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Would it be possible to float a small plane (say a Cessna 150) off of the deck of an aircraft carrier without the Cessna achieving any forward motion with respect to the aircraft carrier? If not a Cessna 150, is there a standard GA aircraft that could do it?

EDIT: Per a comment from ratchet freak: the takeoff would be done via lift from the wings, not via an engine duct (VTOL), like a Harrier.

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excluding VTOL capable planes I guess –  ratchet freak May 13 at 21:12
    
Given the right airplane, you can float it even off a submarine. The Focke-Achgelis 330 [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Focke-Achgelis_Fa_330] was designed to be towed by a submarine, much like a kite, to give it a wider field of view. –  Peter Kämpf May 13 at 22:42
    
@PeterKämpf That might make a good answer if you expanded it out. –  Jay Carr May 13 at 23:03
    
Yay! Fuel-economic takeoffs! :D –  shortstheory May 14 at 6:36
    
Given that small aircraft have taken off, so to speak, on land during severe wind conditions, it's more interesting (as the answers suggest) to see what you can do sans storm :-) –  Carl Witthoft May 14 at 14:33

6 Answers 6

up vote 11 down vote accepted

As far as I'm aware this has never been attempted (and I doubt the Navy would let me try - though I'm certainly game if they are!), but:

So, given a lightly loaded cub and an Enterprise-class carrier at flank speed, it is at least theoretically possible to float that aircraft off the deck (if it were lightly loaded, and thus had a lower stall speed).

Achieving zero relative motion would require a little more effort - specifically you'd have to seek out a headwind, and the Cub would have to be operating at an airspeed above stall, but still pretty close to it.
For example, if the Enterprise were making 30 knots and steaming into a 10 knot headwind the relative wind on deck would be 40 knots. That's enough to lift the Cub, but as soon as it was in the air it would need to pull itself along (via its engine) to maintain that speed. The Cub would have zero relative motion above the deck at an airspeed somewhere around 40 knots).


As a (slightly ridiculous) bonus: The Belite Superlite has a stall speed of 28 mph (25kts). It would be theoretically possible to fly such a plane like a kite from an aircraft carrier. Its advertised takeoff and landing distances (both ~500ft) are also such that it could operate from a carrier deck without need for the catapult to launch or arresting wire to stop.

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Any idea if the air coming over the bow of the ship would affect trying to float? –  Jay Carr May 13 at 21:31
    
It's also worth noting that relatively large planes (B-25s and the C-130) have been launched from (and landed on) carriers - None of these would be able to achieve zero relative motion though - their minimum flying speeds are well above 33 knots. –  voretaq7 May 13 at 21:32
    
    
@voretaq7 are those stall speeds with full flaps/slats for the J3 cub? –  shortstheory May 14 at 6:37
    
@NickT those stunt planes have almost a 1/1 thrust to weight ratio (look at that near vertical climb) so I'm not surprised that thing can take off there –  ratchet freak May 14 at 7:45

A Cessna 150 can take off at 48 knots rotation speed. An aircraft carrier can do 30 knots, and an 18 knot headwind is certainly possible at sea. That puts a 48 knot wind over the wings, enough for the Cessna to take off. The engine would counteract drag, allowing the plane to "float" off the deck.

If you have any doubt about this being possible, just watch what happens if you don't tie down your plane properly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPOtDPHjW-Y

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What you say is not only possible, but it has been used to land a plane on a much smaller (and a bit faster) ship than an aircraft carrier.

Try to search in the web for the video "Extreme small plane landing on a ship at sea".

Here is a working link at the moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUdzVnZBaoY

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It all depends on the minimum flight speed and the ship's maximum speed. Even with the slow speed of submarines, floating a flying machine is possible if the machine has been designed that way.

In order to increase the observation radius of submarines (typically only 5nm), an unpowered gyrocopter was designed in 1941 to lift an observer 500 ft up into the air to increase the observation radius to 25 nm. Gyrocopters are known for their low flying speeds, and this one, the Focke-Achgelis 330, was designed to be folded away in a watertight container and to be stored on the deck of the submarine. It could be assembled and de-assembled within 20 minutes and was then towed behind the submarine like a kite. The minimum flight speed was only 27 km/h (14.5 its), just enough for a submarine going at full speed and a little wind.

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This depends also on a wind speed. It may be winds up to 64 knots. Deciding from the @foot answer, that would blow up the plane from the standing ground no problem, no ship required. But probably not the best idea to take off in such a weather.

Less extremely, a strong breeze (22–27 knot) would probably help a lot. A ship speed probably does not depend much on the headwind speed.

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I took off once at Wellington airport, NZ in a Gulfstream Cheetah in winds gusting to 55kt. When I opened the throttle it lifted off with no forward ground speed at all. All that is required is a vessel fast enough to provide a steady 45kt wind speed over the decks.

Some designs of fast ferries like the INCAT wavepiercing catamarans would be ideally suited as some form of aircraft carriers like this.

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