Described as the world’s most dangerous working environment, the flight deck of an aircraft carrier is extreme. In the small span of the flight deck aircraft take off, land and taxi, ordinance is moved around – and all this is done 24 hours a day, outdoors, in every sort of weather possible. Aircraft carrier flight deck crew must be professionals to know their way around and to get the job done without being injured or killed in the process.

Aircraft carrier flight deck crew

Job description: The main mission of an aircraft carrier is to move air power around the world so that it can be where on location when it is needed always. And although the aircraft and pilots are an important part of the aircraft carrier crew – they cannot operate without the help of the flight deck men and women. The flight deck crew of an aircraft carrier perform all duties necessary for the aircraft to safely operate from the carrier. There are several types of flight deck jobs, and flight deck crews wear colored jerseys to distinguish their role:




  • Aircraft handling officers
  • Catapult and arresting gear officers
  • Plane directors


  • Catapult and arresting gear crews
  • Air wing maintenance and quality control
  • Cargo handlers
  • Hook runners
  • Helicopter landing signal personnel


  • Quality assurance
  • Safety observers
  • Liquid oxygen crews



  • Chock and chains
  • Aircraft elevator operators
  • Messengers and phone talkers


  • Aviation fuel handlers


  • Plane captains

Work environment: The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is probably the busiest deck on earth. In the space of 330m X 77m, dozens of aircraft can be taking off, landing, taxing and being refueled and armed. All this is also done outdoors, 24 hours a day and in the middle of the ocean. Aircraft carrier flight deck crews must have their heads on a swivel at all times, always on the lookout for aircraft moving about, starting their engines and other vehicles on the flight deck. The color code helps greatly,

Fatality rates: According to the Naval Safety Center, 35 sailors have died during aircraft carrier flight deck operations since 1980, and another 7 have suffered permanent and total disability. This figure may seem low – and this is only because of the strict safety measures were taken on the flight deck and the rigorous training, professionalism, and attention to details and danger practiced by flight deck crew. This does not count the numerous casualties during WWII when multiple US aircraft carriers were sunk or disabled.

What makes it a dangerous job: Death and injury can come in many ways on an aircraft carrier flight deck – befitting its title as the world’s most dangerous workplace. Flight deck crew can fall overboard (either blown off by engine exhaust or simply fall off), be sucked into engine intakes, get hit by aircraft or other vehicles, struck by propellers and rotors or be caught up in moving parts of aircraft. Another danger is fire and explosions-ordnance can ignite or overheat and explode, and fire is also a major concern.

Hours / Lifestyle: Naturally, aircraft carrier flight deck crew serve on aircraft carriers – which deploy for months at a time. Each aircraft carrier is on deployment between 6-9 months annually, but this can vary according to the needs of the Navy. Even when the aircraft carrier is not on deployment, sailors are not free. Time off is given – but several weeks and months are dedicated to training and preparing the ship for the next deployment.

When on deployment, flight deck crew can expect to work 12-22 hours a day, depending on the operations going on each day. Work is done 6 days a week – and if the situation calls then flight deck crew can work 7 days as well. This job demands complete devotion.

Pay: Aircraft carrier flight deck crew earn roughly $45K annually – but the actual figure can be higher or lower, depending on rank, seniority, years of service, etc…

Requirements: Requirements for most aircraft carrier flight deck job is good health. Some roles require experience in previous positions (a plane captain must first be a technician or mechanic for example).For more detailed requirements, contact a Navy recruiter.

Training: Depends on the position. Most formal training includes courses of 4-6 weeks, after which each sailor is given his/her assignment. From then on, training is on the job.

Career opportunities: Aircraft carrier flight deck crew can advance in the Navy and become crew chiefs and experts in their fields, or find work in the civilian market. Opportunities vary according to the job and experience of the flight deck crew.

Job opportunities: Naturally, the only place to work as an aircraft carrier flight deck crewman is in the Navy.

Job prospects: Aircraft carriers have been around for decades – and they are not going anywhere. The Navy will need aircraft carrier flight deck crew for decades more to come.


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