Reasons Why Navy Sailors Kneel Right Next to A Plane Taking Off on An Aircraft Carrier

Before a plane takes off on an aircraft carrier, a sailor kneels right next to the plane. When you step foot on the flight deck of a Navy aircraft carrier, you will observe that the crew members are dressed in various outfits and make various hand signals and gestures. One of these gestures is kneeling next to an aircraft about to take off. Not only are aircraft carriers spectacular in terms of their size, but they also function like well-oiled machinery.

The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most hazardous workplaces in the world. Sailors are exposed to a continually high noise level and as many as sixty planes and two hundred people are crammed into a little more than four acres of reinforced steel armor plate.

On the flight deck, workers move in many directions, which may look chaotic to an observer unfamiliar with the procedure. However, the flight deck of a United States Navy carrier is one of the most well-organized man-made vehicles on earth.

It functions similarly to an orchestra, with each section responsible for executing a specific movement within the larger symphony of carrier operations. Because of all the noise generated by the aircraft carrier, the only way for the sailors to communicate with one another and carry out their respective duties is by using various gestures and signs.

These sailors utilize a variety of gestures and signals to communicate with one another. One of the many gestures and signs that sailors on aircraft carriers use to execute their operations is kneeling.

It is common to observe sailors kneeling near an aircraft getting ready to take off from the ground. If the person kneeling near an aircraft is wearing a yellow shirt, then the person is the Shooter, who is giving the cat crew the signal to shoot the cat.

Shooters are often naval aviators or flight officers themselves, and oversee preflight checks on the departing aircraft and the operations of the catapult. And occasionally, they launch their own boots off the flight deck.

There’s a lot to consider when taking off from a carrier: wind speed, wind direction, the speed of the jet taking off and the amount of steam needed in the catapult to get the plane up to that speed.

When the entire catapult system is inspected, including the jet-blast deflector, the shooter inputs calculations for wind to determine how much steam is needed to launch aircraft. Then, the shooter tells the pilot that takeoff is a go.

A great deal of training and education goes into being a shooter. Naval officers will spend as much as six months in training for the job — on top of the training required of a naval aviator.

“If you’re going to come to a carrier as a pilot and not fly, shooting is the best job you can have,” Lt. Kacee Jossis told DoD News. “I really enjoyed working with everyone in the air department.”

There are a lot of naval traditions, even in the modern service.

The “boot shoot” might be a lesser-known tradition, but it’s one of the most personal.

As a final goodbye, the departing catapult officer removes their boots and affixes them to the steam-powered catapult on the flight deck. Once connected, the shooter gives the go-ahead, and his or her boots are launched off to the side, never to be seen again. Presumably.

“For my last shot on the flight deck, I was able to shoot my boots to signify my completed tour as a shooter,” Jossis said. “It was a nice way to send me off and onto my next command.”

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