Navy Dads

Aviation Boatswains Mate ABH (Aircraft Handling) ABH

Aviation Boatswain's Mates, Aircraft Handling (ABH) direct the movement and spotting of aircraft ashore and afloat; operate, maintain, and perform organizational maintenance on ground-handling equipment used for moving and hoisting of aircraft ashore and afloat; supervise securing of aircraft and equipment; perform crash rescue, firefighting, crash removal, and damage control duties; perform duties in connection with launching and recovery of aircraft.


Aviation Boatswains Mate (ABH's) also known as "Yellow Shirts" play a major part in launching and recovering naval aircraft quickly and safely from land or ships. This includes preparing and fueling planes prior to take- off and after landing.
They may specialize in launching and recovering aircraft on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, ABE; aircraft fueling and fuel systems, ABF; or aircraft handling, fire fighting and salvage and rescue operations, ABH. Later in their careers ABs can earn the advanced AB rating that requires supervision of all these individual specialties.



The duties performed by ABHs include:

  • supervising the movement, spotting and securing of aircraft and equipment ashore and afloat;
  • performing crash rescue, fire fighting, crash removal and damage control duties in connection with launching and recovery of aircraft.
  • perform aircraft-handling duties related to the operation of launching and recovery of naval aircraft.

Working Environment

Most of the work in this rating is performed outdoors on the deck of aircraft carriers, in all climatic conditions, in fast-paced and often potentially hazardous environments. ABs work closely with others in aviation ratings.


ABH - Air Operations Technician

Air Operations Technicians ensure the safe operation of the Air Field and provides assistance to transient aircraft and all aircrew personnel. Duties include aircraft movement, load priorities, servicing and maintenance of transiting aircraft. Duties also include the security and custody of cargo, mail, and hazardous materials, ensuring it is properly packaged and palletized for aircraft. They are also Fire Fighters responsible for all fire-fighting and rescue operations at the immediate scene of aircraft/structural buildings on shore facilities.

ABH - Aircraft Director

Aircraft Directors are responsible for the safe and expeditious movement of aircraft on fight decks, hangar decks, and ashore which includes the installation and removal of chocks, tie downs, and tow bars. They are tractor drivers, elevators operators, conflagration station operators, ouija board spotters and designated lookouts. Their duties include a strong working knowledge of the Planned Maintenance System, deck multiple/density, aircraft fundamentals/systems and flight/hangar deck operations. They are responsible for administrative duties, training initiatives, technical publication libraries, operational readiness of equipment and upkeep of divisional spaces.

ABH - Crash And Salvage Firefighter

Crash and Salvage Firefighter duties include responding to aircraft emergencies, firefighting, rescue and salvage for each type of aircraft on board. Duties also include the coordination of aircraft jettison operations, embarked squadron training, equipment maintenance requirements, and water related salvage operations.


Sea/Shore Rotation for This Rating

  • First Sea Tour: 60 months
  • First Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Second Sea Tour: 60 months
  • Second Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Third Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Third Shore Tour: 36 months
  • Fourth Sea Tour: 48 months
  • Forth Shore Tour: 36 months

Note: Sea tours and shore tours for sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 months ashore until retirement.

ABH is a sea-intensive community. Manning conditions at sea may require the need to request sea tour extension or shore tour curtailments to ensure all sea duty billets are filled.


** Note: ABE, ABF, and ABH combine at paygrade E-9 to the rating of Master Chief Aviation Boatswain's Mate (ABCM).


SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 2, 2011) Aviation Boatswain's Mate Airman Jeremy J. New gives the okay signal as an AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542 takes off from the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD2). Essex is part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group on patrol in the western Pacific Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey H. Kyhl/Released)



ARABIAN SEA (Jan. 26, 2011) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Allen Labon, from Madison, Ga., positions aircraft on the Ouija board in the flight deck control center aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72). The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility in support of maritime security operations and theater cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Murphy/Released)

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