Howard in the Navy: Arrested Landing

As Americans we always hear we have the most skilled military. All of their moves are done with precision. 

Landing on a naval aircraft carrier is as precise of a maneuver as you’re going to get. Going over 200 miles per hour, pilots must catch one of four steel cables. 

The "arrested landing," as they call it, is sudden and immediate. We took a Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft, or COD, to the ship. It’s basically a hollowed out version of a commercial aircraft. 
After about an hour in the air our pilot locates the USS Abraham Lincoln. 

On land the ship is a massive 1,100 feet long. But from the cockpit it’s as small as an ant. At landing we go from 200 miles an hour to zero in less than two seconds. 

Before flying to the carrier, we had to go through survival training at the Aviation Survival Training Center at Naval Station Norfolk 

“Everybody thinks it won’t happen to them, but eventually it’s going to happen to them or somebody they know so they absolutely have to be prepared,” said Michael Hiltke, the survival trainer. 

The “it” is a crash landing. Either a freak accident, being shot out of the sky, or over shooting the runway on a carrier. 

The flight deck of the ship is only 400 yards. By comparison, the shortest runway at Charlotte Douglas is about 3,000 yards. 

“We do a limited classroom, but no one remembers the classroom. It’s all about the simulators out here,” he said. 

Hiltke has trained sailors for 25 years. The first swim is as easy as you’re going to get: 25 yards in a bathing suit. 

We then suited up in a flight suit and boots, a helmet, and life preserver. It’s all the same gear that’s required on the aircraft. 

“Helicopters have a reputation for sinking rapidly and flipping over when they hit the water so we simulate that by flipping them over,” said Hiltke. 

This dunker is called “panic in a can.” Strapped in our seats we have to get out. After coming to the surface we tread water or use a technique called drown proofing. We basically stay completely still, head underwater, only coming up to take a breath. We’d do this until our brothers and sisters come to save us.

“They always say that although its more violent and it’s always a lot colder that the real things that simulates exactly what happens out there in the real deal. So instead of having to think about what to do they’ve already done it, so they just do it,” he said. 

Navy pilots have to go through this training every four years. Typically, that training lasts for two days. 

These pieces highlight Howard's experience with our men and women in the United States Navy. They are written in the first person for that reason.