The Meatball USS Intrepid 1959

The Meatball USS Intrepid 1959

The Meatball USS Intrepid 1959
Lt. Robert E. Lynn
Optical Landing System
Before the Meatball pilots relied solely on their visual perception of the landing area and the aid of the Landing Signal Officer. LSOs used colored flags, cloth paddles and lighted wands.
The Mirror Landing Aid was invented by Nicholas Goodhart. It was introduced on British carriers in 1954 and on US carriers in 1955-1957.
The mirror landing aid was a gyroscopically-controlled concave mirror on the port side of the flight deck like the USS Intrepid or Starboard side on the USS Saratoga.
On either side of the mirror was a line of green coloured "datum lights". A bright orange "source" light was shone into the mirror creating the "ball" (or "meatball" in later USN parlance) which could be seen by the aviator who was about to land. The position of the ball compared to the datum lights indicated the aircraft's position in relation to the desired glidepath: if the ball was above the datum, the plane was high; below the datum, the plane was low; between the datum, the plane was on glidepath. The gyro stabilisation compensated for much of the movement of the flight deck due to the sea, giving a constant glidepath.

Initially, the device was thought able to allow the pilot to land without direction from the LSO. However, accident rates actually increased upon the system's initial introduction, so the current system of including the LSO was developed. This development, along with the others mentioned, contributed to the US carrier landing accident rate plummeting from 35 per 10,000 landings in 1954 to 7 per 10,000 landings in 1957.[3]

The LSO, who is a specially qualified and experienced Navy pilot, provides additional input to the pilot via radios, advising of power requirements, position relative to glide path and centerline. The LSO can also use a combination of lights attached to the OLS to indicate "go around" using the bright red, flashing wave off lights. Additional signals, such as "cleared to land," "add power," or "divert" can be signaled using with a row of green "cut" lights or a combination thereof.