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Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

Posted September 22, 2008 12:01 AM by joeymac

It's been said that working on the flight deck of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Well, that's true. But what most people don't know is that it's pretty scary, too, - at least at first. One thing for certain is that there are many things to watch out for – things that can kill you in a blink of an eye. There's a saying to "always be aware of your surroundings." That statement couldn't be any farther from the truth.

Before you're even allowed to set foot on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, you must stay in the ship's crow's nest for 3 days. There, you watch flight operations just to get an idea of what's going on and how things operate. After that, you must become flight-deck certified. To do this, you have to spend a week attached to the hip of someone who is qualified. Finally, only when you're qualified, can you go out on the flight deck on your own. This is when things can get real interesting and a little scary.

When you're out on the flight deck alone, there are a lot of things to watch out for. There's a reason why you're given all kinds of gear to wear, especially head gear and goggles. Your head gear is called a cranial and has goggles attached. Always, that's the first thing you put on before even stepping foot on the flight deck. You also have to wear long sleeve shirts, pants, and a flight jacket at all times. All of this clothing is for your protection.

Editor's Note: Click here for Part 2 of this two-part series.

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#1

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 5:02 AM

You also have to wear long sleeve shirts,???

? What about your right to bare arms ?? <groan>

Del

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#2
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 6:16 AM

In the US Military as well as I'm sure the British, when you join to protect others freedom you wind up giving up many of your own. :) In this case bare arms unless your told to have bare arms.

Shawn

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#21
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

10/07/2008 10:38 PM

Do I perceive traces of nut?

As I remember the slightly sweet aroma of burning jet fuel and recall the dash of heat whirling in the wash of air that propelled me over the side, over sixty feet of netting and the drop; ninety feet to the ocean surface. Ah! I recall the plunge deep about twenty-seven feet almost into the darkness, before I responded and swam to the surface again to be snatched from the fifteen foot seas into a helicopter by a swimmer.

What you gonna wear?

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#3

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 8:30 AM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_wticWfA4Q

Case in point. This is a poor quality video of a flight deck mishap.

Both of my brothers are in the military but not on carriers. One was an F-18 pilot who spent most of his time in Baden Germany and my youngest is on Seahawks in Aussie. Both can attest to the need for diligence around fixed wing and rotary aircraft.

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#4

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 8:40 AM

Yeah, Buddy - the flight deck gets to be one busy place alright! Been that, done there...

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#5

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 8:43 AM

I was pessimistic so I googled it. I figured the military would have created procedures to reduce or eliminate risk if properly followed. In the below link it's listed with a fatality rate of 88 out of 100,000 people. Fisherman beats it with 142 out of 100,000.

http://www.healthbolt.net/2007/11/24/deadliest-jobs/

I would have never guessed that being a "refuse collector" would be dangerous. Maybe their talking about a different kind of refuse?

I'm surprised mining isn't on the list. That is usually around 50/100,000 not counting the unfortunately tragic last few years in the US. It's too bad when our government makes decisions favoring profiteers and not the welfare of the people. The fines for unsafe mining conditions is a slap on the wrist with no legal or liability threat.

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#6
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 8:48 AM

They do have the procedures but with everything going on out on the flight deck it doesn't account for human error, which in my opinion is at least 50% and the other being mechanical breakdowns or failures.

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#7
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 9:37 AM

No the primary variable of any mishap is human error.

In the Navy they have a program called 3M (Material Maintenance Management).

This program requires equipment to be inspected routinely. To follow-up, people that do the scheduled maintenance are spot checked by a senior to ensure all the procedures were followed correctly. Often times they just have the individual do the entire check.

All maintenance is done in accordance to an MRC (Maintenance Requirement Card). Every piece of equipment has an MRC that is specific for the check to be done on the equipment. Anytime a piece of equipment is replaced by a newer version of that equipment or something has been modified and new MRC is produced to match the current piece of equipment.

The number 1 cause of accidents in any environment is "Day Dreaming."

The people doing any job, after doing it awhile get comfortable with their surroundings and become careless. It's like the driver of a car, looking at you talking, while he's driving.

All equipment on Navy ships are scheduled for replacement regardless if it needs it.

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#8
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 9:46 AM

What you say is true but while even when those protocals are followed things still break sometimes while in use, plain and simple. I've seen it myself happen, sometimes things just break while they're inspected and pass.

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#23
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

10/07/2008 10:54 PM

It's a tough call with mechanicals they don't break on schedule

It's not a real word but it fit so well

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#22
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

10/07/2008 10:46 PM

The number 1 cause of accidents in any environment is "Day Dreaming."

What you're refering to is called "sky larking'

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#9

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 11:35 AM

I know the dangers of working on a ship. I worked for a naval architect back in the 50's to the 80's. We would go on "shipcheck" on various Navy ships throughout the world. Most were on aircraft carriers, notibly the USS Midway, FDR and Coral Sea. As civilians, we had the run of the ship in order to do our job. Many times, we would be checking in high danger areas, like along the flight deck, in arresting gear rooms, engine rooms, magazines. One person on our team, fell down a trunk from the 2nd deck to the 1st or 2nd platform and lay there for hours until she was discovered. She suffered a broken back. I feel my company and the Navy were remiss in their providing adequate safety. We were never given any safety instructions for the jobs we were on, no safety gear was ever provided us like hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, etc. It was only on one occasion, that I complained to my company about the lack of safety gear, that they finally provided same.

Civilians onboard a working ship is a formula for potential disaster. Most ship personnel are very cooperative with civilian workers, but there a few who would like never to see a civilian onboard. I've spent 20 years working just on the USS Midway alone and probably more than a year onboard. I have been into every inch of that ship. I learned everything I know about ships from her. Midway was a great ship. I'm glad she didn't get scrapped. She is now a floating museum in San Diego.

When she was homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, she could be ready for sea in 4 hours. The big E needed 48 hours to get underway.

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#10
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 12:28 PM

"...We were never given any safety instructions for the jobs we were on, no safety gear was ever provided us like hard hats, safety glasses, hearing protection, etc...."

That's nearly criminally remiss! As a former sailor, I worked a few times with on-board civilians, but they were few and far between. They must be better at safety nowadays, we never had safety gear either, but there are many jobs where safety glasses and hearing protection would be mandatory in a non-military job.

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#24
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

10/07/2008 11:05 PM

A great deal of safety reform has been borne so to speak from the "USS Forrestal" incident.

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#17
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 9:37 AM

Prior to 1980 safety wasn't on people's minds like it is today.

It wasn't until an F-14 crashed on an aircraft carrier and it was found the pilot had THC in his system was there a big move to crack down on drug use in the Navy and increase the scale for observing proper safety practices.

I served from 1981 to 1992.

You couldn't checkout a power tool with out it being safety checked first and issued a pair of gloves for electrical safety, safety goggles and a face shield and the wearing of safety gear was enforced.

Part of the training schedule for the Training Petty Officer of any division also included training on Material Safety Data Sheets.

The MRC's that I mentioned previously also included in them the safety gear required and the safety procedures to follow prior to commencing your check. This also included Logout/Tagout procedures.

The Navy wasn't the only organization that was remiss on safety at the time. The Fire Department has safety training films showing unsafe practices of firemen prior to the 1980's. Such things like fighting the fire with their turnout gear tied around their waist.

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#18
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 10:48 AM

Things changed fast for the better, then. I served 1967-'72, and we didn't have a training petty officer. We never saw an MSDS, or got issued any safety PPE. I recall one incident where there was a fire in the engineering spaces, and one young fireman (not fire fighter, the rank) was commended for rushing in to help people without putting on his OBA. I thought at the time he should have been punished for reckless behavior, but everybody else called him a hero. My next involvement with the military was as a civilian consultant to the Air Force from the mid-'80's to late '90's. There and then, the safety factors WERE taken seriously.

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#11

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 4:00 PM

Hi joeymac - There's always that great Navy food to look forward to, after the hard work on the flight deck is completed! I spent some time in Great Lakes, IL, back in 1980 or so, for Sea Cadet training, and enjoyed the Navy food, as well as a little gas-chamber training. Good times! - Larry

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#12
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 4:11 PM

"...a little gas-chamber training. Good times!..."

Good times?!? You are a little young to be suffering from dementia, son...but I think there may be a tad too much soy sauce in yer egg drop soup, there. Yeah, the food's great, but this?

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#13
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/23/2008 8:12 PM

Hi EnviroMan - Cool gas mask picture - thanks for sharing. The good times were mostly with my friends during training in Great Lakes. Although a little painful and teary-eyed, I felt the gas-chamber experience did build character in me, and taught me the disipline (zen?) of properly donning and maintaining my gas mask. Not for everybody, but it definitely was exciting to me at the time. Now I get my kicks by taking my daughter to balloon festivals (picture to left is what we saw Saturday evening during the Adirondack Balloon festival's "Moonglow" event on Lake George). - Larry

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#15
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 5:58 AM

In the Army it was a big no-no to refer to it as a "gas mask". It was either a Protective Mask, Pro Mask, or M17. Just like your M16 was never a "gun" a gun is field artillery, the M16 was a rifle or a weapon.

Shawn

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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 7:49 AM

Thank SparkY for the mask pic, I nicked it from one of his recent posts. Thank YOU for the balloonglow pic! I've been to the BIG festival in Albuquerque, NM once, and the smaller one in Colorado Springs, CO a couple of times, plus seen the one in Las Vegas, NV from afar a few times. Always a lot of fun!

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#14

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 3:49 AM

the flight deck is a highly dangerous place you have jets taking off on catapults and these things can get a plane into the air in about 3 seconds they travel at over 180kt 270 kmph at full after burner and aircraft landing well over 80 kt in some wire if the pilot can't catch it in less then a few seconds this is a photo of a f14 tomcat at full after burner talking off it would be in the air in less then 3 seconds i got a mate who works on this carrier he said its highly dangerous

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#19

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/24/2008 7:57 PM

I've worked on Ramps and on Sets, and in Construction. I have also worked scrapping a ship with a cutting torch. That work is the most dangerous work I've done. (Do not ever go below decks on a dead ship, without a flashlight.) A Combat Pilot getting through a landing gets out of the plane, with hardly any idea where he is all of a sudden. They ought to have a chair to sit in for a bit. The fact is that noise will sap your strength. The Dangers of the Flight Deck, are great for a number of reasons exacerbated by the influence of noise on our judgement. At some point of noise overload we lose judgement and just want to get away from it. This is especially an influence on pilot captains who have been in a fight. They have been known to walk right into turning props when drained of all sensibility by the rigors of their flight, even when hand signal warned of the danger. As a lineman I did always do my best to aid the pilots. I called them Captain, and I was honest when I failed somehow to prepare their plane. One Captain thanked me for asking them to cut their engines. He said that I had averted his eventual crash. I made the cut sign across my throat when I saw all the hydraulic fluid fall out of the Learjet at spool up. Playing in traffic is dangerous. And the deck of an aircraft carrier is like playing in traffic, from what I know.

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#20

Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/25/2008 12:57 PM

OK, for all the aviation video you can swallow, and to get your daily fix, check out this site: www.alexisparkinn.com/aviation_videos.htm

Regards,

A.T.

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#25
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Re: Dangers of the Flight Deck - Part 1

09/14/2009 10:47 PM

As a Plane Captian I seen 3 different A/C Carriers, the USS America, USS Coral Sea, and the USS Enterprise. All with in less that 4 years. It was quite the experience and dangerous is an understatement. During a regular tour it is normal to pull your duties on just one vessel but to be thrown into a whirlwind of changes and scrambles on little notice from coast to coast and then out to sea tweaks the senses and the mind. Like I said, getting acustom to one flight deck is usually enough but working the fleet and making ajustments for the different ships and crews was a little difficult and the enviroment of the flight activity I seen was enormous. Fast and furious! I am thankful I lived without any missaps and have lots of stories of my time on duty and off duty in the American Navy! Peace out....

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