THROUGH a wave breaking over the bow.