Losses and Aviation Safety

That time a USMC Harrier Pilot Performed an Emergency Landing without Nose Gear aboard USS Bataan

Mahoney descended upon the cradle thanks to the unique AV-8B Harrier’s ability to take off and land vertically. But his position obscured any view of the emergency equipment. He had to land sight unseen.

The impressive video in this post features U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) Capt. William Mahoney, AV-8B Harrier pilot, performing a controlled landing after his front landing gear malfunctioned on the aircraft aboard USS Bataan, at sea, on Jun, 7, 2014.

Mahoney realized his landing gear malfunctioned few minutes after launching from the deck of amphibious assault ship Bataan while in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operation with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Because of this issue he was left with only two options: attempting a risky landing or ditching the aircraft into the sea.

Working with the control tower, Mahoney, Harrier pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced), learned the ship boasted a crash cradle. As reported by Marine Corps Times, the unique piece of equipment is built to the height of a Harrier’s nose and, for Mahoney, presented a way to bring the roughly 30,000-pound aircraft down aboard the Bataan.

Mahoney descended upon the cradle thanks to the unique Harrier’s ability to take off and land vertically. But his position obscured any view of the emergency equipment. He had to land sight unseen.

Noteworthy, as the video shows, the nose of Mahoney’s Harrier coming down forcefully on the bench, hard enough to bounce several times before coming to a rest.

The gravity of the situation hit Mahoney moments later.

“I remember feeling it just hit and that’s it, but then I had to sit there for a minute and remember how to turn the jet off and shut everything off,” he said, according to a news release. “It was just a pretty big relief and I didn’t realize how much I was shaking until I actually got out of the aircraft.”

For his actions, Mahoney received the Air Medal from Col. William Dunn, who commanded the MEU, on February 12. Dunn praised Mahoney for saving the aircraft. 

“In the world of ejection seat aircraft, it is not always the first choice to bring the airplane back after something like this and risk the pilot, but this was incredible,” Dunn said in a release.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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