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I wonder if the arresting wires would work the 'other' way?

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    $\begingroup$ Theoretically? Sure. But you're not going to like it! You'd be landing downwind at a much higher speed relative to the carrier deck, and there aren't arresting wires at the end you'd be touching down on so you're on your own for stopping. If you make it to the wires at the end and the arresting hook engages with them it could bring you to a stop, but you will probably have departed the deck when it does so that's probably not going to be a fun experience... $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Apr 7 '15 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ The pulley in the deck looks like it's designed to work in the normal range of angles for the wire only. So the wire would probably not unwind normally even if you caught it (in addition to it being too far so you wouldn't have the distance to stop anyway). $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Apr 7 '15 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ Not to mention the complete lack of landing guidance going in the wrong direction, which will make touchdown hard. $\endgroup$ – cpast Apr 7 '15 at 22:34
  • $\begingroup$ IIRC, a high wind speed + full speed on an aircraft carrier can match the stall speed of some light sport aircraft. In that case, they could land any way they wanted—even perpendicular! $\endgroup$ – raptortech97 Apr 7 '15 at 23:11
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    $\begingroup$ WWII's Essex class was designed with a high reverse speed in order to allow such operation, and I found a citation for the CV-3 Saratoga (different class) briefly operating backwards in 1945 due to kamikaze damage suffered at Iwo Jima. $\endgroup$ – JenSCDC Apr 8 '15 at 4:30
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You're going to run into a few issues.

Below is a diagram of a typical aircraft carrier layout. Normally aircraft would land from right to left. The four cables are located closer to the right end than the left. The extra length after the cables is both to allow a "bolter" (YouTube) time to accelerate in case of missing the arresting hook; and to allow an aircraft that caught a cable time to decelerate.

Notice how far an aircraft can continue down the deck (YouTube) after catching the cable. Even if you catch the first cable, you might go off the aft end of the ship.

Flight Deck Diagram

Another issue is the way that the arrestor cables work. The housing where the cable enters the flight deck is curved to allow the landing aircraft to pull on the cable as it decelerates. The cable is not designed to be pulled in the opposite direction, which could cause it to break (YouTube).

Arrestor Gear and F-18 Landing

Aside from these issues, you would also lack the FLOLS system that provides physical guidance during the landing. And as voretaq7 also mentioned, you have to either touch down late, or catch the cable late, both of which could pose problems.

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  • $\begingroup$ That 2nd video is an amazing insight into aircraft carrier ops - thanks! 3rd one's nasty, gave me shivers. $\endgroup$ – Danny Beckett Apr 8 '15 at 1:11
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    $\begingroup$ You'd need to touchdown early and basically taxi into the 1-wire (the real 4-wire) to ensure you didn't drop off the back of the boat. Also, shore based arresting gear is typically bi-directional, so I'm not sure if the arresting gear engines could handle it or not. My gut is to say that something very bad would happen, but if shore based systems can handle it, I assume the carrier based systems can too. In fact, if you lose your brakes on the carrier one of your options is to taxi back and snag a wire if you're able; otherwise, you literally try to crash into something that will stop you. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Apr 8 '15 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @RhinoDriver Does shore-based arresting gear look like in the picture (where the cable housing is curved in one direction), or is it symmetric? $\endgroup$ – cpast Apr 8 '15 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ @cpast Honestly, I've never paid much attention to it. I assume its probably symmetrically shaped. However, most of this is pure conjecture because there is a 0% chance the boss is gonna let you land the opposite direction anyway. $\endgroup$ – Rhino Driver Apr 8 '15 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ @cpast On land, the gear is designed to work both ways, because it doubles as overrun protection. Example $\endgroup$ – fooot Apr 8 '15 at 3:32
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Fixed wing aircraft will never land the wrong way on the boat. However, I've done it many times in the H-3. It's a difficult landing even in a helo, the ship is closing on you and you have a tailwind. The approach becomes excessively steep very quickly.

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