Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Aviation Systems

Major Professor

Robert B. Richards

Committee Members

Peter Solies, Rodney Allison


The purpose for writing this thesis is to prove the automatic carrier landing system (ACLS) a valuable Operational Risk Management (ORM) tool for recovering F/A-18A-D aircraft aboard the modern aircraft carrier. ORM is itself a subset of human factors and worthy of exploration in the aviation systems field. In proving the value of the ACLS, the author presents the following objectives: 1) describe the major components of the F/A-18A-D and modern aircraft carrier ACLS, 2) describe the current Mode I approach procedures, and the Precision Approach Landing Systems (PALS) certification process, 3) promote an increase in automatic landings during night time and low ceiling/visibility environments through an analysis of ACLS strengths and weaknesses, and 4) advocate the continued use of fully automatic carrier landings amidst addressing deeply rooted fleet squadron paradigms and the advent of future technologies.

The information gathered for this thesis came primarily from the author’s own direct flight and test experiences as well as documentation of standardized Navy flight and test publications. Detailed background information on the ACLS and future landing programs along with data from the Naval Safety Center and the VX-23 Carrier Suitability department were used as evidence to support the findings.

The author concludes that the Mode I ACLS capability is extremely vital to the safe and expeditious recovery of the F/A-18A-D Hornet aircraft onboard the modern aircraft carrier that the Mode I automatic carrier landing system as currently structured and utilized is a highly effective risk management tool for naval aviation. The routine testing and certification of the precision approach equipment, all-weather capability, redundant cockpit data and voice safety network, plus enhanced aircraft carrier mobility through the use of Mode I approaches are all strengths of the ACLS system.

To enhance the effectiveness of the ACLS for future carrier operations, the author recommends: 1) creating RAG and fleet squadron command climates that promote and support the use of Mode I approaches, 2) increasing ACLS training for aircrew and maintainers, and 3) establishing a new CV-1 approach that can capitalize on JPALS functionality in order to improve upon automatic landings.

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