Are they too focused on their objectives (dogfighting, bombing etc) and run out of fuel when they realise, they have no place to return? Or do they attempt to land on another carrier or nearby land?
What happens to carrier planes when the carrier they are usually stationed on is sunk whilst they are airborne?
One of three things usually happened
-If their carrier was hit and unable to take planes they would land on another available carrier if there was one
-if they were close enough to a land based airfield they would try to make for it
-if the first two options weren’t available then they’d ditch their planes in the water and wait for rescue