CATCC Crew, Pilots Become Better ‘PALS’

Story Number: NNS030624-20Release Date: 6/24/2003 3:50:00 PM
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By Journalist Seaman Chris Fahey, USS Carl Vinson Public Affairs

USS Carl Vinson, At Sea (NNS) -- Thanks to a recent upgrade in USS Carl Vinson's (CVN 70) Carrier Air Traffic Control Center (CATCC), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 pilots are being told they can 'sit back and enjoy the ride' during 'Mother Nature's' harshest of temper tantrums, while landing 44,000 pounds of jet-powered steel onto the aircraft carrier's newly resurfaced flight deck.

Recently, the control center's AN/SPN-46 Precision Aircraft Landing System, or PALS, used to provide pilots with precise landing guidance, received a radar Doppler video processor (RDVP). In addition to the storm-defying RDVP, the landing system also received its pilot's license by becoming Mode 1 certified.

While the Gold Eagle spreads its mighty wings over the Pacific until November, the upgraded equipment and new certification bring more peace-of-mind to the CATCC Sailors who live to make a great thing better.

"As an air traffic controller, I provide a service to (the air wing). That service is the safe, orderly and expeditious flow of air traffic to and from the aircraft carrier," said Carrier Control Approach Chief, Chief Air Traffic Controller (AW/SW) Michael Mercadel. "If there is a tool that helps me do that job more safely or efficiently, I want it."

According to Mercadel, the new addition allows for radar acquisition during extreme weather conditions, giving CATCC a brighter light to guide aircraft home. This ensures a greater degree of safety while CVW-9 pilots perform carrier landings during severe weather.

Mercadel emphasized that Mode 1 certification gives air traffic controllers an automated approach, allowing PALS to take over for the pilot, flying the jet all the way to the deck. "Once the computer has taken over, we normally ask the pilot, 'How's the ride?'"

"The certification means that if a pilot is injured, fatigued or the weather is too bad, he can line himself up in the landing pattern and take his hands completely off the controls," said Radar Division Officer Chief Warrant Officer 2 John Campbell, as he further explained that Mode 1 can be used in all problems resulting in the pilot being unable to land the aircraft.

With safety always in the Navy's crosshairs, Carl Vinson Sailors teamed up with Naval Air Warfare Center's Air Division from Patuxent River, Md., to test the upgraded precision landing system. The group put their heads together to analyze data from 31 flight-deck approaches by VX-23 test pilot Lt. Cmdr. Richard 'Miggs' Zinns. The results - "Good to go."

The Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently deployed in the western Pacific Ocean as part of America's standing commitment to maintain peace and stability in cooperation with allies and friends in the region.

For related news, visit the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) Navy NewsStand page at

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