Rare video of Marines AV-8B Harrier no nose gear vertical landing on amphibious assault ship

The AV-8B about to put the nose on a stool.

One of the few (if not the only) video showing a Harrier Jump Jet (nose) gear up landing on USS Bataan.

Here’s something you don’t see every day.

On Jun. 7, 2014, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. William Mahoney, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 263 (Reinforced), 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), had to perform Vertical Landing on USS Bataan, after his AV-8B Harrier aircraft experienced a front landing gear malfunction.

USS Bataan was operating in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to augment U.S. Crisis Response forces in the region when Mahoney took off from the amphibious assault ship.

As he was climbing away from the deck he suddenly realized he had a gear malfunction. He immediately slowed down in order not to overspeed the landing gear, returned above the ship at 2,000 feet and started talking to “Paddles” (LSO – Landing Signal Officers), a pilot in the control tower who could provide assistance by radio.

Harrier no nose gear down

The Harrier flew the approach at 300 ft so that the LSO could see the landing gear and give some guidance to put the nose on a tool the ship has for this kind of issues: a sort-of stool.

Since there’s no way to train to land in this kind of situation, the pilot had to fly a perfect vertical landing, using the ship lighting system and the help of LSO on his first attempt.

Luckily, he stabilized at 20 feet and managed to land in the proper spot as shown in the video (that, weirdly, was removed by the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet feed that had published it; luckily, we found it again and reuploaded it since it is unclassified and released as you can see in the first frames of the footage).

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


    • Because a nose cone smashing into the landing deck is a bad thing. It would actually be a costly repair…

    • Otherwise the nose bounces off of the flight deck and, at best (assuming no one is injured or nothing explodes and cases more damage), you’ve wrecked a $30 million airplane.

  1. I would imagine that the “stool” is probably used for supporting the front end of the plane while maintenance is being done on the front landing gear. Probably not designed for landing on, but one hell of a improvisation.

  2. I used to be Crash Fire Rescue at MCAS Cherry Point. I saw one land with no landing gear once. With the external tanks and the ventral strakes instead of the 25mm cannon, there is actually a lot to land on in lieu of the landing gear. Didn’t even seem to hurt the aircraft. We used our crane to lift it and they pried the gear down and towed it off to the hangar. The plane also has an emergency blowdown system which uses compressed CO2 or something. It vents out the bottom of the aircraft when used. I saw that on one that had a gear failure as well. I even saw one that flew through a hail storm and its nose was basically gone, holes punched through the leading edge of the wings. He didn’t do a hover landing though, I think the leading edge damage screwed up the puffer tubes on the wingtips so he came in like a normal plane. The Harrier is the butt of a lot of jokes, from myself included, but it gets the job done and the pilots are first rate. My main complaint about it is how loud they are when we were sitting in our firetrucks and they were hovering a couple hundred yards away. Still deafening…

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