The Navy STRAAD Project
Structural Assessment and Repair of Damaged Aircraft

Bobb Allen
November, 1972 – December, 1973

An aircraft carrier catapult launch is something you often see on TV or in the movies and gives you the impression that it is aggressive, yet smooth and graceful. That was in my mind when a boarded a C-1 for my introduction to a cat shot. The C-1 is a twin reciprocating engine high wing COD (Carry on Delivery) aircraft. The passenger seats are located in the rear of the fuselage facing aft.

The deck of a carrier during flight operations is the south pacific of 1972 was an orchestrated chaos of heat, noise and blurred motion. After hours of bored waiting you are suddenly called to the aircraft.  Everything seems to happen at once as you grab your brief case full of books, papers and laundry and step onto the flight deck. You are taken to the aircraft and once you step in your escort is absolved of all responsibility for you. You are turned over to the plane captain who gives you a rapid fire briefing on what you are supposed to do to survive the launch.

My instructions were to securely fasten the waist and shoulder straps and remove my glasses. When you hear the engines run up you are to drop your chin to your chest and it will all be over in a few seconds. This seemed like a fairly complete briefing and I was ready to go. All of this instruction was delivered as fast as the plane captain could talk and I was grateful that he wasn’t from Brooklyn so at least I could understand him.  The only thing he was completely correct on was the “few seconds” part.

It now became another waiting game while the aircraft waits for an opening to launch.  You are in a nearly helpless position with your only access to the activity around you being an 8X10 window. The aircraft is finally taxied into position on the cat. The pace of events now speeds up. There is some bouncing and jerking getting into final position.  Then you hear and feel the power coming up to maximum. The aircraft is stationary yet everything is vibrating.

With a distinct bang the hold back fitting lets go and you’re on your way. The violence of the acceleration is incredible.  I found myself literally hanging in the straps like a cartoon character. Both legs straightened out impacting the seat I was facing causing severe bruises. Even though I had lowered my head, the sudden acceleration strained my neck. My arms were spared because I fortunately had grasped opposite shoulder straps.  It surely could have been worse. However, there was sufficient damage to provide an unforgettable lesson.  None of the injuries were permanent but I limped on both legs for a week or so.

My second and subsequent launches were more successful.  After boarding and getting seated I fastened the waist and shoulder straps so tight that they were on the edge of being a slight injury. Both feet were firmly placed against the supports of the next seat.  All loose items are removed and stowed.  Just prior to launch I slipped my right thumb under the left-hand strap and the left thumb under the right-hand strap and rested my chin firmly on my crossing hands. Wham, no injuries. Physical injury is something we all try to avoid but it can sure focus your attention.

Bobb L. Allen


Personal stories of their STRAAD tour experiences:

Ed Grube
Jim Smith
Charles Foreman
Charles Etheridge
Joe Williams
Bob Allen