Navy aircraft carrier makes history with ‘once in a lifetime’ milestone — 350K trap landings
Stars and Stripes April 24, 2023
WASHINGTON — The oldest active aircraft carrier in the Navy has reached a major milestone — 350,000 arrested plane landings in nearly a half-century, the service announced.
The USS Nimitz hit the mark Saturday in the South China Sea when an F/A-18F Super Hornet touched down on the deck.
“I am honored and humbled to land this historic milestone for our ship,” said Capt. Craig Sicola, the Nimitz’s commanding officer and lead pilot of the fighter that made the landing. “I dedicate this landing to the countless naval aviators who have flown before me.”
An arrested landing — also known as a trap — is one where a landing plane contacts the aircraft carrier and its tailhook snags one of four cables that are laid across the deck. By catching one of the cables, the tailhook immediately decelerates the fighter jet’s speed so that it can safely stop. The decks of aircraft carriers are not long enough for planes to land in traditional fashion.
The Nimitz is the first of the Navy’s Nimitz-class carriers and entered service in 1975, making its first arrested landing that same year. It is now the oldest active aircraft carrier anywhere in the world, the Navy said.
Sicola was in the fighter jet’s front seat and Cmdr. Luke Edwards the rear. Edwards is the commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron 22, known as the "Fighting Redcocks.” Both men are longtime Navy pilots.
The USS Nimitz is part of the 3rd Fleet’s Carrier Strike Group 11 and is based near Seattle. It’s on a regularly scheduled deployment in the 7th Fleet area of operations in the South China Sea, the Navy said.
“As we sail through the South China Sea, we celebrate this once in a lifetime achievement, 350,000 arrested landings, over a hundred years of innovation in the U.S. aircraft carrier,” said Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of Carrier Strike Group 11. “This landmark is a testament to the nation's commitment to fly, sail and operate around the globe promoting peace and security.”
It didn’t take long after the milestone for the carrier to welcome arrested landing number 350,001. Since it entered service, the Nimitz has sailed 30 deployments and served in countless operations, the Navy said. It’s scheduled to be retired in 2027. Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, which are powered mostly by two nuclear reactors, have an expected lifespan of about 50 years.
The ship with the next-highest number of arrested landings is the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Navy’s second-oldest active carrier. It has seen almost 327,000 such landings.
In the past five decades, there have been multiple deadly crashes on the deck of the Nimitz. Fourteen sailors were killed, and dozens were hurt during the crash of an EA-6B Prowler in 1981 and seven people died when an A3 Skywarrior bomber crashed in 1987.