1-1___The Flight Deck
1-2___Carrier Launch and Departure
___Return to the CCZ
1-4___Port Holding Pattern
___The Spin
___Entering the Break
___Missed Approach

1-1___The Flight Deck

The flight deck of a modern US Navy Aircraft Carrier is a busy place.
This image will help you familiarise yourself with the terms used to describe the different areas of the flight deck.


1-2___Carrier Launch and Departure

Before taxiing past the shuttle, aircraft gross weight should be verified, takeoff checklist complete, and arming completed by the ordnance crew if required. Check external fuel quantity.
Approach the catapult track slowly, lightly riding the brakes, with nosewheel steering on. Use minimum power required to keep the aircraft rolling.

Close attention to the plane director's signals is required to align the aircraft with the catapult track entry way. When aligned, the plane director signals the pilot to lower the launch bar.


Place the launch bar switch to EXTEND. The green LAUNCH BAR advisory light comes on and nosewheel steering disengages. Nosewheel steering low mode may be engaged while the launch bar is down by pressing and holding the nosewheel steering button. This should only be done on signal from the director since catapult personnel may be in close proximity to the launch bar. Do not use nosewheel steering once the launch bar enters the track.


The catapult crew installs the holdback bar and the aircraft may taxi forward slowly, following the signals of the plane director.
When the launch bar drops over the shuttle spreader, the aircraft will be stopped by the holdback bar engaging the catapult buffer.

Stabilizing in military power while in catapult tension and selecting afterburner (MIL/MAX setting) at holdback release provides a compromise between single engine climb capability, fuel consumption and JBD compatibility. If afterburner thrust is to be selected during the catapult stroke, advance throttles to MAX immediately following catapult holdback release. This maximizes the available time for the engines to stabilize prior to the end of the catapult stroke.
Cycle the flight controls, wait 4 seconds then ensure all warning and caution lights are out.
Check engine instruments.


When satisfied that the aircraft is ready for launch, hold throttles firmly against the detent, place the head against the head-rest, and salute the catapult officer with the right hand.
Throttle friction may be used to help prevent inadvertent retraction of the throttles during the catapult stroke. Immediately after the end of the catapult stroke the aircraft will rotate to capture the trimmed AOA without control stick inputs.
Retract the gear and flaps when a positive rate of climb is established.


Level off at 500 feet and fly on the BRC until 5nm from the Carrier (out of the CCZ). Carry out join-up procedure as briefed.
Flights can either join up on BRC heading or enter the Port Holding Pattern at 6000 feet when clear of the CCZ to execute a rejoin of the flight.

1-3___Return to the CCZ

Carrier Controlled Zone (CCZ)
The airspace within a circular limit defined by 5 miles horizontal radius from the carrier, extending upward from the surface to and including 2,500 feet and is under the control of the Air Boss.
The image below highlights the importance of altitude control within the CCZ to provide safe deconfliction of aircraft around the boat.


1-4___Port Holding Pattern

VFA-113 has strict SOP parameters in-place that negate the requirement for contacting the CATCC when inbound to the boat.
Aircraft are required to level off at 3000 feet when 10nm from the boat and join the Port Holding Pattern with tailhook extended and an airspeed of 250 knots.
The jet and turboprop port holding pattern is a left-hand pattern tangent to the BRC with the ship in the 3-o’clock position and a maximum diameter of 5 nm.

A minimum of 1,000 feet vertical separation between holding altitudes for other squadrons shall be maintained.

The flight lead is responsible for directing aircraft to begin their descents to the initial. This may be based on low fuel states or battle damaged aircraft requiring priority.
Flights of two are ideal with a maximum of four aircraft departing for the initial.
Lead should not direct the next flight down until the previous flight has reported at the initial.

Departure from the port holding pattern for break entry shall be accomplished aft of the ship’s beam.
This descent should be planned so as to accelerate to 350 knots and arrive at the initial (3 miles astern, 800 feet) wings level, paralleling the BRC.

1-5___The Spin
The spin is used to delay aircraft inbound to the overhead break from entering the landing pattern due to congestion from missed approaches.
The flight would remain in parade formation, climb to 1200 feet and initiate a left hand orbit at 350 knots at the carrier’s bow.
Flight lead will monitor the pattern and re-enter the break when safe to do so.
Aircraft re-entering the break from the spin pattern have priority over aircraft entering from the port holding pattern.

1-6___Entering the Break

At the initial aircraft should straighten up on the Base Recovery Course (ship’s heading) fly Mothers right side at 350 knots and 800 feet.
All breaks shall be a level turn to the downwind with the speedbrake extended. The lead aircraft should break over the ships bow with remaining aircraft to break at 15 second intervals.
A descent to 600 feet to intercept the downwind leg of the landing pattern shall commence when established downwind.


Below 250 knots retract speed brake and extend your landing gear and flaps.
Fly downwind leg at 1.25 - 1.5 miles abeam Mother at 600 feet and onspeed angle of attack (140 knots approx).

Verify your abeam distance and turn when abeam the LSO platform. Roll into 30 degrees AOB and adjust power and nose slightly to set up a 200-300 fpm rate of descent at onspeed AoA.

When at the 90 degree position, maintain optimum AOA, a 30 degree AOB turn (to avoid an overshoot/undershoot), cross-check altitude (450 feet) and increase VSI to 500 fpm descent.

Because the ship is moving away from you, you will appear high and tight. It is a common tendency that, while coming through the 90-degree position, you will increase rate of descent and shallow your AOB due to the appearance of the ship.
Resist the tendency to reduce AOB and to increase your rate of descent. The ship is moving away from you.

NOTE: An advisory call from the LSO - “Keep your turn in” normally occurs from the 90 to the groove to avoid overshooting the centerline.


As you roll wings level, reduce power slightly to maintain on-speed and a proper rate of descent.
The wings level transition is the most dynamic phase of each pass. The excess energy required in the turn to maintain proper AOA must be bled off while maintaining optimum AOA and rate of descent.

Once wings level on approach, call the ball.

Fly your approach to the ship cross checking meatball, lineup and angle of attack whilst responding to any directions from the LSO.

For more detailed training on the final approach, refer to the
APPROACH training page.

1-8___Missed Approach

Aircraft that are waved off by the vLSO or botler should enter the missed approach pattern.
1. Turn to BRC (080) and continue to climb at onspeed AoA to 600 feet.
2. Stabilise at 600 feet and observe the downwind pattern for other aircraft.
3. Count 15 secs after passing last aircraft in the downwind then conduct a 30 degree bank turn to downwind heading 260.
4. Fly remainder of approach as per standard Case 1 recovery.