Jets on Whidbey
Naval Air Station (NAS)
Jets from the U.S. Navy's NAS Whidbey Island train all year long. It's hard to miss them as they fly around and over the island. For the most part, the jets are training to land on an aircraft carrier. They don't start on an aircraft carrier, of course, they start at places like NAS Whidbey and the outlying field (OLF) near Coupeville.
Jet Carrier Training Schedule
|Date||OLF - Coupeville||NAS Whidbey|
|Sunday - July 15||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
|Monday - July 16||Mid-Afternoon to Early Evening, and Night to Late Night||Night to Late Night
|Tuesday - July 17||Mid-Afternoon to Early Evening||Night to Late Night|
|Wednesday - July 18||Mid-Afternoon to Early Evening, and Night to Late Night||Night|
|Thursday - July 19||Mid-Afternoon to Early Evening, and Night to Late Night||None Scheduled|
|Friday - July 20||None Scheduled||Early to Mid-Afternoon|
|Saturday - July 21||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
|Sunday - July 22||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
|Monday - July 23||None Scheduled||Late Afternoon to Evening then
Night to Late Night
|Tuesday - July 24||None Scheduled||Late Afternoon to Evening then
Night to Late Night
|Wednesday - July 25||None Scheduled||Afternoon to Evening|
|Thursday - July 26||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
|Friday - July 27||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
|Saturday - July 28||None Scheduled||None Scheduled|
What is it Like to Land on a Carrier?
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are the Jets Flying?
Whidbey Island has been the home of Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island since 1942. The Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in Coupeville was built and put into use the following year. In 1967 the Navy determined that OLF was an ideal location for pilots to hone their skills preparing for landing jets on aircraft carriers. Landing on an aircraft carrier at sea is one of the most challenging activities any pilot can undertake, even more so at night. This training is called Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP), a type of touch and go training that is crucial training for pilots preparing to deploy on an aircraft carrier. Over the years, several types of jet aircraft have used OLF Coupeville for FCLP training, the A-3 Skywarrior, A-6 Intruder and EA-6B Prowler. Today, the jet doing this type of training at OLF Coupeville is call the EA-18G, or simply, the Growler.
What Kind of Jets Fly Here?
The EA-18G Growler is a specialized version of the Navy’s Super Hornet. They are the Department of Defense’s only Electronic Attack aircraft. Their mission is to control what’s called the electronic spectrum and deny, degrade, or delay an adversary’s ability to use this spectrum to communicate and target American and allied forces.
A Growler Touch and Go
Why OLF Coupeville?
NAS Whidbey Island is one of the few Naval Air Stations on the West Coast, and the Navy’s most northern air station in country. This is an ideal jet training location for several reasons and OLF Coupeville is ideal for training how to land on an aircraft carrier; it is located at relative sea level, has minimal surrounding lighting at night and is close to the main airfield in Oak Harbor. This jet training must, as closely as possible, simulate what pilots would encounter at sea when landing on an aircraft carrier.
Why do they do FCLPs in Coupeville and not at Ault Field in Oak Harbor; isn’t that where the Navy base is located?
The Navy prefers to use OLF for FCLP training due to its site advantages. Ault Field lies in a valley. The surrounding terrain forces the pilots to fly at higher altitudes than at OLF which degrades training. Additionally, FCLP training has impacts on other types of operations out of Ault Field, which is a busy, multi-mission base. When FCLP training is conducted at Ault Field other types of operations are delayed. Ault Field is also used as a backup during inclement weather.
Visit the PBY Museum!
The original reason the Navy chose Whidbey Island is they needed a base for their seaplane, the PBY Catalina! This Oak Harbor Museum even features an original plane!
Why do the jets practice at night?
Night flights are needed to help our pilots prepare to land on aircraft carriers at night. Landing on an aircraft carrier is challenging; landing at night, when there is little light, takes even greater skill. It is important that jet pilots practice both day and night and in all weather conditions to ensure they are effectively prepared when they deploy to an aircraft carrier. Qualifying to land on aircraft carriers is a perishable skill, one that requires requalification when not conducted after a short period of time. Watch the video on this page to see how truly difficult landing at night is.
How long will the training last?
FCLP training is conducted in 45-minute blocks of time. The frequency of use depends upon what’s needed at a particular point in time; needs that can be dependent upon global events. The Navy seldom conducts training flights at night past midnight, unless there is something unusual happening.
Will training happen every night?
National defense requirements and world events can have significant impacts on training frequency. It is uncommon for flights to happen more than three consecutive nights.
Do the jets fly on weekends/Will they fly all weekend?
The Navy tries to complete its weekly training at OLF Coupeville by Friday evening. The Navy has not used OLF Coupeville on weekends for more than a decade. However, world events could very well force the Navy to change that unofficial policy. If that does happen, the base will engage with and inform surrounding communities about that change.
Where can I learn more?
We know that not everyone reacts the same to training flights, but what helps is to understand more about their importance. If you want to learn about NAS Whidbey Island, please visit their website here.