AL ASAD, Iraq --
While the AV-8B Harriers may be used to deploy precision guided munitions, the Marines in the driver’s seat are working on their precision guiding Harrier abilities.
The pilots of Marine Attack Squadron 542 continuously support missions and troops on the ground, but set some time aside to sharpen their rolling vertical landing skills, Nov. 15 through 17.
The RVL is used if there are high crosswinds, anything above 20 knots, on the flight line. During this landing, the pilots land on a taxiway which is only about 3,500 feet long, much shorter than the 15,000 foot comfort zone they normally land on.
“The purpose of the rolling vertical landing is for landing at expeditionary sites or in case of inclement weather,” said Lt. Col. John Sisson, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We’d only do the landing if the wind was pushing north, and if the wind was really bad we would divert to another airfield. Al Asad’s primary runways lead the same direction. So, we’re practicing landing on a taxiway leading a different direction as the primaries.”
For a normal landing, the pilot approaches and lands at 90 knots. The rolling vertical landing is unconventional and the landing speed is 70 knots. The RVL uses the same technique as a normal landing, but it requires a slower speed on lineup and landing.
The landing also requires the use of a landing site supervisor. The LSS stands near the landing zone and talks the pilot down.
“On an RVL, you’re coming in steeper and you’re looking for a certain spot to make a precise landing,” said Capt. Brett Leffler, a VMA-542 pilot and training officer. “The LSS stands on the center line so they can tell us if our lineup is good. They have seen it before so they can tell us if we’re too steep, shallow or slow.”
The LSS helps judge the lineup on the road or taxiway and makes correction calls. The LSS uses two radios. One is used to communicate with the aircraft control tower and the other can be used to talk directly to the pilot to give them a correction.
“The LSS is always a pilot with more experience,” said Sisson. “They have to know what an aircraft should look like from the ground and what the aircraft’s requirements are while coming in for a landing.”
This landing is a greater work load because it requires the pilots to keep a much tighter flight pattern while landing.
“The first thing you think about for an RVL is that it’s a smaller taxiway than you’re used to,” said Capt. Scott Shively, a pilot and personnel officer with VMA-542. “The lineup while landing becomes more critical to safely get the jet down. It’s also more challenging because you have to follow a precise glide slope which is a steeper angle. In a real situation the wind would be a lot worse making the jet harder to control.”