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"‘Call the Ball’: The Optical Mirror Landing System" Topic

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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian06 Aug 2019 5:10 p.m. PST

Landing on an aircraft carrier always has been a challenging maneuver, distinguishing naval pilots from all others. Read how Royal Navy Commander Nicholas Goodhart invented the optical mirror landing system.


dragon607 Aug 2019 1:22 p.m. PST

Read how the IJN did it in the 1940s

Remember that the 'racetrack' style adopted by the Americans was done solely so the pilots could keep a good view of the LSO on approach. The Japanese did not need to do this as they actually had a form of ILS in the form of deck lights, called "chakkan shidoto", or "landing guidance light" on both sides of their carriers.

As the first plane turned upwind for final, he lined up with the red and green landing lights, which told the pilot if he was left, right, too high or too low. The red lights were mounted a bit more than 10 meters aft of the green lights, and the red lights were adjustable up or down to allow for different glide slopes …. 5.5 degrees was used for fighters and 5.0 degrees for bombers. The pilot established his path so that the red lights were slightly below but at least partially superimposed on the green lights … if the pilot saw only red lights, he was just a bit low. If he saw green lights below the red lights, the pilot was dangerously low. And of course if he saw the green lights above the red lights, the pilot was too high. Approach speed was entirely up to the pilot, but because the IJN procedure was more stable and less aggressive than the U.S. Navy style, establishing the required airspeed and holding it steady in the descent was less problematic than it was for U.S. Navy pilots. Another difference was that there was a flag officer on the bridge deck of IJN carriers who waved a red flag if there was a problem on deck, signaling the pilot to abort final and re-establish his downwind pattern before initiating another crosswind turn onto final approach.
Because the 'cones' of light from the landing lights were quite narrow, the Japanese pilot would lose sight of the visual aids and reference points just before 'cut' point, very similar to U.S. pilots. If his last view of these aids showed him properly lined up, he was good to cut and land, just as U.S. pilots would 'trust' the LSO's cut signal. After catching the arrestor cables, the crash barrier was lowered just as for U.S. carriers, and the plane was pushed to the bow by deck crew to be lowered to the hangar deck for 'cycling', just like U.S. SOP.

There is a more technical description of the Japanese system but I cannot recall where it is. Perhaps Sunburst: The Rise of Japanese Naval Air Power, 1909-1941 but I don't have that now.

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