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"Wave off" means "wave off".

Nobody wants to be told to wave off when the landing environment is in sight, especially when you're in position to make a beautiful touchdown that you know would make the saltiest of pilots envious. Then you hear the dreaded words, "Wave off, wave off."

You think, "How could this be happening? Why is this happening? I just want to land!"

On a sunny December day, my crew heard those words during a landing aboard our control unit off the coast of Mayport, Fla., while participating in our pre-deployment workups.

After a week conducting surface-based missions, it was time to move into the antisubmarine portion of the training. On this flight, I was sitting left seat as airborne tactical officer (ATO). I felt confident in my ASW skills after recently completing the two-week Helicopter Advance Readiness Program (HARP) syllabus at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC). Not long after takeoff, we received tasking from a P-3 to investigate a possible "sniff" on one of the submarines.

We bustered to the reported threat location, quickly knocking out our sonobuoy-launch checklist. We then deployed our first pattern of buoys to localize the suspected sub. Shortly after the buoys were in, our enlisted sensor operator reported possible contact on the threat. I quickly set up additional sonobuoy-launch points in our NAV system to track the contact.

During any sonobuoy launch, aircrews are trained to do three things. Monitor for an AWAY light on the armament control indicator panel (ACIP). Listen for the pneumatic sound of air pushing the buoy out the launcher. And look for the buoy to deploy its parachute. The right sound of air flow in the launcher means the buoy won't get stuck or hung up. The sight of a parachute means that the buoy will glide to the water intact and will function.

As we reached our first launch point, I looked down at the ACIP and saw an AWAY light on the SONO LAUNCH pushbutton, heard the good sound of air flow, then glanced in the side-view mirror as the buoy left the launcher.

I reported, "Good spit, good chute," to the crew, letting them know the launch was successful.

We flew to the next launch point, and I again reported, "Good spit, good chute."

As we arrived at the third launch point, I saw another AWAY light on the ACIP, but this time I heard a muffled "thump." I quickly looked in my side-view mirror and saw the buoy hanging out of the launcher.

"We've got a hung buoy," I reported.

A hung sonobuoy is not uncommon in the SH-60B, but it is still considered an emergency because the chute could open and get tangled in one of the rotor systems. I pulled out the pocket checklist and began the NATOPS hung-sonobuoy procedures.

As we headed back to the ship, we tried to manually relaunch the buoy from the tube in accordance with the NATOPS checklist. Our attempts were unsuccessful. We told the ship of our condition and requested a green deck for landing. My HAC flew the approach as I reviewed and completed the Return to Force and Landing checklists.

We flew a normal approach to the deck and positioned the helicopter over the rapid-securing device (RSD) for a free-deck landing. Conditions over the deck were far from challenging, as there was little pitch and roll, and the winds were calm. We considered this a normal landing with the minor added risk of the buoy potentially becoming dislodged. We figured the chance of a dislodged buoy was remote because it had remained jammed in the launcher while we were in forward flight.

As we prepared to land, we were all taken by surprise when we heard the landing safety officer (LSO) call out, "Five zero one, wave off, wave off!"

WE TRIED To REMAIN CALM as we racked our brains as to why we were getting waved off when we were feet, maybe inches, from landing. Was the ship turning? No, it didn't look like it. Were the winds out of limits? No, they were calm. Was the deck fouled? It didn't appear to be. As we pulled power to execute our waveoff, we asked the LSO what was going on. He replied that the hung sonobuoy had just fallen directly into the jaws of the RSD.

After our waveoff, the LSO directed maintenance personnel to the flight deck to remove the buoy, inspect the RSD for damage and conduct a FOD walkdown. Once the LSO operationally checked the RSD, we were cleared to land and made a free-deck landing.

In the landing environment, everyone in the aircraft is concentrating on putting the aircraft on the flight deck. The LSO is responsible for making sure the landing environment is safe for the aircraft to land. In this case, our LSO did an excellent job of paying attention to the total picture. He had made sure the aircraft, flight deck, and landing environment were 100 percent safe for us to land. Had he not noticed the buoy in the trap and responded so quickly to call a waveoff, it could have damaged the aircraft and the ship when he tried to close the RSD beams to secure us to the deck.

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Title Annotation:aircraft landing on ships
Author:Willard, Garth
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2013
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