A fighter jet landed on a stool after it lost its front landing gear. “I didn’t realize how much I was shaking until I got out of the aircraft,” admitted the American fighter jet pilot in his video interview. “We pride ourselves landing on the ship … but there is no way to train to land in this kind of situation.” As reported by Today.com on June 27, the situation that US Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney is referring to happened in the first week of June on the deck of the USS Bataan, a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship.
The video of Mahoney’s amazing landing was released by the U.S. military, and even though the video shows that the fighter jet’s nose bounced a few times up and down on the stool, Mahoney says in his interview that he only experienced one landing – the one that placed the nose of his fighter jet safely on the stool.
On June 7, Marine Corps pilot Mahoney was flying his AV-8B Harrier jump jet, which is a Cold War-era fighter jet, when he realized just shortly after takeoff that something was wrong with his landing gear. At about 2,000 feet, he reported his problem to another experienced pilot who was in the control tower on board of the USS Bataan.
After flying by the control tower at about 300 feet, it was evident to the control tower that the landing gear of the fighter jet had indeed a serious problem and that the AV-8B had to be brought down to the USS Bataan without its nose landing gear.
According to Mahoney, the USS Bataan had a lighting system which is called “Spot Seven” that pilots use to land on the same spot every time. The ship also had a stool which was designed for especially the kind of situation that he was in.
While Mahoney’s jet was capable of coming in vertically, the challenge was to come in at the right height and the right speed so that he could exactly hit the stool with his jet’s nose. Coming in from 50, 40, 30, 20 feet, Mahoney says that he forgot that he didn’t have a front landing gear but just focused on coming in on the landing line. He was looking for the stool, but he couldn’t see it. “I remember thinking, oh boy, this is gonna get interesting.”
“So I never saw the stool. I go to idle. I remember my main gear hitting and all of a sudden my nose dropping. It dropped more than I expected, but at that point, I was along for the ride.”
Mahoney says that when his nose hit the stool, he didn’t remember it to drop like it did on the video tape. He remembers that he just hit the stool and that was it.
After getting over his initial shock and shaking, and remembering how to turn off his fighter jet, Mahoney finally got out of his AV-8B Harrier. Until he saw the video though, he hadn’t realized that nobody else had been on the flight deck during his nose landing on the stool -- just in case something bad would have happened. As reported by the BBC, "he later realised the crew of the USS Bataan had evacuated the landing deck in case he crashed."