After watching that video, I can't fathom how in the world could the crew save the day. Can someone give the intuition on how did that happen?

Unfortunately, I am not in the aviation, but I recall from Flight Simulator that on landing, the aircraft has such a small value of velocity. Maybe the aircraft carrier was tall enough and/or wind was helping that day?

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    $\begingroup$ Carrier landings are done at full power until the aircraft stops completely (or even rolls back a bit), so they were at take-off power when the cable snapped. A good crew that knew not to pull up and stall helped allow them to pull out (but barely). The aircraft carrier is going at a good clip into the wind which also helps, remember, airplanes fly with air speed, not ground speed, so referencing the speed to the ship is misleading. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer didn't know that. Could you expand on why stalling helped, instead of pulling up? If it is big for a comment, then an answer would be nice, I think! Is it a frequent (relatively) accident for the cable to snap? $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:39
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    $\begingroup$ Stalling didn't help, they avoided stalling by fighting the urge to pull up. Keeping the nose down let them build air speed, which let them eventually climb out. I will add an answer tomorrow if nobody comes up with a good one. There used to be a carrier pilot around here but I haven't seen him in quite some time. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:41
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    $\begingroup$ Yes I understand that, thanks! @carrierPilot come aboard! :))) $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ And yes, its not unheard of for the cable to snap, that's one of the reasons why its done at full power. Missing the cables also happens once in a while and you don't want to be idling when you hit the deck if that happens, especially with spool up times for some engines. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 3:45

2 Answers 2


The truth of the matter: That E-2C pilot escaped crashing by a hair's breadth. He was just very, very fortunate that the combination of holding full power, the position on the flight deck where the arrester pendant failed allowing for a small takeoff roll to accelerate, plus the 40+ ft drop off the deck of the ship to the waves combined with the ship steaming into the wind was enough to gain him the end airspeed he needed to fly again. The flight crew received the Air Medal for their heroism in the face of that situation. As an E-2 does not have crew stations equipped with ejection seats, there was no other option available to the flight crew than to attempt to gain airspeed and hope for the best. That cross deck pendant failure could have easily resulted in disaster and most pilots in that situation don't live to tell the tale.

Although it is rare, cross deck pendant failures can and do happen and are extremely dangerous, both to the aircrew of the recovering aircraft and to nearby flight deck personnel; there have been cases where a failed cable has literally sliced a man in half. As a precaution, each cross deck pendant has as pre-set service life of 100 traps, then it is removed from the purchase cables on the arresting gear and destroyed.

This video was shot by an sailor aboard the USS Ronald Reagan during sea trials in 2003. The arresting gear failed, sending the aircraft over the edge of the deck. The F-18 pilot ejected and survived. Note the amount of damage which the end of the cross deck pendant does to equipment and personnel as it whips across the flight deck.

  • $\begingroup$ You have a (rough) ratio for your last claim? $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 4:53
  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ @gsamaras: Do you mean the ratio of "there have been cases where a failed cable has literally sliced a man in half" ?! $\endgroup$
    – MSalters
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 12:26
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    $\begingroup$ @gsamaras According to Wikipedia (which at least should give a rough indication), there were three incidents with the arresting cable in the last 16 years. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$
    – Sumurai8
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 12:41
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    $\begingroup$ According to a comment on the E-2C video, there were 8 people injured when the pendent snapped. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 15:38

He must have been very lucky. One more factor that I can think of is the end of the ship's deck were he run off to must have been rocking up and down with the waves and was at the optimal position which is just short of end of swinging up at the high elevation and a few degrees up tilt and hesitate a moment before swinging back down.

Effectively discharging the plane with a bit of climb momentum and several feet higher above the water. The fact that the tail of plane didn't scrape the deck supports this theory.

Pilot must have done a perfect job of easing the yoke first and hugging the water to take advantage of ground effect.

  • $\begingroup$ I am not familiar with the ground effect unfortunately, can you give the intuition of it, in simple words? Also, when you say "rocking up end down", you meant "and" instead of "end" maybe? :) $\endgroup$
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 21:36
  • $\begingroup$ The ground effect is the fact that airplanes gain lift when near the ground. Some vehicles rely on the effect entirely for flight. $\endgroup$
    – Eric Urban
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, yes it was "up and down." Ground effect is when the plane is flaying near the ground barely a few feet hi, there is a cushion of pressure that gives the wings additional lift! $\endgroup$
    – kamran
    Commented Aug 15, 2016 at 23:57

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