Pacific Ocean. (November 15, 2023): Help wanted. Candidate must be willing to redirect 2,300-degree jet aircraft exhaust from a tiny hatch on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Oh, and did I mention the dangerous streams of dust and debris carried by the turbulent air that threatens you and your fellow Sailors? In this photo by MC2 Craig Z. Rodarte, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Robert Hill operates the jet blast deflector on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt while underway in the Pacific.
The jet blast deflector is a safety device operated by a Sailor from a hatch on the flight deck at the rear of the aircraft catapults. It is part of the flight deck so planes roll over the hatch on their way to the catapult. When the aircraft clears the hatch, a heavy panel is raised into position behind it. Other planes can then move into position and begin their final preparations safe from the dangerous jet exhaust.
Ever since jet aircraft began operating from carriers, the problem of hot, violent gases endangering crews and equipment has bedeviled ship designers. Because the deflector is part of the deck, it must be cooled before another aircraft can roll over it prior to launch. For years, the Navy had to rely on water cooling systems that were complex and tended to fail. This heat problem was recently solved using heat absorbing ceramic tiles, much like those used on the Space Shuttle, which are lightweight, dependable, and simple to replace.
Still, “Deflecting Jet Blasts” seems an odd job description.