by Tommy H. Thomason

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lockheed P-80A Carrier Trials Mea Culpa

Well this is embarrassing. Once upon a time, I wrote about the Lockheed P-80A carrier trial aboard FDR with this illustration.

I posted the page here along with additional information and photographs:

Yesterday, while providing information to a friend who was writing a book on Landing Signal Officers, I had the opportunity to review the picture I used to establish the presence of the barrier guard in front of the windscreen:
There appears to be a mast in front of the windscreen.

This is another from the same event:
It's a crop from a fairly high resolution scan of an 8x10 picture. There is clearly no mast on the airplane and I suspect that there never was.  What looks like a mast on the first picture is likely something on the superstructure of the island. It is also much taller than it needs to be for the purpose and there doesn't appear to be any supporting structure, particularly desirable for such a tall, thin guard.

Not proof, but it is not present in any of the other pictures taken of this airplane during shore-based testing.

I had concluded that it was a barrier guard (or strictly speaking, a Davis barrier* activator) necessary in the event of a collapsed nose gear) because I was expecting to see one. A scabbed-on guard had been added to the McDonnell FH-1 for its carrier trials accomplished three months earlier and was standard equipment on Navy carrier-based jets until the advent of the angled deck.

My guess is that the P-80 trials were accomplished without a barrier activator by the simple expedient of keeping the deck clear, sort of an early version of the angled deck. But, see Gerald Asher's comment below.

*For a gouge on the difference between the standard barrier, the Davis barrier, and the barricade, see


  1. "Yeah, but..."

    I guess it was a case of the blind leading the blind, since I bit and ran with it in my own research - but I'm still not quite convinced that it was ship's structure, either. I may be trying to pound a square peg in a round hole, but looking at the P-80's nose, the upper edge where the reflected light makes it appear lighter than the rest of the nose, there appears to be a break in the line, corresponding to the vertical 'post' we assumed was a barrier - a break which, in my mind, would only be there if the 'post' was bolted directly to the nose - or very close to it, like a handler holding it aloft directly on the opposite side of the nose. Color me a 'conspiracy theorist'...

  2. Interpreting photos can be a minefield.

    I recall arguing with my dad (who had been a nav. plotter on Vulcans and no aviation slouch since his own childhood) that the Kfir C2 had canards. Which he insisted was a large UHF antenna on the spine. And once you've 'seen' something, it's very hard to 'unsee' it. I could see why he thought that - the photo was from slightly above a Kfir banking in harsh sunlight - but he just couldn't see it was one of a pair of canards. Which to be fair were not common back then.

    (This in the days long before the internet, and a slightly fuzzy photo in those full colour, but horrible quality paper, aircraft encyclopedias that Aerospace Publications started out on in the mid-70s: they did improve dramatically with advances in print technology).