USS HARRY S. TRUMAN, At Sea (NNS) -- The air is heavy with anticipation. The plane on the horizon looms larger with every passing second. The ballet that is the flight deck is about to reach its crescendo.
Inside the ship, a place that seems worlds away from the frenetic pace of the flight deck, the general announcing system crackles, and a voice almost too familiar to the crew reports the news.
“This is the captain, in a few minutes, the executive officer will have set a new record. He will have more carrier landings than any person on the Earth.”
Back on the flight deck, crewmen wave planes around quickly, they have little time, the XO’s F-14 Tomcat is making its approach.
The ship resounds with a deafening roar. An F-14 Tomcat has hit the flight deck... a perfect landing.
The plane taxis around the runway until finding a spot to park. After what seems like an eternity, the cockpit opens. The pilot and the rear intercept officer (RIO) step out and feel the warm Atlantic sun against their faces.
It’s done. On board USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Cmdr. Ted Carter has set a new record in naval aviation. He has made 1,646 carrier landings, more than any other Navy officer in history.
Despite his record-breaking achievement, Carter says this is really just a product of a half-century of naval aviation.
“It feels great. It’s a credit to everyone who’s ever participated in carrier aviation. It just show’s how great we’ve become,” said Carter.
The historic landing was not something he accomplished on his own however. Carter’s Tomcat was piloted by Lt. Marc Fryman, of Fighter Squadron (VF) 32.
“I purposely held off doing this. I wanted to do it with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3. I think it’s important to show how great the teamwork is,” said Carter.
While this record is important in its own right, it’s merely another accomplishment of an already impressive career. Carter’s first fleet launch was in an F-4S Interceptor off of USS Midway (CVA 41). His mission was to intercept a Soviet bomber and its escort. During the cold war, Carter intercepted more than 40 Soviet aircraft.
After gaining more flight deck experience, Carter was selected to attend the prestigious “Top Gun” program.
Carter made his mark in fighter aviation as a Tomcat flight instructor in Miramar, Calif.
He flew with 23 different pilots during this time, many of whom had been previously disqualified for landing performance. After flying with Carter, every one of these pilots went on to successful flying careers.
As Carter got better, the pilots chosen to fly with him became less experienced, which proved to be a new challenge for him.
As a naval flight officer (NFO), Carter had no control of the plane save his ability to talk in a way that maximized their performance. His only real escape in an emergency would be ejection. During 5,500 flight hours, Carter has never ejected.
Carter is no stranger to setting records. He was the youngest person to join the Grand Club by making 1,000 carrier landings in just eight years. He led the first Navy air strikes against targets within the former Yugoslavia during Operation Allied Force in 1999, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star.
Carter has more than 5,500 flight hours in Navy fighters and has landed on board 15 different carriers.
After such an impressive career, what’s next for Carter?
“1,647. I just take each landing one at a time,” he said.
For Carter, this is just another flight on another day and he’s by no means done yet, so perhaps, this story is just beginning.
For more information on USS Harry S. Truman, go to www.navy.mil/homepages/cvn75, or visit their Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn75.