On a wing and a prayer. Oh, and a stool -- don't forget the stool!
Capt. William Mahoney made use of each on June 7, after the front landing gear on his AV-8B Harrier jet failed shortly after take off from the USS Bataan, an amphibious assault ship currently out in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Navy Times. Unable to make a conventional landing, the Marine had to set the jet down by lowering it vertically onto a modified stool on the ship's top deck.
In a video of the incident, Mahoney explains he knew he had a problem shortly after taking off. He radioed back to the ship, then flew past the control tower at an altitude of 300 feet, hoping the exact issue could be diagnosed from afar.
Lacking a quick airborne fix, he had no choice but to land the approximately 46-foot-long, 31,000-pound Harrier using a procedure to support the jet's nose on a stool fixed to the ship's deck.
"The ship had this amazing invention that was... basically a stool, that was built specifically for this reason," Mahoney recalled in the video.
The pilot slowly lowered the jet down to an elevation 20 feet above the deck, then was instructed to land it.
"I can't see the stool," he says in the video, recalling his thoughts at the time. "I don't even know it's there. I remember looking for it and thinking, 'Oh, boy. This is going to get interesting.'"
Nevertheless, he lowered the jet -- "It dropped more than I expected," he said -- which ultimately came to rest with the nose bouncing directly on the stool.
Only after he landed did Mahoney say the nerves really hit him. "I had to sit there for a minute, and remember how to shut the jet off... it was a pretty big relief. I didn't realize how much I was shaking until I got out of the aircraft."
WATCH the impressive landing, below: