The aircraft carrier fantail opening serves several functions.
Fantails “are small insectivorous birds of Australasia, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent belonging to the genus Rhipidura.” According to Twelve Mile Circle – An Appreciation of Unusual Places, they fly in a very distinctive way with the feathers spread out to help them turn quickly so they can catch insects.
The very back end of an aircraft carrier kind-of protruded in a similar way I supposed. Anyway, someone thought so because they called it the fantail.
Montgomery sums up just about all of the reasons for this large aft opening on Quora.
- It provides a sheltered area to access the ship when anchored away from a pier.
- It provides a means to tow stuff behind the ship while underway. Some of those things are secret, but a common item to tow was a barge used as target practice by the pilots. Brrrt.
- The jet engine shop is just behind doors at the center right. When open, they can extend a rail system where engines can be tested under full power after overhaul.
- It provides a diving platform for divers to do repairs to the four screws (propellers).
- You can fish off of it while anchored.
- Sailors sometimes break out the barbecue grill there and cook.
- It allows for excellent pictures of the wake of the ship extending out over calm waters for as far as you can see.
As the following video taken from aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) shows, it is also a great spot for watching incoming jets, although aircraft carrier crew members go out there during one of the rare quiet moments with nothing in the air. Moreover the fantail is normally secured during flight operations for safety reasons.
Top image: PH Rome J. Toledo / U.S. Navy