That Trick Harrier Landing: More to the Story

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Iím sure you saw the dramatic footage of the Marine AV8 Harrier landing on the deck of the U.S.S. Bataan with a stuck nosegear. If you didnít, here it is.†My initial reaction was twofold. First, the pilot, Captain William Mahoney, was really on his game in hovering that airplane prior to committing to the landing, then making a perfect spot touchdown.

Second, someone on that ship, or several someones, was really thinking presciently in constructing that stool and having it ready when it was needed. Thatís not something you can whip up in the carpentry shop while an airplane spins in marshall. Either this has happened before or it happens a lot. Turns out, it appears to have happened before. But it didnít go quite so swimmingly well.

According to a report in The Blaze, a spokesman at†MCAS Cherry Point confirmed that in the previous incident, the Harrier was landed on a stack of mattresses hastily assembled when the aircraft couldnít get its gear down. And since the Navy and Marines obsessively film everything, theyíve got the pix to show that it seems not to have ended well. The Blaze quoted another Marine Harrier pilot as saying that idea ďwas wrong on so many levels.Ē

I guess Iíd have to agree. Itís hard to see how mattresses stacked two high would do much to cushion the impact of a 15-ton jet squirting out a gale of superheated exhaust straight down. Any port in storm and you fix what you can with what youíve got, but that idea was as bad as the stool concept was good. One wonders if the former inspired the latter. Either way, it made for interesting video.

Kudos, too, to whomever shot the video and put the story together. It tells the tale in nice, tight fashion with all the detail you need to understand what happened. I admire Mahoney for both his piloting skills and for admitting his knees were shaking. He could have easily decided to jettison the airplane and take his chances with an ejection. The Marines now have a fixable Harrier because he decided no to.

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Comments (7)

I was under the impression from the video that this happened often enough over the decades of Harrier Service that the stool was pretty much considered a necessary spare. Space is tight on ships and they generally don't bring along gear not needed. Excellent piloting skiils. agreed, he said he was looking for that stool when he got over the deck and never saw it. Yet they practice pin-point precision landings all the time, I'm sure this is one reason why! Great story Nobody hurt, plane fixable.

Posted by: Peter Hamilton | June 30, 2014 5:59 AM    Report this comment

He's a Marine? I doubt that ejection even entered his mind.

Posted by: Michael Armstrong | June 30, 2014 6:37 AM    Report this comment

Nick Hopkins.- The Guardian, Tuesday 15 November 2011

Harrier jump jets were scrapped under last year's defence review. The United States military has bought the entire fleet. Britain's entire fleet of Harrier jump jets, the veteran plane scrapped in last year's defence review, has been saved - by the American military.

All 74 of the planes are to fly again for the US marines in a deal that is expected to be closed within a week. The Ministry of Defence said last night that negotiations were in their final stages. Reports in the US suggested the Marines were already preparing for their arrival.

The deal does nor include stools.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | June 30, 2014 7:08 AM    Report this comment

Kudos to the Marine Captain! I don't care if the "Stool" was in the head, this guy used it to his advantage and save the Service some bucks, "Ata Boy!". Need to get a commendation written up for that and have him speak to the fleet aviation wings as a "good guys can fly" spokes person for 20 mins, then back to sea.

Go get'em tiger.

Posted by: Ken Strafer | June 30, 2014 8:28 AM    Report this comment

All praise to Captain Mahoney and in fact the whole crew for an excellent bit of teamwork, but it is interesting to ask what we'd have all been saying if this hadn't turned out so well. I'm sure we'd all be criticising the Marines for likely causing serious damage to the ship as well as losing an aircraft through not following procedures. Not that I'm sure what "standard procedures" are in this case, but they likely end in "abandon aircraft in a safe area" - or maybe not, hence the existence of the stool.

This is in no way meant as a criticism of the superb way the Marines resolved this incident, just a reflection on the sometimes fickle response of us, the general public.

Posted by: Andy Cullington | June 30, 2014 9:43 AM    Report this comment

That "stool" was strapped down (chained down?) firmly to the deck for a reason. But the most telling part of the video was when Capt. Mahoney said "after I shut down the engines I realized that there was no one on the flight deck..." There can be only one reason for that surprise, and that is they were all instructed to take cover in case of a massive disaster. But all ends well, Kudos to all for a great job!

Posted by: A Richie | June 30, 2014 11:29 AM    Report this comment

As a follow on, if he could figure out how to land it upside down on some jackstands it sure would make doing tire maintenance easy!

Posted by: A Richie | July 2, 2014 9:10 AM    Report this comment

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