Viral video: No landing gear at sea? No problem for this Marine pilot.


This AV-8B Harrier landed, incredibly, with its nose on a padded stool because its front landing gear did not work. (YouTube screen grab)

Say you’re a pilot for a minute. You’re in the middle of a deployment, and flying AV-8B Harrier jump jets over water when something scary happens: Your front landing gear refuses to work.

Solution? Put the plane down on the deck of the USS Bataan, bringing the nose of the jet down on a padded stool. No, really.

The Marine Corps released a video yesterday of a pilot doing just that on June 7, along with an explanation of what happened. It worked in part because the Harrier can land vertically, unlike most fighter jets.

Watch the video here:

When his AV-8B Harrier's landing gear malfunctioned, Capt. William Mahoney executed a landing on the deck of the USS Bataan using a padded stool. "There's no way to train to land in this situation." (Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet)

The pilot, Capt. William Mahoney, says in the video that when his front landing gear didn’t work, a colleague in the ship’s tower suggested improvising and putting the plane’s nose down on the stool. But the plan’s success would depend on him putting the aircraft down in exactly the spot they usually do, even though he couldn’t see the stool as he descended.

“I looked for it, I remember looking for it. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, boy. This is going to get interesting,’ ” he said. “So I go to idle. I remember my main gear hitting and all of a sudden my nose dropping. And it dropped more than I expected to, but at that point I was along for the ride.”

Mahoney is deployed with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, of Camp Lejeune, N.C., which is traveling at sea with the U.S. Navy on the Bataan and two other ships. The video was posted online yesterday, and already has gone viral, with hundreds of thousands of views online in less than a day.

Marine Corps Times, CNet, The Aviationist blog and Gizmodo are among the sites to post the video so far.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.

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Dan Lamothe · June 27, 2014