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The below photo of Midway class aircraft carrier USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt shows a long white arrow starting on the centerline of the flight deck and continuing up until the "42" at the bow.

I initially thought it might be a guideline for when AV-8A Harriers were deployed to the carrier as these weren't capable of taking off using the catapult, but that didn't happen until 1976. The photo is from 1969 according to Wikipedia. The same arrow is also shown in a 1971 photo

What was the white arrow for?

USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt underway in 1969, photo by US Navy

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    $\begingroup$ "This Way Up" when it's packed for storage $\endgroup$
    – Richard
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:21
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    $\begingroup$ I assumed it was to guide the seamen so they knew where the front of the boat is... $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Jan 17, 2023 at 17:01

3 Answers 3

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That’s a deck launch arrow.

As shown above with the Harriers and prior to the 1990s, certain aircraft were permitted to deck launch under their own power, under certain weight and loadout restrictions, without using a catapult assisted takeoff. Deck launches were very common from the beginning of naval aviation through about the Korean War, but began to fall out of favor with the advent of jet aircraft and their higher stall and takeoff speeds. They also interfered with the flow of traffic on the deck on the larger carriers equipped with an angled landing area.

The deck launch arrow typically starts midship at the LA centerline (near the Jet Blast Deflector for the #3 waist catapult on the larger ships) and runs all the way to the bow of the ship. Depending on loadout a pilot would simply begin their takeoff roll there, under their own power and off the bow of the ship, similar to the launch procedures on the Russian Kuznetsov-class STOBAR carriers. The US Navy finally eliminated the procedure aboard its CATOBAR carriers 30 or so years ago.

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  • $\begingroup$ I don’t see a waist cat. I don’t believe the converted straight decks had them. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2022 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ So its a "this way to sky" because conditions (dark/smoke) make obscure where the edge of the deck is, and pilots might take off sideways in error. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Nov 12, 2022 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Michael Hall You can see them on converted Essex- and Midway-class carriers. And they were definitely present on older Forrestal-, Kitty Hawk-, and even early Nimitz-class ships had them. They disappeared from flight deck marking by the 1990s $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2022 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ I meant that converted straight decks didn't have waist cats, not that they didn't have these deck launch centerline marks. While it doesn't directly say so, your answer hints that there might be a #3 waist cat on the photo in the question. I'm not confused, but somebody might be... $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Michael Hall the Essex-class ships did not, but Coral Sea (CV-43) did have a single waist cat. Midway (CV-41) did have a single waist cat after her first refitting in the early 1950s. This was eliminated during her second refitting during the 1960s as she had become dangerously unbalanced with the new refit, particularly in rough seas. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2023 at 22:46
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It is the marking showing takeoff direction for non-catapult, STOL type aircraft. Here you see a pair of Harriers directly aligned, with yellow shirt "shooters" in control.

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ The original picture from 1969 was pre-Harrier. $\endgroup$
    – WPNSGuy
    Nov 11, 2022 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ @WPNSGuy Harriers are one example of STOL aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – Pilothead
    Nov 11, 2022 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ @WPNSGuy You missed the point. The line was for non-catapult aircraft. Harriers were not the first. $\endgroup$
    – Pilothead
    Nov 11, 2022 at 21:01
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    $\begingroup$ @WPNSGuy, to give an example of pre-Harrier STOL, in 1963, the C-130 Hercules demonstrated the ability to land and take off from an aircraft carrier. Pictures of the tests show markings very similar to that arrow. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Nov 12, 2022 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Prop driven aircraft of the 1950s and 60s would often deck launch once the catapults had cleared enough forward space. $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2022 at 3:03
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It is known as the free deck launch line. Someone already correctly stated that it was for certain aircraft (C1 Trader, S2 Tracker) to launch without use of a catapult. All painted lines on aircraft carrier decks are known as VLA (visual landing aids). It doesn't matter if the lines have anything to do with landing, they are still covered in the VLA manual. Prior to 1984, the free deck launch line was painted on every aircraft carrier. By the way, USS Coral Sea did have a waist catapult.

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    $\begingroup$ Your answer would be improved if you could add a reference showing this. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Jan 15, 2023 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    Jan 15, 2023 at 20:23

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