PADAL Helps Aircraft Land Aboard Carriers


U.S. Navy


An aircraft carrier is like a very busy airport except that its landing operations must address additional complexities such as fleet tactical considerations, flight deck space constraints, aircraft carrier maneuvering space (sea room), flight deck motion (pitch and roll), continuous mechanical preparations, resetting arresting gear and optical landing system between each landing, airborne aircraft fuel status, aircraft ordinance, minimal use of navigation, communications and RADAR emissions as in EMCON operations; and, above all, time constraints. Frequently, the ship is heaving 10 ft. up and 10 ft. down, causing a 20 ft. displacement from a level deck.

Landing Signal Officers (LSOs) aboard carriers rely on auditory cues and the equipment at the LSO station to monitor each landing, communicate flight adjustments via radio to the pilot, and decide whether or not to wave off (e.g., abort the landing). This difficult and time-critical task requires the LSO to consider the flight path, wind conditions, ship motion, as well as the type of aircraft. The LSO’s job is even more difficult during night operations, especially during stormy conditions, when it is difficult or impossible to see the aircraft approach.


Stottler Henke teamed with Klein Associates to design an innovative visual display used by backup LSOs, to improve the performance of LSOs. This display used strobing to present the current and recent positions of the aircraft relative to the ideal flight path, distance from the carrier, recent ship motion, and other relevant data. The system also uses neural networks to predict the aircraft’s position two seconds into the future.


The screen designs developed during this project have been implemented for the Virtual Imaging System for Approach & Landing (VISUAL) Prototype developed by the Naval Air Warfare Center / Naval Aviation Systems and form the basis for the full-scale development of the next generation of LSO workstations.The U.S. Navy has designated PADAL as a Small Business Innovation Research Success Story.

Additional Information

  • “Application of Multiple Artificial Intelligence Techniques for an Aircraft Carrier Landing Decision Support Tool”, IEEE 2002 World Congress on Computational Intelligence