U.S. Navy Carrier Air Wing 1 Commander Achieves Astounding 1,200th Career Arrested Landing

An F/A-18F of VFA-211, lands on USS Harry S. Truman on Feb. 1, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Benjamin Waddell). In the box: Cmdr. Kenneth Hockycko, commanding officer of VFA-211, left, shakes hands with Capt. Robert Gentry, commander, Carrier Air Wing 1 after Gentry's 1,200th career arrested landing. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Frank Bonner via USN)

Just a handful of naval aviators have completed 1,200 trap landings on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Since Feb. 1, Capt. Robert Gentry, is one of them.

Landing on a carrier is anything but easy, especially at night, in bad weather, high-seas and after a combat mission lasting many hours. That’s why, for instance, from the last three quarters of a mile all the way to touchdown the pilot approaching a U.S. aircraft carrier also rely on LSOs [Landing Signal Officers – radio callsign “Paddles” – skilled and experienced pilots whose job is to watch the deck-landing of all the airplanes and provide the pilots with radio guidelines to adjust the final phase of the approach, complementing IFLOLS (Improved Fresnel Lens Optical Landing System) and ICLS (Instrumental Carrier Landing System) visual information.]

As you may understand the number of completed arrested landings talks a lot about the experience of a naval aviator: it’s a testament to the number of training and combat missions flown and completed in all the conditions during several years of “blue water ops”.

On Feb. 1, Capt. Robert Gentry, a naval flight officer, commander of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, completed his 1,200th career trap landing flying in an F/A-18F Super Hornet of the Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 “Fighting Checkmates” deployed with Harry S. Truman to the U.S. 5th Fleet area.

According to the U.S. Navy, few aviators have made the “The Grand Club” (as the Tailhook Association, an independent, fraternal organization supporting sea-based aviation, has defined aviators who have completed 1,000 traps), fewer still, perhaps in the single digits have surpassed 1,200.

Capt. Gerry was in the backseat of a VFA-211 “Rhino” (as the Super Hornet is dubbed aboard U.S. flattops) piloted by Cmdr. Kenneth Hockycko, the commanding officer of VFA-211.

“To share his 1,200th trap was an honor and, to me, symbolic of what we hold dearest as naval aviators – commitment to our craft, commitment to mission accomplishment, and commitment to one another,” said Hockycko in a news release.

Cmdr. Kenneth Hockycko, commanding officer of the Fighting Checkmates of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, left, shakes hands with Capt. Robert Gentry, commander, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) after Gentry’s 1,200th career arrested landing in the Arabian Sea Feb. 1, 2020. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. (Courtesy photo by Lt. Frank Bonner)

“The Navy doesn’t keep people around and flying long enough to get to 1,200 traps unless they are worthy of being placed in leadership positions,” said Hockycko. “An aviator’s trap count is a measure of sea time, airmanship and leadership. To reach quadruple digits, one must have deployed and worked up many times.”

In its career, spanning four decades, Gentry has also flown in the EA-6B Prowler, EA-18G Growler and the F-14 Tomcat, all contributing to his 1,200 traps. By comparison, junion officers can just hope to break 200 ones on their first tour of duty at sea, but most of times, the number of arrested landings is much lower than that. “As a point of comparison, I’m on my fourth sea tour, and I have fewer than half the traps CAG does,” said Hockycko.


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.