1-1___The Landing Area
1-2___VLA - Visual Landing Aids
___The Scan
___Angle Of Attack
___Wave Off!
___Carrier Arrestment

1-1___The Landing Area
The angled landing area of the flight deck is spanned by four arresting wires.
Flying the glideslope well will place your arresting hook in the center of this landing area, in between arresting wires 2 and 3.

If you manage to do this your hook will slide along the deck and hook the 3 wire.


If you were too low on your approach you will catch the 1 or 2 wire. This is viewed negatively by the LSOs as it means you were close to hitting the back of the ship.
If you caught the 4 wire or none at all you were high on glideslope.
It is also very important to land as close to the centerline as possible. An off-centerline landing violently pulls the aircraft tail sideways and is very undesirable.

1-2___VLA - Visual Landing Aids
IFLOLS - The ‘Meatball’
The Meatball is used to indicate glideslope on the approach to the Carrier and consists of:
  • Datum Lights - used to judge your position relative to the glideslope.
  • Meatball - indicates the relative position of the aircraft with reference to the glideslope. If the aircraft is high, the ball will be above the datum lights; if the aircraft is low, the ball will be below the datum lights. If the aircraft gets dangerously low, the ball appears red. If the aircraft gets too high the ball appears to go off the top.
  • Wave-off lights - when lit all other lamps are extinguished. This indicates that the pilot must add full power and go around. The wave-off lights are operated manually by the LSO.
  • Cut Lights - A row of four green lights horizontally centered above the meatball that initially indicate a ‘Roger Ball’ call to aircraft that are operating under ‘zip-lip’. Additional illumination of the cut lights is a call for power.


LRLS - Long Range Line-up Sytem
The LRLS complements IFLOLS by providing line-up information to the pilot from 6nm to about 3/4nm astern.
For simplicity the deviation light colors are the same as port and starboard navigation light colors.

  • When right of centerline the pilot sees a green light.
  • When on centerline the pilot sees a yellow light.
  • When left of centerline the pilot sees a red light.


As the deviations increase the light begins to flash. The more rapidly the lights flash, the further the pilot is from centerline.
The stern mounted unit provides a light source appearing as a single point of light eminating from below the ramp and on centerline.


1-3___The Scan
Maintaining a good approach all the way to the deck is managed by a repeated scan of 3 parameters:
1. Glideslope
2. Lineup
3. Angle Of Attack

When on approach you must constantly scan all 3 and use your throttle and stick to make adjustments as required.


Glideslope is a 3.5 degree imaginary line that extends from the landing point aft of the ship.
During rough seas the angle of the glideslope may be increased to 4 degrees to provide greater clearance over the ramp.

At a 3.5 degree glideslope setting your altitude at the 3/4 mile position is roughly 270 - 300 feet.


Glideslope Corrections
The following are some glideslope deviations you can expect to see and the corrections required.

Glideslope becomes progressively narrower as you get closer to touchdown, you must decrease the magnitude of each correction for an equivalent amount of ball movement as you approach touchdown.
NOTE: All glideslope deviations will require a
minimum of three corrections in order to regain optimum glideslope.

If the ball goes high close or at the ramp stop the movement but do not attempt to recenter the ball.
Avoid temptation to cut power or drop your nose when you are high or climbing in-close to at-the-ramp.
Accept the high or take your bolter. A large power reduction in-close to at-the-ramp is referred to as a ‘cut’ or ‘ease gun’.
This condition is unsafe and is never an acceptable correction.
A high ‘come down’ will result in a hard landing, blown tires and possible structural damage.
Never accept a low ball. If you’re low, add power immediately. Do not reduce power until the ball is centered.

The following video shows an F-14 falling below glideslope and hitting the ramp:

Common Glideslope Errors
New pilots sometimes choose to ignore the glideslope, fly at low level and then cut power over the wires. This technique is extremely unsafe and results in regular ramp strikes.


As you come out of the final turn you should aim to overshoot the ships wake slightly and rollout perfectly lined up with the Carriers landing deck centerline.
The LSO will expect you to be on centerline for your entire approach and will call corrections if you deviate.

If wind strength is light the ship may be forced to create the necessary 27 knots Wind Over the Deck using its own power.
Due to the angled landing area, the ship’s movement will create a 5 knot crosswind moving from right to left across the flight deck.

This means the centerline will be constantly moving to the right and pilots should fly their tadpoles near the crotch to counter this movement (see images below).
As you approach the ramp allow the tadpole to drift left across the deck to the centerline.


Lineup Corrections
Scan lineup all the way to touchdown, using small wing dips to make corrections.

You are expected to respond immediately to LSO corrections by banking your aircraft in the correct direction. The LSO corrections you can expect to hear are at the bottom of the images above.

CAUTION: Lineup is critical at the ship - many accidents during carrier operations are lineup related.

This video shows an F/A-18C having a bad line-up day. The pilot drifts first to the right of centerline, then corrects back too far to the left at the ramp.
The LSO calls ‘right for line-up!’ and the pilots banks too hard to the right, catching the wing on the flight deck.

Common Lineup Errors
New pilots are mostly lined up left. Some pilots appear to fly straight up the ship from stern to bow. Angled deck drift is also a problem for FNGs and results in drifting to the left of centerline.
Pilots should pay close attention to staying lined with the flight deck centerline for the entire approach.

1-6___Angle Of Attack

Onspeed AOA provides a combination of perfect aircraft attitude, rate of descent and controllable airspeed when landing.
The AOA indexer is mounted on the HUD left side and operates only with the landing gear down and weight off the gear.
Corresponding AOA indications are displayed next to the Velocity Vector on the HUD.

The lighted symbols flash if the tailhook is up and the Hook Bypass switch is in ‘CARRIER’.

AOA Corrections

“You’re Slow”
  1. Add power.
  2. As the aircraft accelerates decrease the nose attitude slightly to obtain optimum AOA.
  3. Adjust attitude to maintain AOA and reduce power to maintain glideslope.

FIG: AOA Indexer, AOA HUD bracket and PLAT camera view of approaching aircraft. Nose Gear lights reflect AOA to LSO.

“You’re Fast”
  1. Reduce power.
  2. As the aircraft decelerates coordinate an increase in nose attitude slightly to maintain a centered ball and work it back to on-speed.
  3. Approaching optimum AOA add power as necessary to maintain glideslope and readjust nose attitude to maintain optimum AOA.

Common AoA Errors
New pilots are always too fast on approach. Try flying around at onspeed AoA while not on approach just to get used to trimming your aircraft and controlling it under these conditions.

1-7___Wave Off!

Pilots will not initiate their own waveoffs unless the ball call has not been rogered by the in-the-middle position.

CAUTION: Waveoff calls are MANDATORY

Waveoffs may result from a fouled deck or aircraft not being set up for a safe landing.

To perform a waveoff, simultaneously advance power to MRT, retract speed brakes, maintain landing attitude (not to exceed optimum AOA), level wings and climb up the angled deck.
Verify a positive rate of climb and maintain optimum AOA. Once you are abeam the bow, turn right to parallel the ships heading.

Climb to 600 ft, turn downwind with proper interval and perform landing checklist.

1-8___Carrier Arrestment

Fly the ball all the way to touchdown.


When the aircraft touches down advance power to MRT and retract your speed-brakes. Do not anticipate an arrested landing.
Maintain MRT until your aircraft comes to a complete stop and the yellow shirt located at the 2 o’clock position signals for power back.

The yellow shirt will then signal for brake release and a pull back followed by a stop signal and hook up signal.
The pull back allows for the wire to clear the hook. If the pilot applies brakes during the evolution, the aircraft will tilt back, potentially damaging the tail section.
Follow the yellow shirts instructions /commands.

You are now safely aboard the Carrier.


If you haven’t already seen it in the CV NATOPS section, this video is a great way to familiarise yourself with Carrier landing approaches.