Experience ~ I sailed on the USS Ranger CVA-61, the USS Forrestal CVA-59, and I worked as a Plane Captain on the flight deck of the Aircraft Carrier USS Kitty Hawk CVA-63. I pre flighted and post flighted an A-4 Skyhawk attack jet. I worked sometimes 16 hours a day 7 days a week, day and night while we were out at sea. As we readied for a launch there were usually 20 or more jets turning up, moving, getting ready to catapult off the ship. This position, while exhilarating, was certainly life threatening. During night operations there was only one red light directed from the Island (superstructure) above to the middle of the flight deck below. Otherwise it was dark. We wore goggles and headsets to help protect us from flying objects and jet noise. However this restricted our peripheral vision and ability to hear. A significant disadvantage. At night, I use to walk on the flight deck with my right hand extended out in front of me feeling for any heat from a jet engine's exhaust. My worst nightmare was to have a jet that I couldn’t see or hear, turn around in front of me, and the exhaust from the tail pipe blow me into the ocean at night and no one saw it! I did see 5 of my shipmates, (pilots and deck crew) killed during Flight Ops while deployed. They all stand vivid in my memory. If we recovered the body we would have a brief memorial service the next morning in the hanger bay before they flew the deceased off the ship. I always felt emotionally distressed during these ceremonies. I was grieved but I had to get over it, now! We had a job to do. We had to continue with our flight operations. There was no time to grieve.
According to Lloyds in London, "Working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. On the flight deck it is loud, crowded and the whole atmosphere is often referred to as 'controlled chaos': Jets are catapulted into the air while others are landing, bombs and missiles are transported from the 'bomb farm' to parking aircraft while other planes are taxiing to the catapults or to their parking locations. Even a little mistake can result in an accident: One can be blown off the deck or be sucked into one of the planes' engines. Dangers are everywhere on the flight deck and that is why the people who are working there have to be in perfect physical and mental condition. For someone who is not used to this business it is just overwhelming because it is hard to imagine that there is a well thought-out system behind all deck operations. Due to the noise created by jet engines and rotors the communication among the people of the flight deck crew is mostly done through hand signals. These hand signals make up a unique sign language that can basically be seen as the 'language of the flight deck'."