In a scenario that could have potentially damaged a multi-million dollar aircraft, a US Marine Corps pilot was successfully able to land his fighter jet after its front landing malfunctioned – surprisingly, all he needed was a stool.
According to The Aviationist, the unexpected landing was filmed taking place on the USS Bataan on June 7, though the video was just published Thursday on YouTube.
As soon as Marine Corps Captain William Mahoney took off from the ship in a Cold War-era AV-8B Harrier fighter jet, he realized he had a problem: his front landing gear was malfunctioning.
“At this point I was trying to figure out how do I get the jet back on the deck safely with only three landing gear,” he said in the video. The $30 million AV-8B is capable of taking off and landing vertically, but without a proper landing gear in the front that would be nearly impossible to do without risking damages and potentially igniting the fuel inside.
Once Mahoney radioed in to the control tower and confirmed his nose landing gear was not operating, he was told he’d need to land the aircraft using an unlikely invention: a stool. The device is exactly what it sounds like, a stool capable of bearing the weight of the fighter jet’s nose as it comes down for landing.
Pilots aren’t trained to perform such a maneuver, though, so Mahoney had to rely on the ship’s lighting system to guide him, as well as directions from the control tower. As you can see in the video, he slowly descends to 20 feet above the stool before stopping.
“So I'm at 20 feet stabilizing and I can't see the stool. I don't even know it's there. I didn't see it coming over the end of the ship, I remember looking for it, but I never saw the stool,” he said.
As the pilot descended, he had to wait for orders to ensure that the nose of his aircraft was in line with the stool’s positioning. Once this was confirmed, he made the final drop, which caused the jet’s nose to bounce up and down a couple of times.
Although he didn’t feel the bounce as it can be seen in the video, Mahoney said it dropped more than he expected. “At that point,” he said, “I was just along for the ride.”