Military pilot pulls off amazing emergency landing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Military pilot pulls off amazing emergency landing

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(CBS 8) - The United States military has released video of a harrowing fighter jet landing at sea earlier this month. 

The jet's landing gear malfunctioned, forcing the pilot to land the aircraft on a ship vertically.

Captain William Mahoney had just taken off from the USS Bataan in his harrier jet, when he realized his front landing gear was not working.

"At this point - it's time to figure out, 'how do I get the jet back on the deck safely?'" he said. 

The nail-biting video released by the US Marine Corps shows Captain Mahoney - guided by air controllers and lights on the ship's deck - as he attempts a tricky vertical landing onto a special stool placed on the ship's deck. 

"So I'm at 20 feet and I can't even see the stool - I don't know if it's there - and I thought, 'oh boy, this is going to get interesting,'" Capt. Mahoney said. 

Interesting - and intense - as all crew members first cleared the deck just in case he crashed.

"I go to idle... I remember my gear hitting, and it dropped more than I expected... But at that point, I was along for this ride," Capt. Mahoney said. 

A ride - that thankfully - went off without a hitch, although the nose bounced several times off the stool during the final touchdown.

"I didn't realize how much I was shaking until I got out of the aircraft," Capt. Mahoney said. 

"I was amazed by what a beautiful job that he did," Bob Walker said. 

Local former Naval Aviator Bob Walker says that while pilots train procedurally for emergencies like this, it's a different scenario when it's the real deal.

"I'm very proud... All naval aviators are trained to this degree," he said. 

Walker also points out that in emergency situations like this -- it requires a total team effort. He says his hat's off to the landing signal officer and the ship's personnel for their part.

In fact, the pilot later said he was so focused on landing safely -- he didn't even realize there was no one on the flight deck when he touched down.

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