In Naval Aviation, the Past is Not Dead

By lex, on December 5, 2008


It’s not even past, at NAS Kingsville, Texas:

The Morale, Welfare and Recreation Department unveiled their latest “toy” for base personnel Friday, Oct. 31 in the form of a mechanical device designed to simulate catching a wire on an aircraft carrier. The “Kingsville Catapult” or “King Kat” as it is called, was designed and built by VT-21 Training Officer LT Casey Bates. The project took three months to complete from design to test drive, and included the volunteer efforts of several other aviators, dubbed the King Kat air crew.

The design was borrowed from the “Cubi Cat” at NAS Cubi Point in Olongapo, PI.

The Cubi Cat was long gone by the time your correspondent started haunting the darker dens of South East Asia, but the legend lived on in the hearts and minds of those who went before.

Back in the day… Cubi Point Naval Air Station and the adjoining Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines were a place where war-weary Navy and Marine Corps aviators, Marines and Sailors, could let off a little steam after flying combat missions over Vietnam or spending weeks on the gunline aboard ships on Yankee Station. Club managers were always being tasked with coming up with new and interesting ways to keep personnel entertained, which wasn’t always easy.

Enter CDR John L. Sullivan and the now famous Cubi Point Officers’ Club Catapult. The “Cat” came into existence in 1969 and immediately created a division within naval air among those who had ridden the cat and caught the wire, and those who had ridden the cat and missed the wire and gotten soaked. The escapades of Navy and Marine pilots at the Cubi Point Officers’ Club, according to Sullivan, is the stuff of legend…

The ‘Cat’… was 6-feet long and had shoulder straps and a safety belt and was equipped with a stick that, when pulled back sharply, released a hook in the rear of the vehicle to allow arrestment. Propulsion was provided by pressurized nitrogen tanks hooked up to a manifold…

“This arrangement provided enough power to propel the vehicle to 15 mph in the first two feet,” said Sullivan. “Acceleration of zero to 15 mph in two feet is the equivalent of the G force of World War II hydraulic catapults. The downward curvature of the track had to be precise. The rollers would bind if the curvature were too sharp. Beyond the exit from the club was a pool of water 3 1/2 feet deep, which would stop the Cat, if the pilot were not successful in catching the wire and stopping the Cat…

Word of the Cat quickly spread throughout Southeast Asia and even attracted Air Force F-4 pilots from Clarke AFB. They would come swaggering in loudly claiming they were equal to the task. Each and every one of them failed to catch the wire, much to the delight of the Navy onlookers.

Well, you know what they say: You want a new idea, read an old book. They’ve brought back the Cubi O’Club to NAS Pensacola, and now the Cubi Cat to NAS Kingsville. If only someone could find that log book. *


* Link updated 03-27-18 – Ed


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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Naval Aviation, Naval History, Navy, Neptunus Lex

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