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The break is a level, 180° turn made at 800 feet (240 m), descending to 600 feet (180 m) when established downwind. Landing gear/flaps are lowered, and landing checks are completed.

(source: wikimili.com)

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The "break" is where the aircraft enters the landing pattern. The aircraft carrier tries to time entries into the break such that aircraft are landing in 15-20 second intervals. Until you "break" you are in a holding pattern around the aircraft carrier. Entering the "break" is getting into the pattern to land.

When they say "the break is level" it means the altitude is maintained during the turn to enter the pattern, so it is a "level turn".

Here is a graphic that illustrates the level turn, then the descent when established on downwind.

enter image description here
Source: Wikipedia

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  • $\begingroup$ "Level" and "descending" seem contradictory. $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Feb 10 '20 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ Addressing the above and the attempted edit... It isn't ambiguous. The descent isn't done until established on the downwind. Until you are established you are turning cross-wind. The turn is not descending. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 10 '20 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ So you think the descending movement isn't part of the turn. The author has made an awful sentence expressing the meaning. The break is comprised of a level turn and a descending movement? $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Feb 11 '20 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Allan Yes... I've added a graphic that illustrates my point. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 11 '20 at 13:03
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"Level" isn't a noun here--it's not that the break is a level. Level is an adjective describing the kind of a turn. A break is a turn; that turn is a level turn (neither descending nor ascending), and a 180 degree turn, and it is made at 800 feet.

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    $\begingroup$ In other words, "level, 180° turn" is the same construction a "big, brown dog" or "fast, red car". Both "level" and "180°" qualify "turn". $\endgroup$
    – CCTO
    Feb 7 '20 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I copied and pasted it carelessly. I think I'd better not edit the title since there's an answer about my carelessness. $\endgroup$
    – Allan
    Feb 10 '20 at 5:56
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The break is a 180° turn from the upwind to the downwind in the landing pattern which allows for the separation of elements in a formation and spacing of individual aircraft for recovery. Typically the break (for a Case 1 recovery) occurs on the upwind leg at 800 ft AGL, 1 NM DME ahead of the ship, at 350 kts. The lead aircraft breaks formation, turning to enter the downwind with his wingman continuing on in the upwind, making the turn to the downwind 15-18 seconds later. This allows for an approx. 45 second spacing between aircraft in the downwind and final approach legs to ensure spacing for each jet to recover, taxi clear of the LA, and reset the arresting gear for the next jet.

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