Pilots pucker factor was maxed out.
Marine Capt. William Mahoney had just taken off from the USS Bataan when he realized that getting back aboard the amphibious assault ship was going to be hairy.
One of the four sets of landing gear on his single-seat Harrier wasn’t working — the one directly beneath the cockpit of the “jump jet,” which slows down and hovers before landing with a bounce.
Mahoney flew a low pass over the Bataan; observers confirmed that the nose gear was stuck. Then the landing signal officer in the ship’s control tower suggested using a piece of equipment Mahoney had never heard of: a sort of padded stool placed on the flight deck that could cradle the aircraft’s nose — if he could put the plane down just right.
Harrier pilots pride themselves on landing neatly aboard warships, in virtually the same spot every time. Unlike carrier-based planes, which use a tailhook to catch a wire stretched across the flight deck, Harriers use engine exhaust directed downward — “vectored thrust” — to make a slow, stabilized descent.