U.S. Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney, an AV-8B Harrier pilot, successfully made a vertical landing of his aircraft after a gear malfunction on June 7.
“It was a normal flight day. … There was nothing crazy about it,” Mahoney said in a video released by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa. “I took off and as I was climbing away from the deck I realized I had a gear malfunction.”
Mahoney contacted a jet pilot whom he called “Paddles” on the Bataan to help him find a way to land.
“For a while I flew by the ship, I approached at 300 feet so he could see my landing gear and see what was going on,” Mahoney said. “At this point it was time to figure out, how do I get the jet back on the deck safely with only three landing gear?”
The plan was to use a stool on the deck to stabilize the nose of the jet while Mahoney made a vertical landing using only the lights on the ship and assistance via radio from “Paddles.”
“The ship had this amazing invention, called a stool, that was built specifically for this reason,” Mahoney said. “I stabilized at 20 feet and I can’t see the stool — I didn’t even know it was. I remember looking for it and thinking, ‘Oh boy, this is going to get interesting.'”
The plane dropped onto the deck, and the nose bounced on the stool, but Mahoney was safe.
“I didn’t realize how much I was shaking until I got out of the aircraft,” Mahoney said. “There really is no way to train for this kind of situation.”
Watch the landing here: