BACKGROUND: The Harrier flight operations conducted aboard the USS JUNEAU (LPD-10 -- landing platform, dock) on February 6-7 made Pacific aviation history in the waters near Okinawa.
BACKGROUND: The Harrier flight operations conducted aboard the USS JUNEAU (LPD-10 -- landing platform, dock) on February 6-7 made Pacific aviation history in the waters near Okinawa. VMA-513 was the first Harrier squadron in the Pacific to qualify its pilots on an LPD. In December, they chalked up another first by qualifying on an LPH (landing platform, helicopter), the USS NEW ORLEANS. Despite the practice they gained on the NEW ORLEANS, landing on and taking off from the JUNEAU was a whole new experience for the pilots of the attack squadron. The JUNEAU's flight deck is postage stamp size, in comparison to aircraft carriers, LPHs and runways, measuring a modest 75 feet wide and 195 feet long.
Besides the restricted space, the ship must be underway to crete a wind angle for an undisturbed air flow that is important for successful wave-offs. A moving ship pitches and rolls. The Harrier can only operate on a deck with a maximum pitch and roll of 10 degrees.
The JUNEAU's flight deck crew are old hands at servicing helicopters but AV-8As were a new experience for them. To train the sailors in launching, landing, refuelling, taxiing, firefighting and crash and rescue, one Harrier acted as a practice bird on February 6 while the ship was docked at Okinawa's White Beach. Assisted by a small crew of VMA-513 maintenance people, the JUNEAU sailors learned how to take care of an AV-8A.
The following day, the JUNEAU steamed out to sea. The Harriers, using Kadena Air Base as a launch filed, managed 45 landings in eight hours of flight operations. Working with proficiency, the JUNEAU's flight deck crew made it possible for nine Harrier pilots to qualify (Only five landing are necessary to qualify on an LPD, whereas 10 are needed on an LPH.)
Operations slowed at times but never stopped. Minor problems arose and were dealt with. When flight operations finally ended, the JUNEAU steamed back to its White Beach berth.