Landing Signal Officer


The "LSO", or "Paddles"

A-4A BuNo 137816 landing on a runway setup to simulate a carrier deck landing area.


The carrier's landing system, to aid aircraft in landing aboard the carrier, has evolved from a experienced pilot waving some

fabric covered paddles (thus the moniker "Paddles" for the Landing Signal Officer), to an integrated system of visual and electronic aids.

Location: U.S.S. John F. Kennedy CVA-67
Date: 02 MAY 1998
Photo credit: Bud Southworth
Description: The LSO Platform.
The Landing Signal Officer (LSO) platform contains the crew responsible for controlling landing aircraft. The LSO has radio contact with the pilot and an array of electronic devices to monitor the pilots approach which the sailor in white is adjusting. The black wall with windows is a windbreak for the LSOs as there is usually a 20 to 40 mile per hour wind down the flight deck. The Landing Signal Officer grades each approach and landing and visits each pilot after the recovery to discuss landing performance.
Carrier landings are the most demanding part of a Naval Aviator's life, especially at night.

LSOs of Fame:

CDR. John 'BUG' Roach

Cdr. John 'BUG' Roach.jpg

From Navy News:
CDR John Roach was a Navy pilot and Carrier Air Group (CAG) Landing Signals Officer (LSO), who achieved numerous mile-stones during his career, before being killed when his aircraft engine and ejection seat failed leaving him unable to successfully egress from his A-4E Skyhawk in 1991.
Retired Navy Capt. Zip Rausa, Charles M. DeGruy, Senior Manager Naval Concept and Doctrine, Rear Adm. Michael J. McCabe, Director Air Warfare (N78) and Retired Rear Adm. P. D. Smith displays a plaque presented in honor of Commander John "Bug" Roach, to help officially dedicate a conference room at the Pentagon in his name.
U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 2nd Class Hendrick L. Dickson.

SEE: YouTube of "Bug" bringing in a A-6 Intruder for a barricade arrestment. YouTube
Note the light, a little into the video, that is moving up and down. This is the on-station plane guard, escorting destroyer, following the in the carrier's wake. The movement illustrates the movement of the flight deck this dark night.
The Landing Signal Officer referred to and handling this recovery was "Bug" Roach.
CDR Roach was born in Monterey, Calif. and received his Naval Aviator wings in 1966. He served as an F-8 Crusader pilot and Landing Signal Officer (LSO) during the Vietnam War, making combat cruises with three different air wings on three different 27C class carriers. In 1990 the Navy League sponsored an award to recognize professional LSO performance, on the LSO platform. Based on his unsurpassed expertise on the LSO platform, the Navy League felt very strongly that they wanted to name the award the "CDR John "Bug" Roach Paddles Award", while CDR Roach was still on active duty. At the 1990 Tailhook Convention, where the first award was presented, the following facts were supplied about CDR Roach's LSO career:
He made four separate CAG LSO tours. In addition he was recalled on two other occasions as a ready alert CAG LSO due to his expertise. During his tenure as a CAG LSO he waved without mishap: ten barricade arrestments, twenty single engine approaches, five aircraft missing main landing gear, two A-4 aircraft with major battle damage, the first ever S-3 with an unlocked wing, a night, hand-held radio (PRC-90), talkdown of six aircraft with no meatball and with the flight deck illuminated by the headlights of flight deck tractors, following a total engineering casualty on the ship.
Subsequent to these accomplishments, when events began heating up in the Middle East in 1990, CDR Roach volunteered his services as CAG LSO yet again and deployed with CVW-2 to the war zone. It was on this cruise that he made his 1,000th arrested landing. In more than 25 years of Naval service, CDR Roach never had a non-flying tour. On 2 October 1991 while on an adversary flight in an A-4E off the coast of Southern California, CDR Roach was killed when his aircraft lost power and he was unable to successfully eject from the stricken aircraft." Bill Egan.

Landing Grading System:
OK with a 5.0 = Assigned to a perfect trap. [Very rare]

OK with a 4.0 = A trap with small deviations corrected with precise and timely actions keeping the aircraft on-speed, on line-up, and on glide slope. [Above average trap]

(OK) with a 3.0 = This is for "fair" trap, one where larger deviations occurred, and the corrections resulted in slightly over-control. [Considered an average trap in the fleet.]

Bolter is a 2.5 = This is a below-average approach, requiring a fly-around (Bolter) and re-entry into the recovery pattern. [And going around for another pass could mean a fuel shortage issue, other a/c having to wait longer and forced into a fuel problem, etc.]

Waveoff is a 2.0 = "Paddles", the LSO, gave a wave-off, because the approach is so bad it is not safe for the a/c to attempt a landing on the boat. [A "Waveoff" can also occur due to a "Fouled Deck" which is no fault of the pilot, and thus does not count as an aborted landing.]

No Grade is a 2.0 = A no-grade pass is given to an approach that required large corrections and the pilot was slow to correct them. It can be awarded for a landing where the most aft arresting wire, #1, was caught. [This is a below-average approach. If one catches the #1 wire, the a/c came dangerously close to striking the "rounddown", or ramp, at the aft of the flight deck.]

Cut is a 0.0 = Awarded to a seriously flawed landing, risking possible damage to the boat, the aircraft, or endangering the flight deck crewmen, and failing to respond to the LSO directions. [To many of these and a Naval Aviator's career is over.]

LSO communications to the landing pilot.

LSO shorthand:


  • 1. Position Info: a. IP = In the Pattern b. A = Approach c. X = Start d. IM = In the middle e. IG = In the groove f. IC = In close g. AR = At the ramp h. IW = In the wires i. AW = All the way j. OTB = Off the bow k. UW = Up wind l. DW = Down wind m. BT = Break turn n. CT = Cross turn o. AT = Approach turn
  • 2. Aircraft Info: a. N = Nose b. W = Wing c. RR = Rudder d. H = Hook e. WH = Wheel f. T= Tire g. AL = Approach lights
  • 3. Performance Info:
    a. TWA = Too wide abeam b. TCA = Too close abeam c. OS = Overshooting d. US = Undershooting e. LU = Lined up f. CU = Cocked up g. ND = Nose down h. DN = Drop nose i. H = High j. Lo = Low k. L = Left l. R = Right m. B = Flat n. Sl = Slow o. F = Fast p. C = Climb q. S = Settle r. CD = Come down (i.e., drop) s. ( ) (comment in parenthesis) = a little something or other t. [ ] (comment in brackets) = a significant something or other u. comment underlined) = a lot of something or other v. Ld = Land w. DL, DR = Drift left, Drift right x. DLW, DRW = Drop left wing, right wing y. OC = Over control z. R = Rough aa.LU = Lined up bb.AA = Angling approach cc.P = Power dd.TMP = Too much power ee.NEP = Not enough power ff.RP = Rough power gg.CP = Cut power hh.RA = Rough attitude (used when APC is engaged) ii.NEA = Not enough attitude (APC) jj.TMA = Too much attitude (APC) kk.NER = Not enough rudder (old, props) ll.TMR = Too much rudder (props)
  • 4. Grades: a. OK = Perfect Pass (Set up perfectly all the way: no Deviations from on glide slope, on-speed condition &line up. Only waved two and flew one myself in my whole career.) b. OK = Good Pass (Small deviations and good corrections all the way) c. F = Fair Pass (Some significant deviations and reasonable corrections during the approach) d. No Grade Pass (Significant deviations and poor corrections: borderline unsafe pass) e. C = Cut Pass (Large deviations and unsatisfactory corrections: unsafe pass. One of these will usually ground you) f. B? = Bolter (Missed the wires for some reason and went around) g. WO = Technique wave off (necessary to prevent a Cut Pass or crash from happening) h. WOFD = Wave off for foul deck i. HS = Hook Skip j. T&G = Touch and Go (hook up intentionally)
  • 5. Miscellaneous Comments: a. TTH = Talk to him (chew him out in the ready room) b. AFU = Self explanatory c. FUBAR = Self explanatory d. HNIWHD = Had no idea what he was doing e. HNFIWHD = Had no fng idea what he was doing f. HUA = Head up his ass g. DNKHS = Damned near killed himself h. DNKUA = Damned near killed us all i. HAE = High as an elephant ass j. CIW = Cut (power) in the wires k. OGSH = Only God saved him l. APW, ASW = Angling port/starboard wind m. PD = Pitching deck n. MOV = Movlass approach o. AUTO = Cat III (Hands-off) approach




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