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The Composite Shape That Pilots Love to See
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Credit: Laura Guerin
Source: CK-12 Foundation
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

The U.S. Navy currently operates 20 aircraft carriers. The U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, due to come into service in 2015, has a flight deck that is 1,000 feet long. It will be powered by two nuclear reactors and carry 80 aircraft of varying types. The diagram above shows F-14 Tomcat fighter jets parked around the perimeter of the deck. Why is the deck this shape?

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The deck has evolved from a rectangle because this new configuration allows for simultaneous takeoff and landing. Takeoff happens from steam catapults located at the front of the ship, while landings occur on the angled deck. The total flight deck has an area of around 280,000 square feet.

Conventional aircraft take off by being launched into the air by a steam catapult. These catapults can accelerate a 45,000-pound airplane from 0 to 165 miles per hour in 2 seconds! The image below shows an unmanned aircraft being launched from the flight deck of the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush.

Credit: Timothy Walter/U.S. Navy
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_U.S._Navy_X-47B_Unmanned_Combat_Air_System_demonstrator_aircraft_launches_from_the_flight_deck_of_the_aircraft_carrier_USS_George_H.W._Bush_(CVN_77)_May_14,_2013,_in_the_Atlantic_Ocean_130514-N-FU443-725.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

In terms of aircraft landings, there are excellent navigation aids available today to help pilots find the ship to land on. Back in World War II, it was extremely difficult to land safely on the ships, especially if an airplane had experienced equipment failure or battle damage.

See more for yourself about catapults: http://science.howstuffworks.com/aircraft-carrier3.htm

Explore More

Watch the video below to learn more about aircraft carriers in World War II.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyw_B7eFCxE

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