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Navy trains pilots to safely land fellow pilots on carriers

The Navy's only Landing Signals Officer School at NAS Oceana prepares more than 100 pilots per year for a critical mission.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Living on the edge of danger is a way of life for America's sons and daughters who land high-performance airplanes on the pitching decks of aircraft carriers at sea.

It takes a true team effort to keep everyone safe.

The flight deck of a carrier is a busy place. There's danger all around, and something could go wrong at any second.

That's where Landing Signals Officers come in.

They're the ones on the back end of the ship, helping guide the pilots in safely. They have to decide whether to let a plane land or to wave it off. There's no room for error.

"The implications are far-reaching. LSO's are charged with the safe and expeditious recovery of aircraft at all times," said Commander Christopher Swanson who, for the last two years, has been the Officer-in-Charge at the Navy's only Landing Signals Officer School at Naval Air Station Oceana.

Over the course of a year, they train 100 to 150 pilots to be LSO's, and another 20 pilots to be air bosses.

"If we can get through a year without having any kind of mishap, that's a huge win for us," Swanson said. "That means we're doing the job right."

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