Jan 12

First Test of Angled Deck

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 12:01 AM


On 12 January 1953, the first test landings occurred on USS Antietam’s new angled flight deck. Angling the axis of an aircraft carrier’s landing area slightly off the axis of the ship allows longer landing length (important for the first shipboard jets), affords simultaneous takeoffs and recovery, and ensures that a landing aircraft that misses the arresting gear won’t then plow into parked or launching aircraft. This British idea was originally tested by repainting the landing areas on axial-deck carriers, and the results were good enough that the U.S. Navy installed the first true angled deck on Antietam (CV 36) in the fall of 1952. Over the next four days several aircraft models landed on and took off from the angled deck under various conditions and began proving the value of an innovation that has been a part of U.S. aircraft carrier design ever since.

  • Jim Valle

    The introduction of jets operating off of straight deck carriers in the late 1940’s led to a serious uptick in accidents which the angled flight deck helped to reduce but the real potential of the angled deck was not realized until the mirror landing system with its colored lights replaced the old landing signals officer (LSO) with his hand held paddles.

  • Douglas Pauly

    Were the benefits of the angled flight deck known or at least suspected prior to the introduction of jets on carriers? It seems to me that some bright young officer or engineer would have picked up on that even before the introduction of jets to allow for the recovery of planes without endangering those parked forward. It just seems so obvious. Anyone know the evolution of the angled deck, and/or if attempts were made to introduce them during the war years?

  • The British pioneered the angled deck with HMS Triumph and the US Navy followed close behind. I don’t believe that any efforts (and maybe no discussions) occurred during WW II.

  • Richard Gamble

    Naval historian Norman Friedman researched the history of the above question and the answer was published in 2011 as INNOVATION IN CARRIER AVIATION (Naval War College Press, Newport Papers #37), with an abridged version in the Spring 2011 issue of NAVAL WAR COLLEGE REVIEW as “The Development of the Angled-Dek Aircraft Carrier” (with Thomas C. Hone, and Mark D. Mandeles). In a nutshell, at the end of WWII the British were interested in adapting the carrier to the needs of jets, while the US Navy was only interested in competing with the US Air Force to develop heavy jet bombers able to operate from carriers with nuclear weapons. Very close collaboration between the Royal Navy and the USN allowed the US to take the British idea and implement it.

  • Hubert I. Flomenhoft

    In response to Douglas Pauly, there was simply no need to consider an angled deck during WW II. Airplanes of that era had tail wheels, and the barriers to catch the main gear were simple if all the arresting wires were missed. Starting with the twin-propeller F7F Grumman Tigercat and continuing with all jet designs, the airplanes had nose wheels, which made barrier design much more complicated to miss the nose gear, but catch the main gear. Also, propeller aircraft have a lower stall speed power-on than power-off, so the landing technique was to make the final turn to final approach “hanging on the prop,” so the plane would drop when the Landing Signal Officer gave the signal to cut power. Also, those airplanes had the cockpits aft, so the pilot had no visibility over the nose at a high angle, so the pilot had to make the final turn close to the carrier, left wing down, to see the LSO. Every-thing changed with the jets. The cockpits were forward and power-on and power-off stall speeds were basically the same. The engines were slow to spool up, if a wave-off were called. So an entirely new landing technique was required, with a long final approach with some power. This was done satisfactorily at first; the F2H Banshee did carrier qualifications on the axial-deck Phillipine Sea. Another concern was the effect on landing-gear design. The gear on carrier aircraft are designed for much higher sink speeds than for landplanes. With the higher approach speeds of jet aircraft, sink speeds might be higher, requiring even stronger, heavier gear. All of these issues were addressed by the British innovations of the angled deck and the mirror landing system. There was considerable concern about the practicality of the angled deck at first, because the landing airplane would fly through the turbulent wake off the carrier’s island structure before reaching the stern of the carrier. So, it was no “slam-dunk.” Once all the concerns were shown to be manageable, the angled deck has shown to provide a considerable improvement in carrier operations. The jet pilot pushes the throttle full forward at the moment of contact, ready to make a “touch and go,” and pulls the power off when he feels the deceleration of arrestment. Incidentslly, I was at the Navy’s BuAer in the early 1950s.

  • Cali

    My dad was on this ship when he was in the navy!