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Here’s what happens when you land on the wrong aircraft carrier

The ship’s crew take advantage of the pilot’s navigational error, and make sure their mistake does not go unnoticed by properly branding the visiting aircraft before departure.

Actually, quite a few pilots have landed on the wrong carrier. It’s not that hard to do. When that happens, US Naval tradition dictates that the crew members do their absolute best to remain discreet and not embarrass the pilot. But what actually happens is the ship’s crew take advantage of the pilot’s navigational error, and make sure their mistake does not go unnoticed by properly branding the visiting aircraft before departure. Imagine returning to your Boat with all the markings of your misadventure displayed on your aircraft.

This exactly what happened to an A-7 Corsair II from USS Kitty Hawk that in the 1970s mistakenly landed on USS Hancock.

VA-195 A-7 Corsairs after it mistakenly landed on USS Coral Sea -1972

‘During a tour of duty on Yankee Station in the 1970s, an A-7 pilot from one of the KITTY HAWK’s air wing entered the landing pattern of HANCOCK, a much smaller ship with different types of aircraft than KITTY HAWK embarked,’ recalls Doug Connell, former Captain, Air Wing Commander, Fleet Chief of Staff at United States Navy (1969-1997), on Quora. ‘All calls from HANCOCK on its frequency went unanswered by the A-7, which was still on KITTY HAWK frequency. The Air Boss on HANCOCK assumed that the A-7 was battle damaged and unable to communicate on HANCOCK’s radio frequency. The arresting gear and optical landing system (meatball) were set for the A-7, which landed safely and taxied out of the arresting gear without incident. Then the fun started.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. A-7E Corsair II VA-86 Sidewinders, AJ400 / 159292 / 1977

‘While the visiting A-7 pilot was being interviewed by the Air Boss and Captain aboard HANCOCK, the A-7 received a customized paint job, was then refueled and sent on its way to KITTYHAWK, where the squadron commander, air wing commander and ship’s commanding officer eagerly awaited their own interview.

‘Following the squadron’s return from the combat cruise, the errant pilot decided to become a real estate agent.’

These other aircraft that mistakenly landed on the wrong carrier suffered a similar fate to that of the A-7 Corsair II of the story told by Connell.

F4U Corsair “Man Hole”
A U.S. Navy McDonnell F2H-2 Banshee (BuNo 125019) of Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62) “Gladiators” from the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVB-43) after it had landed aboard USS Wasp (CV-18) in 1952.
F2H-2 Banshee from VF-34
USS Constellation’s F-4 Phantom Captured by USS Bon Homme Richard
Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm FG.1 Phantoms of No. 892 Naval Air Squadron back on board the carrier HMS Ark Royal (R09) after a visit to a US Naval Air Station (NAVSTA) Oceana where they worked up with USS Saratoga. The Royal Navy roundels had been “zapped” and replaced with interwar American Navy “meatball” insignia, and on XV590 001/R, the “Royal Navy” flash had been replaced with one for the “Colonial Navy.”
F-14 from VF-143 “Lost Dogs”

Photo credit: U.S. Navy and Crown Copyright

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