Search the Site with 
to end of page

Working on the Flight Deck

According to Lloyds in London, working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. On the flight deck it is loud, crowded and the whole atmosphere is often referred to as 'controlled chaos': Jets are catapulted into the air while others are landing, bombs and missiles are transported from the 'bomb farm' to parking aircraft while other planes are taxiing to the catapults or to their parking locations. Even a little mistake can result in an accident: One can be blown off the deck or be sucked into one of the planes' engines. Dangers are everywhere on the flight deck and that is why the people who are working there have to be in perfect physical and mental condition.
For someone who is not used to this business it is just overwhelming because it is hard to imagine that there is a well thought-out system behind all deck operations. Due to the noise created by jet engines and rotors the communication among the people of the flight deck crew is mostly done through hand signals. These hand signals make up a unique sign language that can basically be seen as the 'language of the flight deck'.

Below, there is a table that contains the most common signals used by the Catapult and Plane Handling Officers.

MeaningCommandVideo ClipPhoto
Full Powercat officer showing: afterburnerThe cat officer shows the pilot that he should activate the plane's afterburner for take-off.

Filesize: 40 KByte
Brakecat officer showing: brakeThe pilot is shown that he should brake.

Filesize: 46 KByte

Fists mean "brakes on", open hands mean "brakes off"
Move Forwardcat officer showing: forward
no video clip available
no photo available
Go / Launchcat officer showing: GOWhen this command is shown the plane will be launched.

Filesize: 89 KByte
Pullcat officer showing: pull
The Pull signal is used to signal the catapult crew to tense the catapult after the plane is hooked up to the catapult shoe.

no video clip available
no photo available
Lower / Raise Launch Bar
no animation available
The signal is used to show the pilot that he has to lower his aircraft's launch bar so that the plane can be hooked up in the catapult.

Filesize: 45 KByte
no photo available
Slow downcat officer showing: slow down
no video clip available
no photo available
Stopcat officer showing: stopThe plane handling officer wants the pilot to stop his plane.

Filesize:49 KByte
Jet Blast Deflector upcat officer showing: pull up the tarlineThe meaning of this signal is that the jet blast deflector behind the plane shall move up so that the following aircraft aren't blown away.

Filesize: 48 KByte
no photo available
Turn leftcat officer showing: turn leftno video clip available
Turn rightcat officer showing: turn rightIf the pilot sees this signal he has to turn right.

Filesize: 63 KByte
Command is turned over to Catapult Officer to complete the launch sequenceno animation availableThis signal is used to show the pilot that the control of the aircraft is turned over from the Plane Director (yellow helmet) to the Catapult Officer (green helmet)

no video clip available.

I have controlno animation availableThis signal is used to show the pilot that another controller has taken over the control and that the pilot now has to follow the signals of the new controller.

no video clip available.

Fold / Spread Wingsno animation availableno video clip available

Click here or the picture on the left to view a short clip of the Catapult Officer's final sequence of handsignals before the plane is catapulted off the deck.

Filesize: 382 KByte
This is a DivX file. To view it you need a DivX Codec or even better, a DivX player. Both can be found here.

Back to last page. Back to 1st Page.Back to selection page.