USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) — A pilot steadily aligns his F/A-18 Super Hornet with the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) as the aircraft gradually makes its descent. Upon landing, the jet's tail hook catches the number three wire, which pulls against the aircraft's thrust until the aircraft comes to a rest.
According to Naval Aviation News, the arresting gear aboard naval vessels has been responsible for the safe landing of aircraft around the fleet since the early 1900s. Constant supervision and frequent maintenance ensures that this mission-essential equipment operates successfully aboard aircraft carriers.
According to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kristoff Depaz, from Clifton, New Jersey, the arresting gear comprises several components that work together to safely stop the aircraft for safe landing.
"Our [arresting gear] engines are set at a specific weight resistance for each type of aircraft," said Depaz. "The aircraft tail hook catches the cross deck pendant (CDP), which is attached to the purchase cable that runs through the engine. It brings the aircraft to a full stop from the tension generated by the engine."
During flight operations, arresting gear officers (AGOs) are always present to oversee the landing area and have one main concern in mind.
"Safety is the primary concern during flight operations," said Lt. Glenn Conrad, an AGO assigned to George Washington. "It's our highest priority to make sure the landing area is set up for aircraft to land and all [personnel] are safely behind the foul lines."
To reinforce safe operations to land aircraft, there is a designated team of Sailors responsible for the CDP on the landing area and the arresting gear engines and "purchasing cables" located below.
"A group of about 55 aviation boatswain's mates (equipment) [ABE] are responsible for the five arresting gear engines and other associated equipment," said Depaz. "My job is to ensure ABE's have the necessary tools for the job to maintain the arresting gear engines, purchasing cables and CDP's."
According to Depaz, precautions are taken regularly during flight operations to ensure all necessary equipment is in working order.
"We conduct what's called a "dog walk," where someone visually walks the along the CDP with the AGO prior to and in between flights to ensure it and the landing area are prepared for aircraft landings," said Depaz. "There's also a limit of 125 arrests on each CDP. When it reaches 125 arrests, it's swapped out for a new one."
According to Conrad, broken wire parts can cause severe aircraft damage and injure personnel if the arresting gear isn't properly maintained.
"We perform both preventative and corrective maintenance to ensure equipment readiness in the sheave damper room, the engine room and the flight deck," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Xandrix Sabangan, from Manila, Philippines. "We launch and recover 90 to 100 aircraft daily during flight operations. It's important for us to maintain high standards."
George Washington has completed more than 170,000 safe landings since it's commissioning in 1992, hitting the 150,000 mark in early 2012.
George Washington and its embarked carrier air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW 5), provide a combat-ready force that protects the interests of its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.