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Pilots Showcase New Optical Landing System

Pilots can now rely on an optical landing system to help ensure a safe
landing on the bucking deck of a ship in the middle of the ocean.

By U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. W. Zach Griffith / Marine Corps Base Camp Butler

IE SHIMA,OKINAWA,Japan, June 30, 2006 – During Word War II, pilots landing their Corsair fighter planes on the deck of a ship in the tossing ocean relied on the crew to signal them in with arm gestures.

Today, pilots still require a little help when landing on the bucking deck of a ship in the middle of the ocean; however, now they can rely on an optical landing system to help ensure a safe landing.

One such system was recently installed at Ie Shima and will ensure Harrier pilots have a safe place to practice day and night landings prior to landing on a ship, said Master Sgt. Jay Mossage, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing airfield services chief. The system had been used on the now decommissioned amphibious assault ship USS Belleau Wood.

Maj. Gen. George J. Trautman III, the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general, visited Ie Shima June 26 to congratulate the Marines who installed the ground-based system, and to view a demonstration of an AV-8B Harrier aircraft land using the new system.

The landing system is an electronic series of lights and radar that assists pilots in making a correct descent onto the deck of a ship or a land-based runway, according to Mossage.

As the aircraft approaches the runway, different colored lights indicate the aircraft's altitude and where it is in relation to the center of the landing strip.

The biggest advantage of having this system in Ie Shima is availability for training opportunities, according to Mossage. The simulated ship's landing deck is one of three available in the Marine Corps. The other two are located at Marine Corps Air Stations Yuma, Ariz., and Cherry Point, N.C.

"Practicing with a real jet, in a controlled environment, is always preferable to a computer simulator," said Capt. Ryan Colvert, a Harrier pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 214, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, serving as the Harrier Detachment for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265. "At Ie Shima, you can practice in a real jet, but without the stress of landing on a boat in the middle of the ocean."

The advantages of the $2.5 million project came with a lot of hard work from the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, who were tasked with installing the system, according to Trautman.

"These Marines were out here working in the intense heat and the rain," he said. "They did an outstanding job and I am very grateful for all the work they did to make this a reality."

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Mar. 28, 2015
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