That Trick Harrier Landing: More to the Story


Im 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 didnt, 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. Thats 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 didnt go quite so swimmingly well.

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

I guess Id have to agree. Its 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 youve 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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