Adventure starts here

Landing on an aircraft carrier, which I did on the USS Saratoga, the USS Forrestal and the USS Independence, can be compared to a controlled crash. When touching down, the Navy pilot would ideally pick up the third of four landing cables. At the same time as his plane is being slowed down in a rather brusque manner, the pilot is fully stepping on the gas just in case he would need to abort after missing the 240 ft. runway. Apart of the sensation of being catapulted to a speed of 250 km per hour in barely two seconds, I was particularly impressed by the strategic "power projection" and the firing power of Battle Groups in which these aircraft carriers are integrated.

Other stories in this section include a risky crossing of the Strait of Hormuz under the threat of Iranian Pasdaran during the First Gulf War, and a live amphibious landing exercise on board the USS Saipan just days before a real-life strike on Tripoli and Benghazi. Not to forget an article recalling some adventurous souvenirs when taking an aircraft in Russia during the Brezjnev years.

Pictures


Arriving on board USS Independence on 30th January 1985. Pay particular attention to the contorted and twisted posture of the reporter at the right hand side.

 


Talking with senior executive officers on board USS Independence in January 1985.

 


USS Independence, January 1985.

 


Taking off from USS Independence in January 1985, riding high on the jet of flame from a mighty Phantom fighter aircraft.

 


Thumbs up for a fresh ride from the USS Independence.

 


Mon Vanderostyne at the flight deck of USS Forrestal in February 1980.

 


At the briefing room of USS Forrestal, in the company of my colleague and friend, the late Frans "Sus" Verleyen (right) of Knack Magazine.

 


The mighty air control tower at the USS Forrestal - yet there are seventeen floors below the flight deck and half of the 5.000 crew never see open air during an assignment at sea.

 


Flight deck of USS Forrestal, February 1980.

 


The flight tower of USS Saratoga is the defining feature of this mighty aircraft carrier.

 


At the bridge of USS Saratoga, October 1977.

 


Ideally, the fighter pilot would pick up the third of four landing cables at the flight deck of USS Saratoga. Yet, five per cent of all landings will result in a "touch and go" start up again.

 


A rescue helicopter is always in the air, when a Navy jet fighter is catapulted from the USS Saratoga.