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Virtual Touch-and-Go

Practice Carrier Landings Anywhere But Here!
  [vote for,

Certain cities are associated with Naval installations, such that jet pilots need to practice, and practice -- and practice some more! -- the ability to land on an aircraft carrier at night, in a rainy windstorm (or fog). This is possibly one of the most difficult things anyone in the entire Armed Forces can be asked to do. Failure to succeed can cost multiple lives, multiple aircraft, and major damage to an aircraft carrier. There is no such thing as "too much practice" for those pilots!

However. Air fields that once were located in the middle of nowhere have now been surrounded by Development. Industry, residences, commerce, schools, you-name-it. And the cities that greedily allowed the greedy developers to do this now have a problem: NOISE that the people living in those zones have to endlessly endure. The military cannot be faulted much, because they were there first (but they CAN be faulted for equipping their jets with ever-noisier engines!). What to do?

Well, these days those planes are quite fancy; the pilots are surrounded by computer equipment and displays. These include "heads-up" displays which overlay an image right on the inside of the canopy of the aircraft, so that the pilot can keep looking straight ahead, and merely change eye-focus to either see the display or to see distant vistas.

One purpose of such a display is to help a pilot land the machine. As the runway is approached, computers draw its outline on the canopy, so that the pilot can increase the odds of touching down at just the right place and speed. Radars and ground communications ensure that that outlined runway is as accurate as can be. (And note that in the dark, when the runway might not be visible, the heads-up-display is part of IFR, or "Instrument Flight Rules" -- the pilot can and must rely on instruments only.) Frequently, after touching down, the pilot throttles up the engine, and takes off again to try again. And again...after circling the neighborhoods again, and again....

Well! There is little difference between aligning a plane with an outline of a runway that just happens to match an actual runway, and aligning a plane with an outline of a runway that just happens to be, say 10 kilometers out to sea at 100 meters altitude. IFR, remember? An appropriate surface vessel is probably needed, to provide signals that the aircraft computers can interpret as runway markers. About the only thing missing from a full-fledged landing is the jolt of impact -- but that surface vessel can record precisely how well the pilot hit the virtual runway, so that he can be told to accelerate again, before "ending up in the drink".

Having 100 meters of altitude to play with is an extra safety factor, of course. I'd recommend a thousand meters if it wasn't for the reduced air pressure at that altitude -- carriers operate at sea-level air pressure, and planes have to go faster in thinner air! The imperfection of matching the virtual carrier deck to really safe altitudes will mostly prevent that variation of this Idea (although it MIGHT be possible if the weather brings in a suitable high-pressure zone).

Over land, there are still various near-sea-level places that qualify as "the boondocks". Any such place would work as a virtual runway. And having a nearby road to actually land on, in case of emergency, isn't such a bad notion....

Vernon, Jun 22 2004

(?) Developers don't care about jet noise. http://www.visaliat...calnews/673992.html
A sample news item. Perhaps we should require all developers to live in the neighborhoods they build. [Vernon, Oct 21 2004]

(?) Ground Effect http://www.popsci.c...43,410266-3,00.html
A few planes are designed to take advantage of it. [Vernon, Oct 21 2004]

(?) Questionable flight http://www.newsregister.com/ss/goose/
Yes, it flew, but it was also under the influence of ground-effect. Could it have reached significant altitude? [Vernon, Oct 21 2004]

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       "However. Air fields that once were located in the middle of nowhere have now been surrounded by Development. Industry, residences, commerce, schools, you-name-it."
And people who were unaware of the purpose of an air field?
phoenix, Jun 22 2004

       pheonix given that people round my home town will complain about noise from a night club that was there when they moved in next to it. i would say yes
engineer1, Jun 22 2004

       [phoenix], given that people can be careless about their choices of living quarters, and given that it is somewhat late to prevent existing noise-soaked dwellings from being built, then what do you suggest as a low-cost solution to the problem? What have you got against this one?
Vernon, Jun 22 2004

       I voted for the idea if you could get some of this training done in an area where it is visible from shore it could be an interesting display for visitors.   

       have you considered the effects caused by the deck, is Wing in Ground effect a vailid concern?
engineer1, Jun 22 2004

       [engineer1], I do know about the "ground-effect" that airplanes tend to experience when close to the ground. (It is a kind of cushion effect of air bouncing between ground and plane, provides some extra lift.) I am sure this is a factor in ordinary touch-and-go practice landings, but I suspect it may actually be an overconfidence builder! See, the deck of a carrier is, I think, a little too high off the ocean for an approaching fighter jet (relative small wingspan) to take advantage of the ground-effect. So, it is possible that a virtual runway might offer a superior practice environment, than a real runway!
Vernon, Jun 22 2004

       "What have you got against this one?"
Nothing, but I don't see what this adds to the current training regime. Inexperienced plots already practice T/G on shore runways and simulators.

       Until very recently, carrier landings were strictly a VFR procedure, using what's called a christmas tree to guide the pilots in (day or night). There were 100% "hands off" systems under development when I left the Navy 15 years ago and they may be in place now.   

       Living in Norfolk, Virginia, USA, I'm surrounded by Langley AFB and Oceana NAS. It's a running joke that people buy a home next to one of the air stations (cheap!) and then proceed to complain about the noise.
phoenix, Jun 22 2004

       [phoenix], as you know, simulations can't offer the same realism as actual flight. In this Idea, I'm trading the positive physical touch-down sensation for a possibly negative ground-effect experience. Everything else is real.   

       With respect to the cheap homes, yes, I know. Part One of that problem is the greedy developers, and Part Two is the greedy real-estate agents, who don't adequately warn the buyers of what they are getting into. The point is that the problem exists, and this Idea could solve it without, for example, the very expensive way of requiring the military to buy up all the property surrounding their bases, to keep developers far enough away to prevent the problem.
Vernon, Jun 22 2004


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