I'm trying to find definitive proof and official derivation of the navy pilot's call to the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) when he does not visually acquire the meatball at the designated distance aft of the ship. This term, transmitted by radio from the pilot to the LSO, is "clara". Some of us USN pilots assume this term "clara" is an abbreviation / corruption of the word "clarification". Surely the term is of British origin and perhaps someone of the stature of Captain Eric Brown would surely know the answer. Does anyone know the best place to search for this answer?
We never, as far as I know, used the expression "Clara" in the RN during the 60's and 70's. The normal call was "Sight, four greens". I don't remember ever not seeing the sight when turning finals - if I hadn't, I guess I would have just said so.
I am discouraged to hear Schiller's and 4Greens' reply that you are not familiar with this term. If it is, indeed, a USN derivation, then it seems to have been lost in obscurity as I have communicated with our USN School of LSO Training and some of our US naval aviation historians to no avail. As a USN A-7 Corsair II driver during Vietnam, we flew the UK-invented Fresnel Lens system. Our prescribed call to the LSO consisted, in this order, of 1.) the side number of your aircraft 2.) confirmation that you had the meatball in sight and 3.) your fuel state in hundreds of pounds. Example: "305, Ball, two one", meaning that aircraft 305's pilot had a visual on the ball with a fuel state of twenty-one hundreds pounds. The LSO would answer: "Roger, Ball". If the pilot could not see the meat ball, typically on a dark, rainy night, then when being passed off by the ship's approach control, the ball call to the LSO would be, "305, Clara, two one". You mentioned the call "Sight, Four Greens" - this is completely foreign to me. We had the horizontal row of green datum lights to reference high or low with the orange-colored meatball, but I don't understand the "four greens" call. Can you explain, please, via this medium? Is Captain Eric Brown alive and well, by the way? /charliemack
Atcham Tower: I've read about Captain Brown on Wikipedia and from other sources. It's good to know that he is up and around. If any RN pilot would know about "Clara", it would surely be him, I'd wager. Does anyone know how we could pose this riddle to him?
The 'Clara' call was certainly used in Royal Australian Navy carrier ops (HMAS Melbourne, Grumman Trackers and Douglas Skyhawks in the 70's and 80's). The RAN used US Navy procedures with a 'meatball' system based on a mirror (no Fresnel lens but similar presentation).
Occasionally 'Clara' had to be called when sun glare in the mirror obscured the 'meatball'.
The origins of CLARA was addressed by Grampaw Pettibone in Naval Aviation News March - April 2001: without any definitive result!
In response to our question “Can you CLARA-fy this?” in the Jan-Feb 01 issue, we received the following dialog from Cdr. Reggie Carpenter of the Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 staff:
During our Med/Gulf deployment last year, the CVW-17 staff asked the best and brightest landing signal officers (LSO) in the air wing if they knew the origin of the “CLARA” call. The question was originally posed after a late night of grueling, redundant staff work that typically ends by asking life’s-mystery-type queries. The email trail below, in chronological order, is the result.
The original question posed by Assistant Ops Officer LCdr. Tyler Frautschi: A recently formulated question has been successfully parried and passed to you by our less-than-all-knowing air wing LSOs (since you did the LSO school thing): What is the story behind, or historical significance of, the term CLARA. Please enlighten us if you can.
The response from former LSO School Officer in Charge LCdr. Gary Herbert: You are wise to consult the oracle on important LSOingdom questions. But, alas, on this issue my magic eight ball remains silent. Even among old timers (flatpaddles, straight-deck and starboard-side-mirrortype LSOs) who gave history lectures at the LSO school, no one knew its origins.
My thoughts are that simply screaming,
“PADDLES, 402, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY, WHERE THE HELL AM I, HOW DID I GET HERE, AND JUST WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE I DO TO SAVE MYSELF?!” was just too difficult to spit out on the radio. As every comment in LSO grading is an acronym, I propose the following: For Low: Crap, Looking At Rounddown Again Committed to Land Aft of Ramp Anyway Choose to Land Atop Ready-8 Again For High: Chop power, Lower nose And then Reef Aft Check LOX At this Ridiculous Altitude? Cockeyed LSOs Adjusted Roll Angle Just Because: Can’t Land—Application Ready for Airlines Can LSOs Actually Read Anything? Finally:
“Paddles, 402, I’m, uh, duh, CLARA’n an emergency!”
The final response by LCdr. (sel) Howie Wanamaker, the staff airborne early warning Naval Flight Officer, offered his logical view: OK, enough! A simple explanation from an NFO (as always!): CLARA = clarification of my position.
FWIW, I never heard the term in RN Carrier Ops back in the days of steam catapults and angled decks