June 1st, 1954

by Steve on May 31, 2006

I’m a tad early on this one, forgive me. On June 1st in 1954 the US Navy conducted the first test of a steam catapult from USS Hancock (CV/CVA-19). Prior to steam, hydraulic power was used and before that it was the unassisted deck run! The early straight decks weren’t much fun either. No touch-and-goes or bolters back then. One shot at the deck and if you missed the wires you went into the parking lot up front. Messy. Makes today’s launch and recovery evolutions look positively civilized.

This official Navy photo from 1944 shows the Hancock with her aircraft pulled aft for launching. Upon returning, the recovered aircraft would be spotted forward leaving the aft end of the deck clear to recover the remaining pilots. CV-19 served her country in various configurations from 1944 until 1976 when she was decommissioned and scrapped.

Here CVA-19 is pictured in her “modern” configuration: two steam catapults forward, angled landing area, and A-4 Skyhawks aboard just prior to her final Westpac deployment. Still awful smallish at 27,100 tons by today’s standards (97,000 tons).

That’s much better (bigger is better when you have to land on it).

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