Landing an aircraft on a moving vessel requires a particular kind of precision and know-how that very few human beings can execute with significant technological support.
Believe it or not, one psychological test observed that the stress landing on a carrier causes pilots more stress than what troops experience in combat. No wonder cleanly landing on a carrier is a source of pride for pilots.
So F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler pilots are practice landing on the USS Washington (CVN 73) with a fascinating new landing system called Maritime Augmented Guidance with Integrated Controls for Carrier Approach and Recovery Precision Enabling Technologies, or “MAGIC CARPET” for short. (They must have really wanted to use that acronym.)
The system takes on many of the stressful aspects of aircraft carrier landing, like having to gauge the course of landing with the moving ship and all of the things the pilot has to consider while doing it, such as adding and reducing power, adjusting the pitch, yaw and roll, as USNI News explains. Instead, the pilot simply controls the flight path.
And because the Navy’s Boeing F/A-18E/F’s all have digital flight controls, Magic Carpet makes that function for the pilot even easier.
That was the smoothest night trap I’ve ever flown, send me up again,” said Lt. Zach “Bamboo” Hutchings, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8.
Renamed Precision Landing Modes (PLM) by aircrew, it provides improved safety, efficiency and success rates in recovering fixed-wing aircraft on board aircraft carriers while easing pilot workload, improves overall boarding rates, creates the potential to reduce tanker requirements and improves Naval Aviation’s effectiveness.
“PLM is probably the biggest advancement to carrier aviation since the IFLOLS was installed,” Moreno said. Deployed on all carriers by 2004, IFLOLS—the improved Fresnel lens optical landing system—is a stack of 12 light cells, which produce a single ball-shaped image used by carrier pilots to determine the glideslope as they approach the carrier to land.
“Every aircraft is continually on glideslope with a stable and predictable energy state. Ultimately, this makes landing at the aircraft carrier safer,” said Lt. Greg “Cinder” Blok, CVW-8 Paddles.