I catapulted off the deck of a US aircraft carrier in a largely windowless prop plane the Navy's been flying since the 1960s. It was jarring and intense.

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  • Business Insider recently traveled with the US Navy to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea.

  • To get there, our reporter flew on a small cargo plane from Bahrain to the aircraft carrier.

  • Landing on the massive warship was intense, but taking off from it was a shockingly jarring experience.

The plane's two-man crew screamed "Let's Go!" and I tucked into a brace position, anxiously waiting for the aircraft to launch. When it finally happened, there was a roar, and I was instantly thrown forward into my harness.

Catapulting off an aircraft carrier is a sharp, jarring experience even more intense than the landing, and I recently experienced this firsthand in a US Navy C-2 Greyhound.

Last week, I flew from Bahrain, home to the Navy's 5th Fleet, to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea, where I got a closer look at the Navy response to the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who have been attacking international shipping lanes off the coast of Yemen for months.

The first thing I noticed as I boarded the propeller-driven plane that was going to fly me and the others out to the Ike was a glaring lack of windows.

My first look at the Grumman C-2 Greyhound in Bahrain.
My first look at the Grumman C-2 Greyhound in Bahrain.Jake Epstein/Business Insider

There were a couple of very small windows on the aging Greyhound, but they were behind me, mostly out of sight. I was feeling a little anxious about landing on a carrier, a floating airport at sea, so the lack of visibility was less than ideal.

I had never before seen a Grumman C-2 Greyhound, a twin-engine propeller plane tasked with ferrying personnel and cargo to US aircraft carriers at sea. These aircraft are used for COD — or carrier onboard delivery — flights.

The Navy has been regularly using these planes to deliver parts, supplies, mail, and passengers to carriers since they were first introduced in the mid-1960s.

Before boarding the Greyhound through its rear cargo door, we were given flotation vests, a must when flying over water, and protective headgear equipped with goggles and heavy-duty earmuffs. We sat down in our thinly padded seats — facing backward in a two-by-two formation — and strapped into our harnesses.

My attempt at a selfie from inside the COD flight.
My attempt at a selfie from inside the COD flight.Jake Epstein/Business Insider

Aside from facing the wrong way, taking off from Bahrain felt a lot like any other commercial flight I've ever been on. In the air though, it was cold and uncomfortable, and for some reason, it sounded as if there were millions of bees buzzing all around us, creating an interesting ambiance to go with the turbulence.

After several hours in the air, we made a sudden, harsh bank, and the crew yelled over the noise of the plane for us to put on our goggles and get into the brace position — head down, arms crossed.

Following a few last-second bumps, we landed on the deck of the Ike. The arresting gear, which are belts that help planes quickly decelerate on an aircraft carrier's short runway, took us from nearly 130 mph to a full stop in just three seconds. It was violent and unlike anything I'd ever experienced before.

But it was still less intense than taking off from the Eisenhower the next day.

My first look at the flight deck after landing on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.
My first look at the flight deck after landing on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.Jake Epstein/Business Insider

Before our return flight, we watched a brief safety video and were given the same gear as our inbound flight — then told right away to put on our goggles. Boarding the Greyhound, I grabbed a seat that had something of a window view, with a bit of a stretch.

After a quick taxi, we were in position to take off. Because the Ike's runways are so short, planes are launched from a catapult, which is a steam-powered mechanism that slingshots the aircraft forward at a fast speed. I was dreading this. (I'm not a big fan of roller coasters and probably wasn't cut out for naval aviation).

Finally, the launch came, and the aircraft shot forward incredibly fast and flew right off the deck as the force of the experience pushed me into my harness.

It was over in seconds, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But after a few minutes, I craned my neck to see out the window and noticed something odd: we were still at a pretty low altitude over the water.

Exiting the Greyhound in Bahrain.
Exiting the Greyhound in Bahrain.Jake Epstein/Business Insider

Suddenly, we shot up at a force that felt far greater than the catapult launch, gaining a lot of altitude in a quick spurt. I had no idea this was coming, so I grabbed the seat in front of me and closed my eyes. Then, in another twist, the aircraft dipped down before finally leveling out above the clouds.

Launching from the deck of an aircraft carrier, much like landing on one, is strange — and I can only imagine what it's like for naval aviators rocketing off the ship on a regular basis — but it was nonetheless an incredible experience.

We were shaken by bits of turbulence as we flew back to Bahrain. It was a good thing I could see out the window because the sunset was spectacular that evening.

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