Somehow I got hooked on videos of aircraft carrier flight deck operations, and have been binge-watching over the last couple of days. (Glad it's a long weekend...)
I've been able to understand many of the hand signals from the Aircraft Signals NATOPS Manual (NAVAIR 00-80T-113), but I'm missing a lot of the context of what I'm seeing, because much of the video footage focuses rather narrowly on specific individuals and tasks rather than showing the "bigger picture."
I actually have many more questions than I will put down in this first post, and I will likely post more later. But here I will start off with just a few questions about the "Aviation Boatswain's Mate - Equipment" (ABE) rating, because it looks the most interesting to me.
All questions reference this video, which has some pretty clear shots of ABEs at work. (Parenthetically, I assume that the reason there are two ABEs working the catapult attachment task is that the "hands-on" one is under instruction, and his work is being checked by the other one. Have I got that right?)
At 0:27 the two ABEs appear to be waiting for some kind of go-ahead signal from someone out of frame (to whom they are pointing?), before signaling for the aircraft to be brought forward to position the launch bar in front of the catapult shuttle. Who are they pointing at, and what condition needs to be satisfied before they can proceed?
At 0:38, before signaling for catapult tension, they go through what appear to be a series of visual check-ins with three (or maybe four) separate individuals out of frame:
- ahead of the aircraft;
- behind the aircraft on the near side;
- ahead of the aircraft again (same individual as before?);
- behind the aircraft on the far side.
These checks happen quickly enough that I believe they can only be looking for simple thumbs-up signals. What are the roles of the specific individuals they are looking to, and what, specifically, are those individuals verifying that make it okay to proceed with catapult tensioning?
When tension is finally applied at 0:44, they make a final check of the holdback bar before getting clear. What possible failure modes of the holdback bar are they looking for, specifically?
At 1:01, when the catapult officer signals “launch,” the deckedge catapult operator (center of frame, with hands raised overhead to signal “final ready”) turns his whole body first left, then right, before actuating the catapult. Is he checking something (what?), signaling something (what?), or both?