Carrier Landings
by Rolex

A carrier landing is similar to an "overhead" approach on land, but called a "break turn" approach. The carrier will travel over one mile during the pattern, so the pattern will resemble a complete loop instead of an oval racetrack. The exact approach depends on the plane, but this will present a generic landing pattern. After you've made a few successful landings, you can modify it by starting at a lower altitude and using a tighter turn.

When you're heading to the carrier, do it at the speed of heat. In combat conditions, enter the break (or the overhead at an airfield) at full speed just in case there's a bandit in the area. You'll have the energy to shoot him down before you land. In peace time you do it to look cool. Also, it gets you on deck quicker than a long, drawn out, straight-in approach. The key is to use the break turn to bleed off all that extra speed.

Controlling your rate of descent will be important. Remember that power controls altitude and elevators control airspeed. To increase rate of descent, decrease power. To decrease your rate of descent, increase power.


CV - aircraft carrier
Loop - carrier landing pattern.
Break turn - the starting point for a high-G turn
Abeam - point on downwind leg that is directly abeam of the stern of the boat
Start - the beginning of the "final"
180 - begining of 180° turn back to the boat and the start
90 - 90° from the start
45 - 45° from the start
Groove - final approach
Trap - successful landing on CV
Bolter -  Unsuccessful trap (Go Around)


Parallel CV, but slightly offset to starboard side
800' altitude, full power >300 mph
Tailhook down <Shift+G>
Note the CV course and reciprocal heading

The Break
Count 8-10 seconds
Throttle to idle
Roll to approx. 60° of bank
Pull into high-G turn

In the Break
Continue high-G turn to reduce airspeed
Extend gear <G> at gear extension speed
(<400 mph F4U, <150 mph for other aircraft)
 Flaps <Q> as necessary*
Roll Out on Reciprocal Heading
Looking for 600' altitude, 130 mph
Add power as necessary
3 green, no red, gear down, hook down
Flaps <Q> as necessary

Approaching Abeam
3/4 - 1 mile from CV

At the 180
Begin abeam of ramp
Bank just under 30°
Coordinated turn (ball centered)
Constant 500 fpm rate of descent

At the 90
400' altitude
Continue 500 fpm rate of descent
Gear down, hook down, flaps as necessary
Keep the CV in view

At the 45
300' altitude
Work throttle and turn for alignment
Resist tendancy to flatten out turn too much, causing an overshoot on alignment

Approaching the Start
200' altitude
Aligned with 400 - 600 fpm descent
Only 17 - 25 seconds before trap
Adjust power to control rate of descent

In the Groove
Keep wings level
Use rudder to crab for alignment
Keep CV at constant position using power
Flaps <Q> as necessary

Over the Ramp
Wings level, on center line
300 - 500 fpm descent

The Cut
Cut throttle after passing over the ramp
Plant it on the deck


*When using Combat Trim, the aircraft will pitch up when lowering flaps <Q>. You can either push the nose down or add down elevator trim <I> until slight back pressure is necessary to hold the aircraft level. Combat Trim disengages when any trim is used.

Make sure you're less than 130 mph at the cut and your Angle of Attack (AOA) is high enough to not bounce on the main gear and miss the arresting wires. If you do bolter, smoothly add power. Don't raise the nose too fast or too much. Retract landing gear <G>.

Caution: adding power too quickly in the F4U may cause a violent torque roll to the left. Bank right as you roll in power. 

Do not retract flaps because you will sink quickly from the lost lift. Establish a shallow, positive rate of climb and build speed before you begin slowly retracting flaps <W>. Perform a climbing turn to the left and establish yourself on the downwind leg for another try. It's your turn in the barrel!

After you've begun the 180° turn for landing, your scan outside the cockpit to your landing point increases from mostly outside after the 90 to almost completely outside the cockpit after the 45. Your throttle and control inputs become instinctive from the sight picture. Check the section on the Look Forward View to set a view looking down the cowling like you see in these cockpit screenshots.

Advanced Carrier Landings

After you've made a few successful landings using the basic technique to stay ahead of the aircraft, it's time to try a more aggressive, tighter carrier loop. The goal is to keep within the perimeter of the fleet and get the aircraft on the deck even faster. You'll go from full speed and power over the CV to landing on the deck in less than 45 seconds.

This is closer to the actual technique developed to qualify the Corsair for carrier landings. The long nose of the Corsair, combined with the difficult low speed, full flaps handling and low pilot seat in the early models made long, straight-in approaches difficult. This technique is a continuous, descending turn around a moving point, allowing the pilot to keep the CV and Landing Signal Officer (LSO) in view. You will not be "dragging" into the CV at low speed and high power, requiring a high Angle of Attack (AOA) and reducing your visiblity over the nose.


Approach CV at 45° from rear, port quarter
Descend to under 500' altitude, full power
Tailhook down <Shift+G>
The Break
Over CV, throttle to idle
Roll to just under 90° angle of bank
Begin pull into high-G turn

In the Break
Continue high-G turn to bleed airspeed
Extend gear <G> at gear extension speed
  3 green, no red, gear down, hook down

500' altitude at fleet perimeter
Continue 180° descending turn
One notch of flaps <Q> as necessary
Nose down to counter pitch up from flaps*

At the 90
Gradually reduce bank angle, continue descent
Spot CV in front-left cockpit view
Adjust to fly over support ship

At the 45
Approx. 250' altitude
Bank under 30°
Work throttle and turn for alignment

At the 45
140 MPH, 500 fpm rate of descent
Another notch of flaps <S>
Keep the CV in view

The Start
Rollout wings level at:
100' altitude, 100 MPH, 100' from ramp
500 fpm rate of descent

The Groove
On center line
Rudder for alignment if needed

The Trap
Cut throttle after passing over the ramp
Gradually increase back pressure on stick