Carrier Landings Made EZ

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Landing safely on an aircraft carrier has long been admired among pilots as one of the most challenging tasks to master, but those days could soon be over. GPS technology now allows the pilot to let the airplane land itself. While the landing system has been in the works for a while, it's now coming of age, and last week it was tested for the first time at sea in a short-takeoff vertical-landing aircraft -- that is, the Harrier jump-jet. The technology, which is also being studied by the U.S. Joint Strike Fighter program, reduces pilot workload at the end of a mission, when fatigue can be a factor and the pilot faces a critical and difficult landing. Besides reducing risk, the automated landings will enable pilots to conduct missions by day or night and in weather that would previously have been impossible, according to QinetiQ, the British technology company that developed the new system. The recent ship trial aboard HMS Invincible was the world's first fully automatic STOVL shipboard recovery and landing, QinetiQ said.