Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | July 25, 2022

Starlight Flights: USS Tripoli and its Embarked Aircraft Go Nocturnal

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter Burghart USS Tripoli (LHA 7) Public Affairs

PACIFIC OCEAN -- As the sun dips behind the horizon, the blue sky gives way to reds and yellows until everything around is black, except for the tiny specks of light in the distance. Under the glow of the starlight, engines begin at first to hum then grow to a roar, signaling the start of flight operations under the cover of darkness.

Amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) transitioned to conducting night flight operations demonstrating another element of the ship’s versatility.

“You can’t really see which felt weird at first, but over time it started to feel normal,” said Airman Taylor Perry. Perry is one of the “blue shirts” on the flight deck responsible for securing aircraft to the flight deck with chocks and chains. “We did more preparation ahead of time, so we could just grab what we needed and go.”

Tripoli’s flight operations are controlled from primary flight control (Pri-Fly), located high above the flight deck. The officers on watch in Pri-Fly look down on the aircraft taxiing, launching and landing from large windows that allow them to see the whole length of the flight deck. Pri-Fly is similar to a control tower at an airport and teamwork between the Sailors on the deck and in Pri-Fly is essential. At night, that teamwork is even more important.

“We take for granted that we have a bird’s eye view of everything that’s going on up here, but at night we have limited visibility” said Lt. Brian Isbell, Tripoli’s safety officer. “Pri-Fly personnel do have night vision goggles, but say it is still difficult to see. “We really have to rely on the yellow shirts below to tell us what’s going on.”

Yellow shirts serve as aircraft directors, shooters, and landing signalmen-enlisted. They guide the aircraft while taxiing, give launch signals, guide aircraft back on deck during recovery and are in charge of any additional aircraft movements on the flight deck. Because of the noise on deck, they use hand signals to communicate with pilots and other Sailors on the flight deck.

Hand signals are not the only means of visual communication on the flight deck. The crew still has other cues they can rely on, such as deck lighting that helps determine the status of the deck where aircraft need to go. Those same cues also help the pilots. For them, flying at night from a ship at sea is a whole other world.

“Landing on a ship at night is a unique challenge,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. John Mensch, an F-35B Lightning II pilot assigned to Maine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 121. “One of the biggest challenges that comes with that is spatial orientation. You can’t see where the horizon is,” said Mensch.

Another challenge is the way the ship looks at night. “When you see it a few miles out, it’s just lights suspended in space,” said Mensch. “You have to trust your instruments and trust your landing signal officers (LSO) to bring you aboard safely.”

LSOs are pilots who stand watch in Pri-Fly and provide essential guidance over the radio for launches, landings and help trouble shoot if there is an emergency. LSOs only work with fixed-wing aircraft like F-35s or its predecessor the AV-8B Harrier.

Working in the dark does have some advantages though, such as a break from the south Pacific heat. Another is seeing what the flight deck and the environment look like at night. The deck glows from the various lights that aren’t needed during the day. The stars are visible with a remarkable clarity due to the lack of light from other sources. Aside from the deck lighting, another source of light are the lighted hand wands the yellow shirts use to signal the pilots and crew during night operations.

“When you are first learning to communicate with wands, it feels confusing, but it’s actually easier,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Lawrence Pivec, one of Tripoli’s aircraft directors or yellow shirts. “The vocabulary with wands is smaller, and it’s a lot easier to see signals with them farther down the flight deck.”

Eventually flight operations shifted back to the bright light of the sun, after Tripoli’s crew proved they could accomplish any mission asked of them, day or night.

Tripoli is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
CONNECT WITH USINDOPACOM
Facebook

Like Us
Twitter
326,800
Follow Us

ENGAGE & CONNECT MORE WITH PACOM

                                                 

IN THE USINDOPACOM NEWS
USINDOPACOM Commander Visits Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley
U.S. Navy Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, visits with Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore David Paddison, commander of Combat Support Group during a visit to the B-2 Spirit Bomber Task Force at Royal Australian Air Force Force Base Amberley, Australia, July 30. The bomber aircraft deployed as part of a rotational BTF, supporting the Enhanced Air Cooperation Initiative under the Force Posture Agreement between the United States and Australia. The BTF will conduct joint training and missions alongside Allies and partners in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Aug. 1, 2022 - Australian Government Defence -- Commander of United States military forces in the Indo-Pacific, Admiral John C. Aquilino, visited RAAF Base Amberley today while in Australia for the 24th annual Indo-Pacific Chiefs of Defense...

Exercise Bell Buoy Wraps Up in Hawaii during RIMPAC 2022
The Pacific and Indian Oceans Shipping Working Group conducts training to develop respective Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. The group had participants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, U.S. and the, non-nation participant, was the NATO Shipping Center. Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, three submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world's largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world's oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
Aug. 1, 2022 - FORD ISLAND, Hawaii -- The Pacific and Indian Oceans Shipping Working Group (PACIOSWG) conducted Exercise Bell Buoy 2022 at Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, June 27 to July 1, as a part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC)...

USINDOPACOM Commander Visits New Zealand
The Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short welcomes Admiral John C. Aquilino Commander U.S Indo-Pacific Command. The Admiral is welcomed to New Zealand with a traditional Powhiri, Guard of Honour and Last Post Ceremony.
Aug. 1, 2022 - U.S. Embassy & Consulate in New Zealand, COOK ISLANDS and NIUE -- Admiral John C. Aquilino, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), has arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand for an official visit to meet with...

JBER Kick-off RED FLAG-Alaska 22-3 with Royal Australian Air Forces
Aug. 1, 2022 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- RED FLAG-Alaska (RF-A) 22-3 is in full swing starting July 28 through Aug. 12 with U.S. forces and international partners.RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces-sponsored joint and...

Readout of Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III's Meeting with Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosts South Korean Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-sup for talks at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., July 29, 2022
Aug. 1, 2022 - WASINGTON -- Attributed to Acting Pentagon Press Secretary Todd Breasseale: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup to the Pentagon today, to...