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Shipboard Operations


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I can’t speak from pilots’ perspective but I rode as a passenger or, I directed the landing from the flight deck.  I operated off of the CGC Mackinaw on the Great Lakes and the CGC Eastwind off the coasts of Greenland and Northern Canada.  On the Mackinaw the pilots could come in from the left or right of the after deck or, they could come in over the stern as there were no obstructions and the beam of the ship was around 74 feet at the after deck area.  The Eastwind was another story. It was very seldom that the helicopters (HO3-S 1G and Bell HTL-1 B-47) could land on the centerline coming in over the stern.  In most cases they had to land athwart ships trying to maintain a track with the moving ship and trying to dodge a big crane and or, cable stays for the main mast.  The Captain of the ship would not adjust his course to allow an over the stern landing and this was true especially if they were breaking ice.  Breaking ice also introduced another problem. The ship was equipped with very large water tanks and very powerful pumps.  During ice breaking the pumps would circulate the water to the various tanks around the ship.  This would cause the ship to pitch up or down and / or roll at a very rapid rate so that even though the helicopter was level and moving along a sideward track the pilot had to thread the helicopter through the obstacles to hit a moving deck.  This was further complicated by the turbulent airflow coming down the center of the ship.  To make matters worse the HO3S only had parking brakes and those were not very effective with a rolling ship and a helicopter whose rotors were still turning.  We had to capture the helicopter as soon as it touched the deck and place tie downs to secure it to the deck.


During take off they would lift off vertically and move to the right while climbing.  On one occasion the HTL lifted off and allowed the ship to move out from under the helicopter.  Over the flight deck the helicopter was in ground effect but when the ship moved forward the helicopter was about 40 feet above the water and out of ground effect.  It was the pilots’ lucky day, as he did not get his floats wet.  Maybe his shorts got a bit wet.  :D

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  • 2 weeks later...
(Not a corporate guy, and standard disclaimers apply.) Been awhile also, but used to fly shipboard ops in the army. Most of the issues I remember were night related. Very difficult to tell the water from the sky esp with any overcast or smoke etc. Calm seas also alot harder than when there were some white caps for contrast. Winds and rolling decks made landings fun. Radar did some strange things to avionics when you were close to them. I would consider a radar alt mandatory equipment. Dual engine bird would have been a comfort as well I think. Overall it gave me a real respect for those CG guys who spend a whole career out there in the wx doing their job.
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Approach depends very much on the superstructure and obstructions, but you have to leave yourself an abort just like flying the peaks.  Make sure to reference the ship vs the water on approach (& departure) or else your eyes will play tricks on you with your rate of closure.

Having the skipper turn the vessel into wind helps stop a great deal of side to side rocking motion, landing mid ship or towards the stern (if possible) is better due to less effect of lift from the oncoming waves.

Watch out and get ready to abort due to chance of FOD (especially when landing on barges).  

If the ship has any rocking motion and you are just disembarking px, always keep it at 100%, as the skids easily slip on a steel surface..


and yes, nice to have pop-outs and/or float equipped, wear a suitable inflatable life vest or suit, carry evac o2 cannister and first TAKE underwater egress training!!


that's all I can think of!! :;):

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