MIGHTY CULTURE

A Navy pilot on how to use your car to feel what it's like to land on a carrier

There are some things only people in the military will ever get to do. Then, there's a smaller subsection of things only certain people in the military have the opportunity to do. And even within that subgroup lies a VIP section of people who are able to do things everyone else can't do.

Naval aviators are in one of those VIP sections, roped off and probably getting bottle service.


Lots of people join the Navy. Some of those will be pilots. Most of those will not be able to land on an aircraft carrier. For those of us who will never do any of that, we can only imagine how it must be.

The real, actual Navy (for all you really know).

Luckily, Quora user Scott Altorfer, a former Navy Radar Intercept Officer from 1991 to 1998, was able to put the feeling into words, actions, and feelings we all can understand — because it involves our cars.

Altorfer's analogy begins with the idea that you must park your car in a garage in a very specific way. Then, take the following steps:

  1. Drive down your street at 43 miles per hour.
  2. When the front bumper of your car passes your mail box, shift into neutral and apply your brakes, slowing to 31 MPH. Press your garage door opener.
  3. When your front bumper crosses your sidewalk, turn your wheel to your right and head for the corner of your driveway. When you reach the corner, you should be at 22 MPH.
  4. Continue your turn up the driveway, confirm the door is going up, and aim between the car in the other stall and the side of the garage. You have 5″ to spare on each side. When your bumper crosses the garage threshold, you should be at 13 MPH, and the door must be at least as high as your rear-view mirror.
  5. Apply brakes to stop within 12″ of the back wall.

Cheater!

The former RIO goes on to explain how to not just land on a carrier, but also become proficient at it.

If you practiced this in a simulator hundreds of times, and then practiced in a parking lot with the obstacles painted on the ground hundreds of times, and then finally tried it on a nice day, you would be able to do it. It would always be dangerous and challenging, but if you are very skilled and practiced, it might even seem like fun. This is a good weather, day carrier landing.

Lastly, Altorfer goes on to explain the different kinds of landings naval aviators face on a carrier, and how you can simulate those kinds of landings in your personal vehicle.

  • Now, do it in a heavy rain and fog. That is a bad weather day carrier landing.
  • Now, do it at night, with only a light tied to the mail box, a light at the sidewalk, lights on the sides of the garage and the garage door, and a light at the back of the garage. All the speeds must be the same. All the distances are the same. This is a good weather, night carrier landing.
  • Now, do it at night, in the rain and fog. That is a bad weather, night carrier landing.
  • Oh, by the way, sometimes the sea makes the deck move — a lot. So, add a sloppy steering wheel, an occasionally surging engine, and unpredictably spongy brakes to the car analogy.