Carrier Landings


Excerpted from an article published November 15, 2012 in the Charleston Mercury written by Peg Eastman.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1956, Jim Flatley III, entered flight training at Pensacola. After his first fleet tour, he was assigned to the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Md. His test pilot projects were related to determining carrier suitability and flying qualities of 13 different types of aircraft in an operational environment as measured against contract specifications.

In 1963 he was tasked with determining if the C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft could operate safely from an aircraft carrier. Because of the seeming incongruity of the assignment, his immediate response was "somebody has got to be kidding." He, his co-pilot and the flight engineer won the admiration of the broader aviation community by demonstrating the feasibility of C-130 carrier operation by making 21 successful full-stop landings on the USS Forrestal.

The initial landings were made into gusting 50-70-knot winds with the ship's deck pitching 30 feet up and down. The C-130's 132' wingspan cleared the Forrestal's island structure by 15 feet. For this seemingly impossible accomplishment, then Lt. Commander Flatley was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a decoration seldom presented in peacetime, and his crew received Air Medals.

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