Mission: USS Nimitz – F-18 Landing

We stood near the achor point of the arrest cable used to catch the planes as they land. From this vantage point you can almost touch the F-18 as it approaches and flies in for a landing. The arrest cable is about 3 inches in diameter and when the F-18 catches it you can feel the tension as the cable is pulled to what appears to be the breaking point. It's not hard to imagine the crazy accidents that could happen if anything were not to work perfectly. As the planes land they are immediately moved into parking area where the wings are folded to conserve space. These are the original transformers. Beneath the deck is home to the hydraulic system that is used to bring the plane to a stop. There's a huge piston that effectively stops the plane and a complex system of thinner cables that translates the energy from the arrest cable. Without this, you would probably have a lot more snapped cables. Even so, the arrest cables are supposed to be replaced after about 100 uses. During the course of the landing crew members on deck are attending the landing plane and preparing for the next one. The planes are all circling the aircraft carrier at different altitudes. Each pilot watches as the plane below it lands. The pilots maintain radio silence between pilots and the control tower throughout this entire exercise. As one lands they all drop one level down and prepare for the next landing. The timing is precise. Within a few minutes the next plane lands. Now imagine doing this in the pitch black darkness of the evening. The crew of the USS Nimitz were running manuevers until 11pm at night.

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