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Landing Signal Officer

Talk pilots through their carrier landings to help them touch down safely.

What does a Landing Signal Officer do?

In the movie “Top Gun,” Goose and Maverick knew a thing or two about making a smooth landing on an aircraft carrier. But what moviegoers didn’t realize was that they got a lot of help from Landing Signal Officer on the ground. As a Landing Signal Officer, you work on an aircraft carrier to guide fighter jets and other airplanes to safe landings.

Back in the day, you would have used paddles to visually guide Pilots onto the deck of the ship. But today, radios are used instead. You spend your shifts as a Landing Signal Officer on what is known as the LSO platform, a small platform attached to the side of the ship. When a Pilot comes in for a landing, you talk with those on the deck to make sure it’s all clear and ready for the plane. When everything is set, you call the Pilot to give them the okay to land, as well as any directions they might need. Landing on an aircraft carrier is tricky stuff. Rough seas can make the deck pitch and roll, and dark or foggy conditions can make seeing the small strip of landing space almost impossible. Because of the difficulty, Pilots rely heavily on you.

You give short concise directions. And if a Pilot is too nervous and seems frozen, you need to serve as a voice of calm and reassurance. After a landing, you debrief the Pilot, scoring their landing and letting them know what went right and what needs work.