By Tommy H. Thomason
Thursday, July 2, 2009
At some point, the compactness of a folded carrier-based airplane became determined by the number that could be "spotted" on the Essex-class hangar deck and flight deck, while leaving enough space on the latter for landing one more airplane. This number was determined by placing templates on a detailed top view of the hangar and flight decks, maintaining a minimum of one-foot clearance between adjoining aircraft and between an aircraft and ship structure. Another ground rule was that each aircraft had to be readily towable out of the spot onto one of the elevators (note the forward one) without undue jockeying. The position of the wheels was marked on the templates, because airplanes on the flight deck were allowed to be parked with noses, wings, and tails extending out over the sea.
The hangar was clearly the more complicated of the two decks to spot because of all the extraneous structure there, including the two portals between the three hangar bays. The maximum folded span (for all but the A3D Skywarrior ) was 27' 6", apparently because in the narrowest sections of the hangar, this was the maximum span that would allow two aircraft to be parked side-by-side if that was necessary to maximize the number that could be accommodated. (As I subsequently discovered, the limit established by the hangar was 25' 4"; the 27' 6" appears to have been set by the SCB 27A elevator. See Fitting In III, July 14 2010.
The example above* is an operational spot of the Hancock, as opposed to a spotting factor exercise. The aircraft shown are the A4D Skyhawk, AD Skyraider (including a representation of the propeller), F11F Tiger, and F4D Skyray.
* Although two starboard deck-edge elevators are shown, the Essex-class carriers actually had only one, usually the more forward one. Only Intrepid, Ticonderoga, and Hancock had the starboard deck-edge elevator in the more aft position shown above.