H.P. "Viking" Lillebo's Annotated Guide To
Wings of gold 

For another thorough resource on this –ahem– important subject,
check out the Tailhook Association's page at: http://www.tailhook.org.
For general Navy slang enjoy: http://goatlocker.org/resources/nav/navyslang.pdf

Around "The Boat" Aircraft and Flying
The Pilot And Friends Index of Terms

Naval Air types: To suggest additions or revisions to this collection send me a note.
All text on this site © H.Paul Lillebo

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Around "The Boat":


Abaft Even farther aft than aft. Behind the boat or whatever. As in, "Honey, is that a police car abaft?"
Abeam In Navy talk, adjacent to, not fore or aft, but toward your 9 o'clock or 3 o'clock.. The car that's doorhandle to doorhandle with you on the freeway is abeam. As in, "Damn, honey! That idiot who cut us off is abeam to port. Watch this!"
ACLS"All-weather Carrier Landing System." A system that uses automated radio inputs from the ship to control stick and throttle on an aircraft's final approach to a carrier landing. The pilot could be hands-off all the way to landing, but you bet he keeps his hands on the controls to override them if needed. A pilot had best not use this system all the time, or he'll be rusty at the skill he will need when the system fails: the very tricky job of manually bringing the aircraft aboard the carrier. (Like back when men were men ...)
Aft Uh... That's the back end of the boat. Or, adverbially, toward the back of anything. For example, "Sweetheart, has your aft section spread just a bit lately?"
Air Boss The Commander in charge of the carrier's flight pattern and flight deck. This is no desk job. During flight operations the Air Boss is located in the tower in the carrier's "island," and runs flight ops in the immediate vicinity of the carrier, where his word is law. Has access to scary loud loudspeakers. He believes - rightly - that humiliation is a great teacher, so as you (the pilot) cross the flight deck after you've landed following some airborne flub, you (and everyone else on the deck) are likely to hear some choice words over said loudspeakers referring to your aviation skills. But to be fair, the Air Boss will just as quickly praise extraordinary professionalism with an "Attaboy".
Air wing The aviation squadrons and aircraft aboard a carrier (except for the rescue helos). The air wing is under the command of "CAG" (once "Commander, Air Group" - but now "Commander, Air Wing" but still "CAG") - a senior Commander, and joins the carrier for the duration of a cruise. At the end of the cruise the carrier goes to the yard to be glued back together, while the air wing squadrons may scatter to several airfields. For the next half year or more, the squadrons operate more or less independently, fiddling with paperwork, until the time comes to go to sea again. Then they meet the carrier for another cruise, and become one happy air wing again, under a new CAG.
Alpha strike A major, supposedly coordinated, air-to-ground strike, involving much of the air wing (see above), perhaps 50 aircraft or more. Getting all those aircraft "rendezvous'ed" and on their way to the target is always a minor miracle.
Sure, we love this old Navy ceremonial march, but what's it doing here? First of all, it's the tune every Navy man (and others) hears whenever the ship leaves home port, so it's a part of every cruise. But the real reason: I know you've been wondering forever about why these anchors are going away. Now hear this: they're not going away, they're not going anywhere! It's not "Anchors away", it's Anchors AWEIGH! That is, we're weighing anchor, meaning we're pulling the anchor up. See? You just had a life-changing insight, right? Now, make it stick - hear the tune:

Angel The carrier's rescue helicopter, which hovers off the starboard (that's "right" to landlubbers) side of the ship during all launch and landing (recovery) operations. Every Navy pilot's best friend. Angels is an entirely different word.
Angled deck "The Angle" for short. A brilliant WWII era invention, originally British, though it took the U.S. Navy to make it work. Setting the landing area at an angle (10-12°) to the ship's axis allows for low wave-offs and bolters without plowing into aircraft and crew on the forward part of the flight deck, like they used to back in the day... On the other hand, the pilot on final approach has to line up on a centerline that's wandering off to his right. So he has to crab the aircraft all the way to touchdown. That gives you the hazard of right-to-left drift on touchdown, with a very real danger of the aircraft going over the left side of the deck, even if the hook has caught a wire. And then there's the problem of wind. So see that.
AOOGAOne of the many delightful sounds heard aboard Navy ships, intended to let you know that something's about to happen. If you could only remember what it means! It sounds about like this (click the link in the box):
A successful carrier landing; a "trap". The worst intentional abuse of the body a Navy pilot experiences. Literally a controlled crash into the deck, with shoulder straps jerking you from 150 mph (about 170 mph in the Crusader back when men were men) to zero in about 2 seconds. It's a ride! Special heavy duty landing gear and suspensions distinguish naval aircraft. Here's why: At the moment of touchdown, the vertical speed of the Navy jet is about 13 feet per second. For the pilot it's like being strapped into a chair, lifted 6 feet into the air, and dropped. Tough on the back - my lumbar disks still feel it. A pilot may say, "Whew! Had 5 arrests yesterday." It's an appropriate term.
The 4 cables ("wires" to the aviator) stretched across the landing area of the carrier; the aim of the aircraft's tailhook. The ideal pass catches the No.3 wire. If you snag the 1-wire (closest to the ramp) the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) is unhappy. The cables are spooled below deck onto huge hydraulic braking engines, which are adjusted for the weight and speed of each aircraft coming on board. If the setting is too tight, it can rip the tailhook out of the aircraft. If too loose, the cable will play out too far and the aircraft can go over the side or, if it caught the 4-wire, off the end of the angle deck. Often just "gear," as in "Finally caught the gear at bingo fuel."
Astern A lot like "abaft". Back there, off the stern. In the picture just below (at "The Ball"), we're located astern the ship.
Athwart Or "athwartships." Across the ship, from side to side. Across anything, really, as in: "Wow, honey. Little Billy's foot measures five inches athwart!"
"Attaboy" The highest praise from the Air Boss. You've saved an airplane, or performed a minor miracle, or perhaps just looked less hopeless than the day before. The only time the Air Boss uses his loudspeakers without sounding PO'ed.
The Ball
Also "Meatball." The amber light in the ship's mirror which gives the pilot glideslope information. When it drifts low it turns red. A red ball is a call for action, if you plan to survive the landing. The Ball is such a presence in a naval aviator's life that where the average human says, "See ya later," the aviator says, "Fly the ball." In the scene at right, on final approach about 3 seconds from touchdown on USS Shangri-La, the mirror is seen forward on the port side. The ball is close to centered (just a bit low), and we're about on centerline. Looks pretty good, but add a little power to bring it up a skosh.
Ball call The carrier pilot's radio call to the LSO on final approach, as he rolls into the "groove" and sights the ball. The call includes the aircraft's callsign, type, and fuel state, which the Arresting Gear Officer will use to set the gear's braking power. For example, "Thunder 204, Hornet, Ball, State Three Point Five" - meaning the aircraft's an F/A-18 (a "Hornet") of the squadron using the "Thunder" callsign, with 3,500 pounds of fuel. The LSO may answer "Roger, ball" and Roger Ball has become the prototypical name for a carrier pilot. (Wonder if there's ever been a real one...)
Barricade A 12-15 foot high contraption of vertical nylon straps that can be raised across the carrier landing area to trap an aircraft with a malfunctioning hook or landing gear. Going into the barricade often results in some minor skin damage. To the aircraft, that is. The pilot will be good as new as soon as the skivvies are laundered.
Beach 1. Ashore. "On the beach" means "In town," or anywhere but on the ship. To "hit the beach" is to go ashore. "I'll be on the beach the next two days" (Transl: I'll be riding out a drunk in the squadron's admin).
2. When flying, "Over the beach" means "Over land". Radio report: "Feet dry."
Bells The ship's bell has kept time at sea since bells were invented. The bell is struck every half hour and divides the 24-hour day into six 4-hour periods or watches. After midnight, 1 strike of the bell gives 0030; at 0100 two bells are struck, and so forth until 8 bells at 0400. Then the sequence begins again with 1 bell at 0430. Whole hours get an even number of bells, half hours odd. (I'm reminded that onboard ship the Navy thoughtfully avoids broadcasting the bells on the shipboard speaker system between 2200 and 0600.) So when a Navy husband says, "I'll be home at six bells, love," he means he'll be back at 7 p.m. Or eleven. Or 3 a.m. Perhaps this convenient ambiguity explains the origin of the system.
Below You can't say "downstairs" on a ship. It's Below, or Down Below. A Navy man would never say "downstairs" at home, either. Like, "Billy, run below and get my hammer." (Of course he would no more say "upstairs": "Billy, if you don't find it below, check topside." And of course there aren't "stairs" onboard ship.)
Bingo "Divert to alternate landing field." Verb, noun, adjective, and expletive. In peacetime operations, carriers nearly always have a divert (bingo) field available. An accident can lead to a fouled deck, requiring all airborne A/C to bingo, or a single A/C may have a problem that prevents shipboard landing. The most common reason for bingo'ing is low fuel. At each flight, pilots are briefed on the bingo fuel state: the minimum fuel level with which you can safely reach the bingo field. If you reach bingo fuel and you're still in the air, you'll hear, "Your signal bingo." Sayonara. The Navy spouse needs to know this term, because during the 3rd movement of a Mahler symphony, the aviator hubby will almost certainly say, "Let's bingo."
Black-ass Darker than just black. There is nothing blacker than a moonless, overcast, black-ass night in the middle of the ocean. That's when CAG doesn't fly. It's not the flying. It's bringing it back aboard! Nothing raises the pulse rate and pucker factor more than a carrier landing on a black-ass night. That's true. It's been measured. (The pulse rate, not the pucker factor - the world waits for a device to measure the latter.)  Scarier than combat!
The Boat A blackshoe sailor never calls a ship a "boat". An aviator never calls it anything else. To him, everything that floats is a boat. But the carrier is "The Boat".
Boat officer One of the 4-hour watches a junior aviator may be assigned aboard the carrier. An in-port watch: you're officer-in-charge of a liberty boat taking sailors ashore and back. Can be OK in daylight and good weather; you actually get to know some of the sailors.  Can also be hell on a midnight return trip with 5-foot swells and 30 drunken sailors onboard. (Do see the "Liberty boat" link.)
Bolter An intended arrested landing where the hook fails to engage a wire, so the pilot has to go around for another attempt. There can be several reasons for this, but the most common is simply being high (not like on drugs!) on the glideslope and missing the 4-wire. Other reasons can be hook-skip (more often an excuse) or a damaged hook. A habit of frequent bolters is bothersome, because each bolter stretches out the carrier's recovery time and upsets the Cyclic Ops timing. Nobody wants to be the squadron Bolter King.
Bulkhead There aren't "walls" aboard a Navy ship. They may look like walls but they're bulkheads. If you're married to a Navy man, you've probably heard, "Where on this bulkhead should we hang this picture, honey?" And you learn to live with it.
Burble An area of air turbulence in the final approach groove right behind the carrier, caused by the island structure, particularly when the ship makes its own wind. You need to be prepared to add power when going through the burble; it acts like the proverbial "air pocket." (When there's enough natural wind that the relative wind comes down the angle deck, the burble will be away from the groove, to starboard, and is no problem. That is, there's only the normal turbulence caused by a giant floating building in a strong wind.)
CAG "Commander, Air Group." The Commander of the Air Wing (earlier "Air Group"), i.e., all the aviation squadrons aboard the carrier. Now officially "CAW," but nobody says that. CAG (rhymes with "rag") is a senior Commander who has previously served as skipper of an operational squadron. It may be a while since he has done much flying, and he doesn't really care for night flights, but the job is necessary if he hopes to make Captain and get selected to command an aircraft carrier. CAG flies aircraft from all or several of his squadrons, and his name adorns each squadron's endearingly yclept "Doublenuts" bird.
(Pronounced "care-quals" or "C-Q"): Carrier Qualifications; really a shore-based activity. For a Navy pilot, sea tours alternate with shore duty. After a tour ashore, the pilot has to carrier re-qualify by spending time practicing MLP's at an airfield and performing a number of arrested landings on a near-shore carrier, before going to sea. CQ is often referred to as "hitting the boat," and it does matter where you hit it. (Initial carquals is one of the scariest moments in a student pilot's training. If you make it past this, you'll probably make it to the fleet. Worst is Night CQ. A young pilot's first acquaintance with this frightening experience typically results in a heart rate off the charts.)
CarrierThis shouldn't even need an entry; a "carrier" is of course an "aircraft carrier," a capital ship. But while we're here ... American carriers have traditionally been named for 1. Politicians, 2. Battles, or 3. Inspirational/memorial/patriotic buzzwords. I include some nicknames (some of them slightly ironic) and radio callsigns of some of the ships, as recently reported by aviators who flew from them. (Duplicate ship names are not uncommon, as a later ship memorializes an earlier, often one lost in battle. And why multiple callsigns? During war time, "callsigns were shifted around to confuse the enemy" - aviation author Barrett Tillman):

Politicians.  These days new carriers are all named after politicians, including some congressional military budget committee chairmen - but of course this is not for the purpose of flattering or securing funding:

USS Randolph, CV-15, Callsign: "Johnstown"
Hancock, CV-19 (fondly "Hannah Maru" or "Han-job"), Callsign: "Rampage"
F.D. Roosevelt, CV-42 ("FDR", "Rosie"), Callsign: "Youngster" & "Riptide"
Forrestal, CV-59 ("Fidlip", "Fid"), Callsign: "Handbook" & "Bullhorn"
Kennedy, CV-67 ("JFK"), Callsign: "Eagle cliff"
Eisenhower, CVN-69 ("Ike")
(Committee chairman) Vinson, CVN-70
T.R. Roosevelt, CVN-71
Lincoln, CVN-72
Washington, CVN-73
(Committee chairman) Stennis, CVN-74
Truman, CVN-75,
Reagan, CVN-76,
(George H.W.) Bush, CVN-77 (commissioned January 10, 2009)
(Gerald) Ford, CVN-78 (under construction, commissioning in 2015 - see artist's image

And not to be confused with the above group is one actually named for a career Navy man:

(Admiral Chester) Nimitz, CVN 68

Battles This has been out of fashion for about 40 years; why waste a good opportunity to grease the political wheels?:
Yorktown, CV-10, Callsign: "Cactus" & "Steamboat" & "Ocean Wave"
Ticonderoga, CV-14 ("Tico"), Callsign: "Panther"
Lexington, CV-16 ("Lady Lex"), Callsign: "Spartan"
Bennington, CV-20, Callsign: "Big boy"
Oriskany, CV-34 ("O-boat", "Big-O"), Callsign: "Sea Lord" & "Childplay"
Antietam, CV-36, Callsign: "Eskimo"
Lake Champlain, CV-39, Callsign: "Nighthawk"
Midway, CV-41, Callsign: "Schoolboy"
Coral Sea, CV-43 ("Cora Maru"), Callsign: "Barktree" & "Mustang"
Valley Forge, CV-45, Callsign: "Cherry tree"
Iwo Jima, CV-46
Philippine Sea, CV-47
Saipan, CVL-48
Saratoga, CV-60 ("Sara"), Callsign: "Fairfield"
Inspirational/memorial/patriotic, etc. This isn't fashionable anymore either; perhaps for the same reason:
Wasp, CV-7
Hornet, CV-8
Essex, CV-9, Callsign: "Undermine" & "Banknote" & "Hellbender"
Intrepid, CV-11 ("Fighting I"), Callsign: "Atlas" & "Carmel"
Hornet, CV-12, Callsign: "Wimpy" & "Judo"
Wasp, CV-18, Callsign: "Bloodshot" & "Rebel"
Boxer, CV-21, Callsign: "Buzzsaw"
Bon Homme Richard, CV-31 ("Bonnie Dick"), Callsign: "Rocket" & "Trust fund"
Kearsarge, CV-33, Callsign: "Wildcat"
Shangri-La, CV-38 ("Shang"), Callsign: "Allstar"
Ranger, CV-61, Callsign: "Grey Eagle" & "Spitfire"
Independence, CV-62 ("Indy"), Callsign: "Gun train"
Kitty Hawk, CV-63 ("Hawk"), Callsign: "Pawtucket" & "Panther"
Constellation, CV-64 ("Connie"), Callsign: "War Chief"
Enterprise, CVN-65 ("Big E"), Callsign: "Climax"
America, CV-66, Callsign: "Courage" & "Broadsword"
Carriers are designated by the letters "CV" (V for fixed-wing), e.g., CV-8, the original "Hornet." The letter "N" is added to the carrier's designation to indicate nuclear power, e.g., USS Enterprise (CVN-65) - the first nuclear carrier (which will finally be relieved by USS Ford (CVN-78) after 50 years (!) of service in 2015.  A further refinement was the letter "A" for Attack (meaning fighter and attack type aircraft), or "S" for anti-submarine warfare. USS Shangri-La is an example of many carriers, particularly of 1940s and 50's vintage, whose designation and role changed, from CVA-38 in earlier days to CVS-38 in later years, when the demands of late generation fighters and attack A/C outstripped the ship's ability to accommodate them. In the 1970's the designations of Attack carriers were changed to indicate a multi-mission capability, and CVA's became simply CV's again.
   or "Cat"
Usually just "Cat." There may be up to four steam cats on a carrier: two on the angle deck and two on the bow. The cat tosses aircraft into the sky by accelerating the A/C to around 200 mph in about 2 seconds. This is more fun during the day than on a black night, but it scrambles your brain day or night. It literally takes about a quarter second to collect your senses after you're flying on your own. Fighter pilots count on this to excuse a lot of behavior.

The installation some decades ago of steam cats, which apply force fairly evenly throughout the stroke, was a blessed relief for pilots - back when men were men, etc. - who had been beaten black and blue by the all-at-once whammo of the former hydraulic cats. The initial G force back then was off the chart.

Crusader launching from port cat
F-8 Crusader launching from port cat
A brave man. One of many on the flight deck. The cat officer stands on the flight deck between the catapults during launch, and gives the signal to fire the catapult after ensuring readiness of the pilot, the A/C, the bow, and the deck. He uses flamboyant signals, to be unambiguous. When the pilot is ready to launch he salutes the cat officer, who returns the salute. Quickly checking the cat track, the movement of the bow, and whatever else is on his list, the cat officer then touches the deck with his hand, usually with a flourish, followed by pointing down the cat track toward the bow, which finally constitutes the signal for the operator to fire the catapult. (The test of the cat officer's nerve comes when a pilot needs to abort the launch - yes, before the cat shot, of course. The pilot signals the cat officer with a shake of the head; the cat officer signals this to the cat operator by crossed forearms. He then signals to release tension on the cat, and steps in front of the wing of the aircraft. This A/C is still at full power, perhaps in afterburner. This takes nads. Only after the cat officer is in front of the wing does he signal to the pilot to reduce power.)
Centurion An aviator who has made 100 landings on a given carrier. Even if you're a nugget, when you get your 100th trap you're given a tiny bit of respect. And then there are double, triple, and quadruple centurions. The respect increment falls off; much more than 300 traps on a given boat and it goes negative. They start to wonder why you're stuck on this ship.
Chopper Any helicopter.
Clara Simply means:"Can't see the ball." When a pilot rolls into the groove, the LSO expects a ball call within a couple of seconds. If he doesn't get it, we hear on the radio: LSO: "In the groove; call the ball." Pilot: "Clara." This usually happens on a straight-in instrument approach, at night or in the soup, where the pilot has to transition from flying on instruments to looking out of the cockpit for the ball for the final 30 seconds or so of the approach. It's a tricky transition.
Clear deck The opposite of "fouled deck". It means the carrier's flight deck is ready to receive the next aircraft. The previous a/c has cleared the landing area, and a green light is shown to the LSO. In "cyclic" landing operations the "clear deck" light may come just seconds before the next landing.
When launched off the carrier's bow catapults, the pilot makes a quick jog to port or starboard, depending on which catapult he is launched from. The idea is that if the aircraft experiences a problem requiring it to ditch, it won't get run over by the ship. Clearing turns were evidently thought up by the brass, since they make little sense: If an aircraft is in danger of going in the drink, executing a turn loses lift and will exacerbate its condition and make it more likely it'll ditch. No way is a pilot in extremis to stay airborne going to do a clearing turn. Let the Captain turn the ship! As a result, clearing turns are made by all the aircraft that are not in any danger of going in the drink. It's a nice custom anyway. Sort of a polite wave back at the Captain.
COD"Carrier Onboard Delivery," pronounced like the fish.  [Yes, yes, I know there's no fish called "Carrieronboarddelivery." Don't write me about it.]
The transport airplane that ferries mail and VIP visitors between the carrier and terra firma, evacuates medical cases and performs "other duties as required." For decades the COD was synonymous with the S-2F aircraft - the "Stoof" - a 2-engine prop A/C and one of the ugliest A/C anywhere. But it had the Volkswagen kind of ugliness: you could love it for it. (Many old Navy Stoofs are now distinguishing themselves as forest fire tankers.) Lately, the 2-engine jet S-3 Viking has taken over the COD tasks. Faster, better looking than the Stoof, but with a lot less soul. (And no sooner said than gone. The S-3 was retired from the Navy in January 2009.)
Cold catA catapult shot that gives the aircraft less than flying speed. The aircraft, of course, goes in the drink. While always rare, they're a lot more rare now than they were in the days of the hydraulic cats. Reasons for cold cats have included flawed holdback fittings which broke before full power developed in the cat stroke, wrong weight settings, and failures in the catapult mechanism.
Cut passTsk, tsk. You're in the Ready Room after making a suspicious landing. Unfortunately the rules require that you remain in the Ready Room until the LSO comes by to verbally and publicly proclaim the landing grades. You got a No.1-wire, with a red ball in close. In other words, you were LOW, you almost hit the ramp, you endangered several million bucks worth of Navy property. (That includes the pilot.) LSO comes: Your grade: "CUT." Worst landing grade. Publicly shamed. Scarlet letter. A few more of those and you'll get remedial training. (Shipboard is a lot like prison: Little rewards and punishments make all the difference.) [For those who want the gory details, the LSO's note pad may look like this: CUT. HIG, TMRDIC, NEPAR PNU T1W; meaning High in the groove, Too much rate of descent in close, Not enough power at the ramp, Pulled up nose & taxied to the 1 wire. This, by the way, was exactly how a retired LSO recently described the Korean Boeing 777's crash-landing at San Francisco International, but with "RS" (ramp strike) replacing the last comment.] See LSO code for more on the LSO's mysterious abbreviations, see also "OK."
Cyclic Ops Cyclic Operations: The dance of the carrier task force. Let's say the carrier wants to stay in roughly the same area during flight ops, which may last all day. Here's roughly how it works: The carrier must steam into the wind to launch & recover aircraft. This may take, say, 45 minutes. The ship then turns 180° and steams downwind for roughly the same period of time, until it's time to recover the previous launch. Then the carrier turns into the wind again, in approximately the same place where it was located an hour and a half ago. Launch & recover aircraft. Repeat. Repeat again, all day.
Davy Jones'
The depths of the seven seas, as in a grave. Honored final resting place of tens of thousands of ships and hundreds of thousands of seafarers.
(The origin of Davy Jones and his locker is lost, as I understand it, but the legend has persisted for centuries. It was described by Tobias Smollett in "The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle," 1751: "...according to the mythology of sailors, the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, ship-wrecks, and other disasters to which sea-faring life is exposed, warning ... of death and woe." And Mr.Jones' appearance? "I'll be damned if it was not Davy Jones himself. I know him by his saucer eyes, his three rows of teeth, his tail, and the blue smoke that came out of his nostrils.")
Just trying to help, in case you should happen to meet...
Deck 1. Of course it means what we expect it to mean: A "floor" on a ship. On the carrier the Hangar Deck is deck "1", with the lower decks numbered downward from the hangar deck: The deck just below the hangar deck is deck "2", etc. Decks above the hangar deck are numbered upward, preceded by the letter "O" (as in "Over"). The Flight deck is normally "O-3" - the third deck up from the hangar deck. And not just on a ship: If you grew up in a Navy family, how many times did your dad say, "Quit whimpering and get up off the deck!"
2. When you're flying, "The Deck" usually means the ground, as in: "After the GIB barfed during the zero G maneuver, I was glad to get back on the deck and get hosed off." On ACM (dogfighting) training hops squadron policy may require pilots to observe a "deck" at 10,000 feet. The idea is to pretend that 10K is the ground, so if you dip below it you've crashed and lost the fight. Of course no one ever admits to busting "the deck," but (shh ... don't tell) you do what you have to do to win.
Deep-six At sea, whatever gets "deep-six'ed" is on its way to the bottom of the ocean. Like: "Pay me the $5 you owe me or I'll deep-six your girlie mag." Seafarin' folk use the phrase ashore as well, meaning to get rid of something for good. The "deep-six" phrase apparently derives from the depth reading of 6 fathoms (36 feet), specified as the minimum depth for burial at sea by naval law. (Thanks to Tom Larsson for correcting errors in this.)
Dip There are dips and there are dips. The dip in question is a common but completely unauthorized maneuver by a pilot on final approach to the carrier. Just about when passing over the ramp, the pilot, if he's high on the glideslope, may make a quick coordinated move with stick and throttle: Slightly relax back pressure on the stick, while easing off the throttle. Then reestablish. Takes about 1/5 of a second, and drops you perhaps a foot on the glide slope. If you're quick enough the LSO may not notice, but he probably will, and you'll get chewed out for it. C'est la guerre. (Sometimes known as a CAG-dip, 'cause CAG is usually a master at it.)
Dog Most hatches on the carrier can be secured against flooding or fire with a system of pivoting steel levers ("dogs"), either on the edges of the hatch or on the surrounding bulkhead. When a lever is moved, the short end of the lever is wedged against the opposing surface, securing the hatch. Dog is also a verb; you dog the hatch. ("Dog" was also, back in the day, radio spelling code for the letter "D," and held all the meanings now found under "Delta", so see that.)
The Drink The Sea. Going into the drink is not a good thing. Not in an airplane.
Engagement Has nothing to do with prospective marriage. In pilot lingo, this has a couple of different meanings:
1. The tailhook catching a wire on a carrier landing. A good engagement is a trap. You've engaged the arresting gear. An inflight engagement makes for a really bad day.
2. In tactics, an engagement means "engaging the enemy aircraft," e.g., a "dogfight." Used both in real battles and in training flights. A "Hassle."
This Dante'esque invention deserves to be better known. An aircraft carrier is made to bend in the pitch axis in a couple of places along its hull. This is accomplished by building in "expansion joints," transverse spaces running the width of the hull, one fore and one aft, nominally about 3 feet in width, that have overlapping side plates, allowing the spaces to contract and the hull to "bend" in heavy seas. No one would care about this except that these expansion joints are also passageways. (That's Navy for "corridors.") More particularly, they're passageways that have led to my stateroom! (Keep calm, Paul.) So you innocently step out of your stateroom in heavy seas, into the passageway, because you've been ordered to make a flight to defend the country, when without warning the bulkheads ("walls" to you landlubbers) of the passageway squeeze inward and threaten to impact your body with some 200 thousand gross tons of force, and you're hoping the engineers have correctly figured that it won't quite squeeze your head to the size of a turnip. Keep calm, you say??
FantailThe back end of the 'boat'. The stern. I know where it's at. Somebody else knows why it's called a "fantail." (Isn't that a kind of pigeon?)
Final checkerA good idea in every quality assurance program, this individual gives the final OK on a finished maintenance job. He brings responsible good sense and overview to a job that up until then has perhaps been handled by specialists, each of whom has approved their own job. On the flight deck, the F.C. gets "thumbs-up" from the small army of specialists scurrying under and around the aircraft as it is on the catapult awaiting launch: One hooks up the catapult holdback and checks the alignment of the A/C on the cat, others pull ordnance safety pins and show them to the F.C., one checks for leaks under the A/C, etc. The F.C. checks the overall condition of the A/C (tires, gear struts, canopy, wing flaps or position, fire ?!, etc.). The F.C., identified by his white shirt or jacket, then gives the final thumbs up to the catapult officer. All this happens in less than ten seconds. The F.C. is usually a Chief Petty Officer or a Maintenance First Class P.O.
FireNothing gets your attention aboard the carrier like the rapidly repeated bell over the loudspeakers, followed by "Fire, fire, there's a fire in space ...." Fortunately, the ship's emergency procedures are usually equal to the situation, and the small fire is put out. (Let's not talk about the BIG fires, the ones we all worry about. The ones on the Forrestal and Oriskany, that took hundreds of lives.) We may even get a little blasé about fire calls onboard. No matter, as long as you're on the carrier, with its constant fueling and ordnance-handling operations, fire will be your chief nightmare.
Flat-topAn aircraft carrier.
Flight deckThe business district of the carrier, about 60-70 feet above the sea surface. Includes the angle deck landing area and the forward catapult take-off area. The 70-some A/C of the carrier's air wing are parked aft on the deck in preparation for take-off on the catapults. During the landing phase, A/C are taxied forward after landing and parked on the bow end, leaving the landing area free. Huge elevators carry A/C to the Flight deck from the Hangar deck, where maintenance is performed. No film representation can do justice to the deafening sound level, the constantly hazardous interaction of men and machines, and the precise application of immense power that is Flight deck operations. There is nothing else on land or sea remotely like it. The flight deck is coated with a "non-skid" substance, which is slightly tacky when dry, and which when sprayed with salt water, jet fuel, and oil - as it almost always is - becomes the slipperiest surface known to man. When the ship heels, heaves, yaws, and pitches, which it does in spite of stabilization, aircraft on the deck want to move in undesirable directions. And they have. (For this reason, all aircraft aboard ship are tied down with chains at all times when not being moved.)
ForeForward or front. Used mainly in phrases like fore & aft, viz. "Fore-and-aft cap."
Fouled deckThe carrier's landing area is "fouled" when it is not ready to land aircraft. During landing ("recovery") operations, aircraft may come aboard with less than 30 seconds interval. During that time the previous aircraft must clear the landing area. Until it has cleared, the deck is fouled, and a red light indicates this to the LSO. If the deck is not "clear" before the incoming a/c reaches a critical decision point (just a few seconds from the ramp), the LSO will wave off the a/c in the groove.
Fox CorpenThe carrier's heading for flight operations. Normally, if there's natural wind, there's only one ideal heading for launch: straight into the wind. For recovery the ship would turn slightly to starboard to get the wind down the angle deck. (Hearsay: "Corpen" indicates course, while "Fox" stands for the "F" in "Flight ops." Analogously, "Romeo Corpen" means the course steered during an "Unrep" - Underway Replenishment - operation.)
Fresnel lensAn ingenious arrangement of prismatic lenses, invented by the Frenchman Augustin Fresnel (pronounced frenél) early in the 19th century. After decades of use in lighthouses, the technology became standard for U.S. carrier OLS only in the 1960's. Provides a more powerful, narrower beam than the traditional mirror, and is more readily stabilized. If technically interested, check this site: http://www.lanternroom.com/misc/freslens.htm
Galley The word "kitchen" doesn't exist in the Navy. It's a 'galley.' Naturally, to a career Navy man the room in his house with the stove and fridge is also a galley.
"Boing, boing boing" reverberates throughout the ship, followed by: "General Quarters, General Quarters, all hands man your battle stations. This is not a drill." G.Q. is the ship's battle readiness and emergency condition. The ship goes to G.Q. when there is serious danger of battle damage, from within or without. At G.Q. each sailor and officer has an assigned station. Pilots muster in the squadron's ready room.
GQ General Quarters, as above. Used colloquially to indicate an overreaction: "She went to GQ when I told her I had donated her ugly red shoes."
Groove The aircraft's final, visual approach to the ship, when the pilot picks up the "ball" on the ship's OLS. The pilot makes his ball call, adjusts the angle of attack, and concentrates on the ball, controlling speed with the stick and rate of descent with the throttle, unless using autothrottle, in which case it's backwards, or ACLS, in which case he "monitors" with hands on. In the groove the (perfect) pilot does not look at the deck, except for quick scans for line-up, but "flies the ball" all the way to touchdown.
Hangar deck The carrier's vast cavern of a deck, enclosed and running nearly the length of the ship a couple of decks below the Flight deck, where aircraft are brought for maintenance, or tucked away in bad weather or when the Flight deck needs to be clear for any reason. The Hangar deck has space for all the carrier's aircraft. The Hangar deck is labeled the #1 deck of the ship; lower decks are numbered 2,3, etc. downward, while decks above the Hangar deck are numbered O-1, O-2, etc, upward. (The Flight deck is typically deck O-3.) Each squadron has its assigned areas on the Hangar deck. Almost any level of maintenance short of a total rebuild can be done here. Three huge A/C elevators allow movement of aircraft between the Hangar deck and the Flight deck. For curious etymological note, see "Hangar".
Hatch There aren't "doors" onboard a Navy ship. Even if it looks like a door, it's a "hatch." Most hatches have a method of watertight closure by, say, four to eight dogs around the perimeter of the hatch. The high-speed type is tightened (or "dogged") quickly with a turn of a wheel centered on the hatch, which wedges the dogs against the surrounding bulkhead. An old-salt sailor will naturally call a door in his house a hatch.
Head It's said that "a dear child has many names."  If so, this spot must be dear indeed.  Known to landlubbers by such names as John, comfort station, commode, throne, rest room, wash room, W.C., closet, toilet, crapper, and various less gentile appellations, onboard ship there's one and only one term for the little room in question:  The Head.  The name is said to have originated on ancient square-rigged sailing vessels, where the sailors relieved themselves at what was then called the head of the ship: the bow, off the bowsprit. Now this may sound crazy. My blessed grandmother always told me, "Never piss off the bow!" and I've found that to be reliable advice. So what were these square-rigged sailors doing? Well, the answer lies in the relative wind. My granny was used to motorboats, where the wind usually comes over the bow. If you relieve yourself over the bow on a motor ship you may get a face-full of it. On a sailing ship, on the other hand, the wind normally comes from behind or off a rear quarter, so the bow is the perfect place to let go a stream, which is gracefully carried off in a forward direction.
[An alternate etymology has been suggested (but only by me, here and now, as far as I know): Doesn't common sense, not to mention common experience, suggest that the term reflects the key decisions, the profound plans, the inspired stratagems, that have a way of clarifying themselves at that special moment in this special space?]
In any case, it goes without saying that - be it thirty years after a Navy career - whether in a California split level or a classic Cape Cod, this special place will always be "the Head" to a Navy man.
Helo Helicopter. Around the carrier, "The Helo" is the rescue helicopter (angel), always airborne during flight ops.
Hit the
A usual phrase for doing carrier qualifications ("carquals"), which see for more.
HoldbackThe lowly holdback fitting stands (or hangs) between the pilot and a cold cat shot. It's a solid steel rod, 6-7 inches long, with a machined collar at either end. As the aircraft taxis onto the catapult track, the forward end of the holdback is fitted into a receptacle in the aircraft's belly.F-8 Crusader holdback fitting The aft end is secured to a cable from the deck. The A/C is inched forward very slowly to take up the slack in the cable. (If this is done too quickly the holdback can be stressed, and the A/C must be pushed back and a new holdback fitted. An unpopular mistake by the pilot.) As the aircraft turns up to full power, the holdback fitting is the weak link in the high-tension train that holds the A/C back. And here's the idea of the holdback: At one point the rod is machined down to a smaller diameter which gives a weak point. When the catapult fires, the force of the cat stroke breaks the holdback fitting at the weak point, and the A/C is free to be pulled down the cat track. Simple, but the Navy pays a lot for holdback fittings because the tolerances and quality control must be perfect. The tensile strength of the steel must be exact, and the tensile breaking point at the weak groove must be precisely known. The holdback fitting (which is specific to each type of aircraft) must break at the right millisecond during the pressure build-up phase of the cat's power stroke. Too soon, you may have a cold cat shot. Too late, you can tear the aircraft apart or smack the pilot silly. The aircrew's lives literally hinge on the holdback manufacturer's quality assurance program.
Hook-skip Every Navy pilot's favorite excuse for a bolter. If the pneumatic bungee pressure (or whatever) holding the hook extended is low, the hook may bounce upon hitting the deck, and will probably not catch a wire. A worn hook point may give the same result, or, worse, may spit a wire.
The critical vertical distance between the tailhook point and the ramp on carrier landings. These few feet of distance can easily evaporate to nothing in the case of a pitching deck

On the smaller (27C class) carriers like the Shangri-La (right) the hook-to-ramp was minimal (8-9 ft) even on a perfect pass. Catch a 1-wire and you barely cheated the devil.

Low at the ramp
(start cart)
The jet engine start cart, used on the carrier, and ashore if no fixed airhose is available. The jet engine compressor needs to turn at perhaps 20% RPM before it'll sustain ignition, and since fighters don't have starter motors (too heavy), the huffer does the job by blowing a high velocity air stream through a special fitting to turn the engine. The pilot signals with a two-finger "turn-up" sign to the plane captain to start turning the engine.
"Inchop"Or "in-chop." When a ship or a task group, such as a carrier and escorts, arrives for duty at a designated sea theater or command, it inchops the theater or command. When it leaves for home after completed duty it outchops the command. (For the really curious, the word is made up of the words "change of operational command.")
No, not romance on United Airlines, but an even more hazardous adventure: On a carrier landing, the tailhook catching a wire before the wheels touch the deck. Ooh. A bad moment in store. The arresting gear slows the still flying A/C abruptly to below flying speed, and unceremoniously slams it to the deck. Usually busts the landing gear and much of the rest of the airplane, not to mention the pilot's back. How do we get into this scrape? Probably a wave-off in close (too close), scraping the deck with the hook, and the aircraft in a nose high attitude, desperately seeking succor.
When flight ops aboard the carrier are secured and civilized folk hit the rack for the night, an "integrity watch" crew patrols the flight deck and hangar deck to ensure safety and proper tie-down of the aircraft, which can work themselves loose in a heavy sea. Nominally in charge of the watch is the integrity watch officer (of course a chief is really in charge of the crew, as always), a job that falls mainly to the nuggets in the squadron. It's a lonely watch, wandering the decks for four hours in the middle of the night, the time ticked off by the bells each half hour; and it usually comes when you're scheduled for three hops the next day. What the hell. Sleep some other night.
Island The carrier's superstructure, rising from the Flight Deck on the starboard side. Contains the bridge, "Pri-Fly" and other mysteries. Messes up airflow on final approach. See Burble.
JBDJet Blast Deflector. Large steel plates that pivot up out of the flight deck behind a catapult, to protect from the blast from an aircraft at full power on the cat.
KneeknockerBusted knees are a Navy man's occupational hazard. Ship-board passageways are interrupted at regular intervals by waterproof, airproof, fireproof hatches, which supposedly will prevent the ship from sinking or going up in a conflagration. Well, the lip of the hatch is just below knee level. If you lift your legs just right you'll make it through; if you don't your knees are toast.
Ladder Onboard ship, what you would elsewhere call stairs is a ladder. A Navy man calls stairs a "ladder" even in his house.
LaunchThe first phase of a carrier's cyclic flight operations. (See Recovery.) At the start of the launch sequence, the A/C are parked on the aft half of the flight deck. As launch operations begin, A/C are taxied forward and directed by Yellow Shirts onto the next available catapult. Typically, a catapult stands idle for only a few seconds before the next bird is being hooked up.
Leeward The side of the ship away from the wind, or in the downwind direction. Sailors pronounce it "loo-erd". Opposite of Windward.
Liberty Shore leave for the crew when the ship is in port. For the enlisted crew this is strictly enforced as a given number of hours ashore. (For the excitement of getting ashore, see "Liberty boat," below.) For the officers, there's more leeway. (Here's a mariners' term, by the way: leeway - the space between the ship and any downwind obstruction, like a rocky coastline.) Lots more leeway; see "admin."
Liberty boat When the carrier visits a foreign port, it does not tie up to a pier. For reasons of security and operational readiness the Captain anchors outside the harbor, usually 1/2 mile to a mile offshore. But the ship has 5-6000 sailors and officers who have been promised liberty ashore. The solution is liberty boats, open inboard engine mass movers that hold 30-40+ human sardines. Operating the boats merges two factors which can lead to more excitement than you need: 1. There is often a sea state that makes the boats bob up and down several feet (which the carrier does not), so that to step from the boat's gunwale to the small platform at the bottom of the ladder hanging over the ship's side and moving up and down relative to the boat requires a sure and deft step; and 2. On the returning boats, in the black of night, most of the sailors are dead drunk! One or two (sober) sailors at the bottom of the ladder, tied with lifelines and outfitted with rescue equipment, stand ready to assist in this disaster-waiting-to-happen. If the sea state is too great, the Captain may cancel liberty, but the crew response would be near-mutinous. Also, canceling the return boats late at night if the sea picks up would leave the crew stranded ashore. There's always an officer riding and nominally in charge of the boat: the dreaded Boat officer watch!
LineupLining up the aircraft for landing can be tricky enough on a land-based field, if there's a crosswind. On a carrier it's a real bear! The British 1940s invention of the angled deck solved the bothersome problem of landing aircraft crashing into parked aircraft on deck, if they missed the wires. But you rarely get something for nothing, and "The Angle" brought on serious difficulties in lining up the aircraft for landing. The offset of the landing deck by 10-12 degrees from the carrier's heading brought both the difficulty of providing wind "down the Angle," and the awkward fact that the strip you're trying to land on is moving off to your right at a speed of perhaps 20-30 knots. Crabbing for both crosswind and the moving goal line, while you're working to stay on speed and glideslope is an extraordinary challenge, which doesn't get any easier in the dark of night. (To top it off there's the burble – see that.) The tendency at touchdown becomes a right-to-left drift, with the very real hazard of going over the port edge, hanging by the hook, if you've caught the 4-wire and are off centerline.
Landing Signal Officer, popularly known as "paddles". The LSO mans a platform on the port side of the ship during recoveries. The LSO is situated such that his eyes are on the glide slope. He has primary radio contact with the pilot on final approach, and serves both as a backup to the mirror system for the pilot and as an early warning of impending trouble. The LSO is able to detect power and attitude changes in the landing aircraft, and issue a call for adjustments. In close his calls can get pretty animated: "Power! POWER!", followed perhaps by the wave-off lights, which the LSO controls. LSO's form a tight community of specially trained Navy pilots. An LSO can only be trained by an experienced LSO, and they recognize lineages of training descending from masters of the craft (excuse the BS!). The LSO marks comments on each landing in a notebook, using a code of abbreviations. (Not much time to write when there's 30 seconds between aircraft.) After a flight recovery, the LSO visits each of the Ready Rooms to publicly debrief each pilot on his pass. This is what gives the LSO his power; the power of embarrassment. Actually, LSO's get a great deal of respect from their fellow aviators, many of whom owe their lives to the LSO. See "LSO code" below. See "Cut" pass and "OK."LSO waves Crusader
LSO codeThe Landing Signal Officer (LSO) grades each landing aboard ship, using a standard set of abbreviations. The graded landing (pass) begins when the aircraft rolls into the "groove" after the turn onto "final" and the pilot makes his ball call. Some of the more common codes, from the NATOPS LSO manual, are:

Perfect pass
Good pass
Fair pass
Cut, unsafe pass
All f'd up
Start of groove
In the middle
In close
At the ramp
Caught #1 wire
#2 wire
#3 (target) wire
#4 wire
Coming down
Drifting left
Dropped nose
Long in the groove
Late line-up
Lined up left
Not enough power
Pulled nose up
Right to left drift
Spotted the deck
3-point landing

So a below-average pass might look like: (OK)2 LIG HIX CDIM CIC DNAR.  [For those not inclined to figure that out, it's
"Fair pass to the 2 wire, long in the groove, high start, came down in the middle, climbed in close, dropped nose at ramp.]

MarshalSometimes used as a synonym for "rendezvous," Marshal (as a noun) usually refers to the specific mid-altitude rendezvous point designated for check-in with the carrier's 'approach control' (which is called "Marshal" - as in "Allstar Marshal, Gruesome One checking in") before returning to the ship to land. It's the aircraft holding pattern, typically at about 20,000 feet, from which the carrier's radar controllers feed the aircraft into the landing pattern. "To marshal" is to show up at the marshal point.
MeatballSee the Ball.
MessWhile the officers' on-board eatery is known as the wardroom, the enlisted men's somewhat-less-than-4-star establishment is tellingly called the Mess. But officers have a "mess" too; a special round-the-back-of-the-galley greasy spoon for watch-standers and pilots between flights, where you are free from protocol and from the uniform of the day. You can eat in your flight suit and feel free to be as unwashed as you please. In fact you'd better look a little filthy, or you're not supposed to be there. A liberating place. (And see "midrats", below.)
Midrats"Midnight rations." When your former fighter pilot hubby rolls out of bed in the middle of the night and you hear the frig door open, that's midrats. He's just trying to duplicate how it was back in the day....   Scheduled to launch in the dark of night, he would stop by the mess (see above) for some midrats before taking off. This usually involved downing some undefinable stiff goo, mostly made with eggs, perhaps made yesterday. Made you wish you'd get shot down and captured.
The Mirror The optical landing system mounted on the port side of the flight deck, and stabilized for the roll, pitch, and yaw of the ship. The pilot keeps an amber center light ("the ball") lined up with green "datum lights" to stay on the glide slope. (This isn't easy.) It used to be an actual mirror; now a Fresnel lens is used but it's still called a mirror.
Moon Naval aviators' distaste for black-ass night carrier landings makes them all expert on the phases of the moon. The moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, and savvy carrier pilots know exactly how it will relate to their scheduled flight time.
"Mother" General radio designation for the carrier, the "mother ship". An airborne aircraft may hear: "Gruesome four, Mother advises fouled deck; your signal delta."
Night Trap Night landings are a Navy pilot's scariest moments, unless they're pinkies.
"Now hear
It's just like in the movies: The bosun's whistle blows in the ship's speakers, followed by this hallowed phrase, intended to induce respectful and attentive listening by the crew. If your dad's a Navy man, you've heard this phrase a hundred times at home. You can be the judge of whether it induced respectful and attentive listening.
OKA well-executed carrier landing, as graded by the LSO. The ideal "OK-3" pass catches the target No.3 wire. A pass so steady that the LSO suspects the Lord himself is at the controls rates an OK-3 [underlined]. An almost-OK pass is "(OK)" [in parentheses]. An OK-3 grade by the LSO in everyone's earshot in the Ready Room may be the greatest little high you'll have that day. Your chest comes out a bit, and that smile just suggests that you'd be willing to instruct the others, if there were only time. But for the opposite kind of pass, see "Cut."
OLS Optical Landing System. See "Mirror".
Outchop When a ship or task group leaves a sea theater or command it is said to "outchop" that theater or command. See "inchop" for the obvious flip side and for some explanation of derivation of the term.
OverheadNope. Bad guess. Has nothing to do with cost of doing business. The overhead is precisely what you landlubbers would call a "ceiling": "Easing out the champagne cork with his thumbs, Ensign Dumbo heard a loud crack as it impacted the overhead." Of course it works as an adjective, too: "Sufferin' catfish! if the overhead light ain't burned out again!"
A sort of endearing term for the LSO, from the days when LSO's used a paddle in each hand to "wave" aircraft aboard (see illustration). Actual paddles can still be used if the mirror fails, or under no-radio conditions, though modern pilots and LSO's get dangerously little training in this critical back-up procedure.

At right, a TBM Avenger at the ramp, with Paddles. This was the type a/c flown by Naval Aviator George H.W. Bush (the father, not the son!) in WWII.

  paddles-TBM Avenger 
Pass Naval Aviators have been known to make various kinds of passes, but onboard ship, it means an attempt at a carrier landing. Often successful, but some pilots ...uh... like to make two or three passes (see "bolter") before making a trap.
Passageway There aren't hallways or corridors on board ship. If it looks like a hallway or corridor it's a "passageway." (To a Navy man, of course, the hallway in his house is a passageway, too.) Things you're likely to see in a passageway include hatches, bulkheads, spaces, ladders, kneeknockers, and dogs, and none of them mean whatever they sound like.
Pattern By itself this word usually refers to the daytime VFR flight pattern (landing pattern) around the ship (or the field).  This is the place for the squadron to look good.  The landing pattern of a carrier is a very specific four-dimensional flight path designed to get all aircraft aboard in the minimum amount of time, because the carrier is especially vulnerable during launch and recovery operations, as it has to steam at a steady course and speed and the recovering aircraft are low on fuel.  The landing pattern is closely coordinated with the holding pattern A flight of four (say) approaches the carrier from abaft, passing close abeam the starboard side of the ship at 400+ knots, 800' altitude, in starboard echelon. The drill is to make the coolest sound you can as you enter the break. (Some years ago, opening the "oil cooler door" on the F-8 Crusader would give a very cool wolf-howl-like sound. Coming to idle just before reaching the ship gives an eerie silence.) Each A/C breaks hard left with a few seconds interval between each. With power at idle and speed brakes out, speed bleeds off in the 180° turn, and the A/C levels downwind off the port beam of the ship, which is headed in the opposite direction at up to 30 knots. When abeam the fantail (at the "One-eighty" position) at an altitude of 600 feet, you start your port descending turn toward the ship, which is still pulling away. About halfway through your turn, at the 90° position (the "90"), you should be on speed and at about 450'. You intentionally overshoot the ship's wake by about 10° to line up with the angle deck, roll out in the groove, acquire the ball, reduce power to establish your rate of descent (because now you're wings level and need less power for the same descent rate), and make your ball call to the LSO. Then you merely stay precisely on glideslope, speed, and centerline of the deck which is moving away and to the right at perhaps 30 knots. The pass is perfect; you go to full power on touchdown, power to idle when you're stopped. As you touch down the next A/C is at the 90° position (the "90") in the pattern, ready to roll into the groove. You're pulled backward by the arresting cable. The yellow shirt signals hook up. You raise the hook and follow his signals to move forward, fold the wings, and turn right. He passes you on to the next director who signals you to speed up. You cross the yellow foul line on the deck. A red light on the LSO platform has indicated "fouled deck" since you touched down. Now you're clear and the green "ready deck" light comes on. By this time the next A/C may be just 5 seconds from touchdown. A landing will occur every 20-some seconds during recovery. And that's the pattern. (YouTube has a reasonable demo at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjX1Qa22AqA )
Pinky A daylight flight that lands just after sunset, giving you credit for a night landing while you essentially still have daylight. The squadron flight officer had better be equitable with giving out pinkies, or fights are likely to develop. (There are occasional rumors that CAG, an older and wiser man than most, often has important meetings later in the evening and finds it necessary to get his quota of night traps earlier in the day, i.e., a pinky, but we think that's just malicious gossip. Wouldn't happen. Eh?)
Pitching deckThis is when you really need the LSO. What am I doing flying off the carrier in a storm, anyway? Well, OK, "operational necessity"... But in spite of stabilization of the ship, the flight deck will rise and fall. And since the OLS is stabilized to the glide slope, all that pitching is hidden from the pilot. The LSO's visual call is still the best way to avoid a meeting of the aircraft with a rising deck. Even if a ramp strike does not occur, the rising deck can crush an aircraft's landing gear.
The "PC" is usually a junior enlisted man with a great responsibility. His assignment as plane captain for a particular aircraft means he ensures that the aircraft is preflighted and ready for flight when the pilot comes to man. The PC assists the pilot in getting strapped in, and directs the start-up sequence from the deck. The PC's name is often painted on his aircraft, which is a great source of pride.
Plane guard
Normally, when an aircraft carrier is conducting flight operations, a destroyer of the task group takes a "plane guard" position a half mile or so aft of the carrier, safely out of the flight pattern. The purpose is simply safety: To pick any eventual crash victims out of the water. (In a crash the "angel" helo is usually there first, but you never know; the COD could crash with a bunch of folks.) The plane guard serves other incidental purposes for the pilot: In the VFR flight pattern it's a convenient line-up aid, since it's in a dependable position. And it makes it (a little) easier to pick up the carrier visually from a distance. All in all a good addition to the safety procedures. To the right: Destroyer USS Howard in plane guard position aft of USS Stennis. 
PLAT"Pilot's Landing Aid Television." (Or something like that.) A typical Navy acronym for a very scary "Pilot's Landing Aid." The camera for this demonic device is buried in the flight deck, looking up the glide slope. Each landing on the ship is televised live in the Ready Room. How motivational is this? I've watched several aircraft go up in flames on the PLAT before going out flying.
Poopy Suit Or "bag." It's not what it sounds like, whatever that is. Formally an "Antiexposure suit", exposing yourself in this contraption would be damn near impossible. Relieving yourself is equally impossible. Plan an extra ten minutes in the Ready Room to get this monstrosity on. This rubber coverall fits, more or less, over the standard flight suit, and is required flying gear over water whenever the air-and-water temperature goes below what the chart says. Without it, should you go in the drink, you'd be flounder-food in a hurry. In temperate climates the "bag" will normally be worn throughout the winter months on carrier-based flights.
PortNow let's learn this once for all: Port is LEFT. Starboard is the other way. Because the steering oar was on the right in old (viking age) ships, they docked the ship with the left side to the pier - or port. So that was the "port" side of the ship.
Pri-fly"Primary Flight Control." This is the carrier's 'control tower'. The domain of the Air Boss, the god of the flight traffic pattern. Pri-fly is also staffed with experienced pilots who can advise on emergency procedures if needed.
RampThis is the part of the carrier you hit and kill yourself on if you're low on landing.
Ramp    strike
This is when you hit the above with your airplane. Often results in a memorial service, or at least a busted landing gear. Don't be low ... no one likes memorial services. In this ramp strike at 170 mph, the pilot miraculously survived:
Ready    room A spartan room on the carrier (or in the hangar, when ashore) where the pilots spend much of their time yabbering. Contains a desk for the SDO (Squadron Duty Officer), a black-and-white TV set (the PLAT) that shows all landings from a camera buried in the flight deck, and a reclinable chair for each squadron officer, to do with as he likes. Flight briefs and debriefs, personality clashes, and games of Ace-deuce take place here daily.
Recognition An entertaining slide show-slash-quiz which the AIO puts on from time to time in the Ready
. It consists mostly of endless dozens of slides with fuzzy black-and-white photos of "enemy" ships. You're supposed to learn to tell them apart, so you can report back in the flight debrief. (But it's a generic trait among pilots that they don't care about ships. They recognize three kinds: Flat-tops, subs, and "others." The AIO eventually just gives them a camera.) The second best part of the show is that the AIO turns off the lights in the Ready Room so you can sleep. The best part is that your squadron mates' howls will wake you up when the spicy shots come up on the screen. No matter how long the ship has been at sea, the guys have no recognition problem with these uh ... hulls. An AIO who fails to spice up his Rec. show would be shunned, since he has no other known redeeming social value.
RecoveryA carrier's cyclic flight operations is separated into launch and recovery (landing) phases. During the recovery phase the flight deck starts clear of aircraft. Upon landing, each A/C is taxied forward and parked clear of the landing area. An aircraft will land every 20-some seconds during the recovery phase.

Red Ball When the pilot is low on the glide slope, the ball turns red. Red like blood. Better do something about it. Like add power. Lots of power. Now!
means the ship's heading during underway replenishment ("unrep" - you're now one of very few who know this; go out and impress someone). See the analogous "Fox Corpen."
Rounddown The Ramp, Fantail, the hurtin' zone of the carrier deck. But if you don't hit IT, it won't hurt YOU.
Sand Crabs Usually plural. Civilian so-called workers who are contracted to do repair work on the ship, often in a foreign port. In most countries they're laggards. In Japan they're real workers.
Shooter Slang for the Catapult Officer.
Space More often "spaces." Any or all rooms or areas on board ship, in or around a hangar, etc. Each room or segment of a passageway or deck has a space number. "The Chief will inspect the Avionics spaces at 0800." A Navy dad will naturally say, "Not until you've cleaned your space, Billy." (That would be Billy's room.)
Spaghetti The "wires", the arresting gear in the landing area on a carrier. You're supposed to land in the spaghetti.
Spit a wire The steel point of the tailhook works in a violent environment, and needs frequent replacement. If it becomes worn, the hook may initially catch a wire, but fail to hold it when the pressure builds as the aircraft decelerates. If the hook "spits" or releases the cable at this point, the aircraft will probably not regain flying speed and will likely end up going in the drink. A serious, sometimes fatal, consequence of overlooking a small part.
   the deck
A nasty habit. Like in baseball, taking your eye off the ball is a bad idea in carrier landings. "Spotting the deck", or switching your attention to the deck for even the last second before touchdown will usually result in an increased sink rate and often a three-point landing and overstressed landing gear. LSO's uniformly condemn the practice, but nevertheless it thrives. Especially after a couple of bolters when it's "Get aboard or bingo." All this said, many experienced Naval Aviators routinely spot the deck, using the dip method to get aboard, often safely.
StabilizationMore or less successful efforts to fool Mother Nature. The carrier is stabilized to reduce pitch and roll movements. The result may be unpredictable figure-8-like movements of the ramp. The mirror is stabilized to the glide slope. The result is a ramp that can rise without the pilot having any clue. The aircraft is also stabilized in pitch and yaw (e.g., "yaw stab"), by electronic systems that can and do go out of control. You can't fool Mother Nature.
Starboard The Right side of the ship or whatever. Dates from the viking ships, where the steering oar was mounted on the right ("steerboard" - or "styrbord" in vikingese) side. And see "Port", if you feel like it.
Stash A theoretical term for booze illegally stashed in pilots' staterooms. This would be a violation of Navy Regulations, and therefore is thought by some to not actually happen.
StateroomSenior pilots get their own room, but don't have any fun. Junior pilots share a stateroom, and that's where the parties are, such parties as you can have with a bunch of sleepless zombies.
SteamThe U.S. Navy is not known to operate steam vessels any longer, but still the ships all "steam" when they're underway. [No sooner do I make this fine ironic point than Dave "Fireball" Johnson points out that nuclear ships run by steam(!) - correct, of course, but I ask you, is a nuke a steam ship?]  Navy ships at sea spend a fair amount of time just ... being, but like sharks they have to keep moving so what's there to do but ... steam?
Tailhook Or just "Hook". What distinguishes a naval aircraft. A steel hook lowered hydraulically or pneumatically from the rear of the aircraft, intended to engage a cable of the carrier's arresting gear to bring the aircraft to a quick stop. Attaches to the aircraft via a flexible fitting required to take the full force of bringing a 25 ton aircraft from 150+ mph to zero in about 2 seconds. Its engineering is one of the marvels of modern technology.
Busted nose gearOuch! A Navy jet is built to land on its two main mounts. After touchdown the hook catches a wire and slams the nose gear down. But landing on the three mounts together is a bad deal; it may well collapse the nose gear. You get into this predicament when you're high on the glide slope. Seeing the meatball climb on the mirror you try to correct down with a poorly executed dip. Your nose gets low, your sink rate's high, and before you're reestablished you hit the deck with all three mounts. If you're lucky, the hook will catch a wire, and though the nose gear may collapse, as on the grim-looking Crusader at right, at least you're aboard. If you're less lucky, with the hook farther from the deck than in the normal landing attitude the hook may skip, the A/C may bounce, and you're back in the air with a busted nose gear. You's in big trouble, boy.
Tilly A wheeled crane used on the flight deck. Painted yellow, like all moveable (nonflying) flight deck equipment, the tilly is compact but powerful, able to clear disabled aircraft or parts thereof from the landing area in a hurry.
Tin can A naval aviator's fond nickname for a destroyer (ship). Tin cans have served as seaborne forward air controllers in a battle environment, providing navigation and other info to airborne aircraft.
Topside You just can't say "upstairs" onboard a ship. It's Topside. Navy folks use this term ashore, too. (You can't say "downstairs", either. And of course there aren't "stairs" onboard ship.)
A Trap An arrested landing. Navy pilots practice carrier landing techniques constantly when ashore. See MLP.
UnrepUnderway Replenishment. A carrier can stay at sea for months at a time, but needs a steady supply of groceries, razor blades and toilet paper. And one or two other things, like fuel if it's oil burning, and jet fuel in any case. While some high priority items may be delivered by COD, most supplies come aboard from a cargo ship or oiler which rendezvous'es (?) with the carrier at sea. The at-sea resupply "evolution" (the Unrep) can be more exciting than you really want when the high seas are really high (sea state of 5 is the max for Unrep), as the two ships are steaming side by side, connected by one or more high lines or fuel hoses, with about 160 feet of separation. (As a bonus factoid for trivia buffs, the Unrep heading is known as the "Romeo Corpen.")
WardroomThe officers' dining room onboard. Chipped beef is a real favorite. And coffee made with water that tastes of jet fuel. (The ship makes its unique "fresh" water from the polluted salt water it's steaming through. It also disposes of its wastes in the same waters. During "cyclic ops" the ship steams back and forth in the same sea lane, dumping waste and making drinking water.) You're expected to behave in the wardroom, a challenge for most aviators. (But if you're in-between flights in a sweaty flight suit you can go to the dirty-shirt mess and not have to behave at all.) You're not supposed to talk about politics, sex, or religion in the wardroom. It often gets very quiet there.
Watch A period, usually 4 hours, when the young fighter pilot is actually asked to do something other than eat, sleep, swear, fart, and fly.  All young fighter pilots take offense at being told to stand a watch;  it seems an inexcusable waste of their immeasurable talents.  Onboard ship their least favorite watches are the Boat Officer Watch, the Integrity Watch, and the all-day Squadron Duty Officer (SDO) watch, also known by the Stalinesque-sounding appellation ""The Duty"".
[Now here's a scoop - the logic is complex, but try to follow it:  The Navy needs Landing Signal Officers (LSO's) to keep their pilots alive.  LSO's regularly stand an often miserable and always hazardous watch on the LSO platform, out in the weather and practically under the wingtip of landing aircraft.  Now, no one in their right mind would volunteer for that.  (Let's dismiss the puling claim that no one in their right mind flies jets off boats...)  Except that the LSO is a hero among his peers.  He has powers - seemingly magical - and for many he's the reason they're still alive.  And if there's one thing more precious than life itself to a fighter pilot, it's getting the respect of his peers.  (Are you with me so far?)  Ergo, an LSO doesn't have to stand any other watches, like the great unwashed masses of young aviators do.  So, the bottom line is:  A J.O. is motivated to get out of these crappy watches that waste his exceptional talents by becoming an LSO and getting peer respect!  And that's why these watches exist.  (You read it here first!)  All this was figured out decades ago by the brass, and I take back everything I've said about them.  They're obviously brilliant.]
Wave Traditional term for what the LSO (Landing Signal Officer) does. As in "Who's waving this recovery?" The LSO doesn't usually wave his arms any longer, but used to be he waved a pair of paddles to indicate glide slope and lineup information to the pilot on final approach to the carrier. The paddles were obviated by development of the landing mirror, but LSOs still need to learn to work the paddles, in case the mirror goes down. And pilots need to learn to fly by the paddles - being literally waved aboard. This skill is not sufficiently practiced nowadays, so losing the mirror is now an emergency condition.
Wave-off An aborted carrier pass, where the pilot adds power and climbs back in the landing pattern. A hazardous condition may have developed - such as the deck pitching up, or the deck was fouled, or the pilot's pass was unsafe. Usually the command to wave off a pass is issued by the LSO, but the pilot can make his own choice to wave it off.
Wind The aircraft carrier likes to have close to 30 knots of wind down the deck for aircraft launch and landings. If there's natural wind, the Captain heads the carrier into the wind to launch. For landings, you want the wind to come down the angle deck, 10-12° off the ship's axis, to reduce the need to crab on final approach. So for landings, the Captain will head the ship a few degrees to starboard of the natural wind. If there's no natural wind, the Captain makes wind. (It's not what it sounds like.) He does this by steaming at 25-30 knots; but in this case the wind relative to the carrier will come down the axis of the ship, giving the pilots a starboard cross wind on final approach and bringing the burble into the groove.
Windward The side of the ship closest to the wind, or in the upwind direction. If you're planning to relieve yourself over the rail, select the leeward side instead.
Wire "The Wires" is the set of 4 heavy wound steel cables comprising the Arresting Gear. They're numbered from 1 (furthest aft) to 4. On the ideal landing the hook snags the 3-wire. Miss all 4 and you bolter. Each wire has a personality. The 1-wire: You don't want to catch this. The LSO's unhappy and you may get a cut pass. You're too low at the ramp and putting the aircraft in danger. The 2-wire: This isn't necessarily bad [the LSO may mark it "(OK)" in his book]. It just isn't perfect. You'd like a little more ramp clearance. The 3-wire: This is the target wire. Your hook-to-ramp clearance is normative. An "OK-3" grade from the LSO is the goal. If you're "on rails" down the glide slope to an OK-3, your grade is underlined and you gain stature in the Ready Room. A 4-wire is usually safe, though you're high on the glide slope. But if your glide slope is leveling in close, or you have a right-to-left drift, you may get an inflight engagement, or wind up at or over the port side scupper of the flight deck, hanging by the hook (more a problem on older, smaller carriers), or worse. "Fly-by-wire" is something else altogether.
Yellow Shirt The enlisted flight deck directors who have control of movement of A/C on the flight deck. A pilot does not move his aircraft, or any external component of his aircraft, without a positive direction from a Yellowshirt. The Yellowshirts of course wear yellow shirts. There are also White, Green, Purple, Red, and a couple of other color shirts on the flight deck, designating specific roles. (Green = maintenance, Purple = fuelers, etc.) These guys work in an indescribably hazardous environment, and deserve a lot of the medals the pilots get.

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Aircraft & Flying


AA / AAA Or "Triple-A". Neither an auto club nor a 12-step program, but Anti-aircraft artillery. See also "Ack-ack" below, and Flak.
A/B Afterburner.
A/C 1. Aircraft. An aircraft may be called an airplane, but never a "plane".
2. Air conditioning and pressurization system.
3. Anti-collision light. 'Blinker.' (Blinking red light.)
Ack-ackAnti-aircraft artillery (AA, AAA, "triple-A," flak). An unfriendly reception when going downtown. The term comes from a slang phonetic alphabet used on the western front in WWI, that began: Ack, Beer, Charlie...
ACMAir Combat Maneuvering. Informally "Tactics". The traditional essence of fighter pilot training.
AcuteIn formation flying, if a wingman is forward of his proper position in the formation, he's "acute." (Those who paid attention in Geometry might object that in this case the angle he makes with the flight is more obtuse, i.e., less acute. I say don't worry about it.) If he's too far back (more acute angle) he's "sucked." Don't laugh; these are the actual professional terms!
ADF"Automatic Direction Finding," an obsolete piece of VHF radio direction finding equipment. The needle points toward whatever station you've dialed in. When you pass above it, the needle goes nuts. Big deal. You turn up the volume and the Morse code dits'n'dahs are supposed to tell you what station you've got, if you actually remember your dits'n'dahs. Which you probably don't.
Afterburner(Also A/B, Burner, Blower, Heater, and (Brit) Re-heat.) The go-fast mechanism that makes fighter planes unique. The 20 feet of flame shooting out the back on a night take-off. Simple in concept, but tricky in design and execution, the idea of burning hot air and fuel in a jet exhaust made supersonic flight possible. The afterburner is basically an extension of the jet engine exhaust pipe. You "simply" spray fuel into the hot exhaust gas (while providing back-pressure protection for the engine) and you get yourself a mess of thrust. You can get twice the power of the basic engine, but you'll use 3 times the fuel. In a tactical environment the 'burner will be selected for short bursts of acceleration or climbing power, because fuel management is always critical. If you run out of fuel, you may as well have been shot down. (Of course you'll use the burner as needed in a dogfight. If you're shot down, you might as well have run out of fuel.)
AileronThese ingenious flight control surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing were invented by birds. (Don't write me about pterosaurs being first - they flexed the whole wing to bank, though the principle is the same.) When a soaring bird wants to turn left, it lowers the trailing flight feathers on the right wing, which increases the lift on that wing and raises it relative to the left wing. At the same time, the bird raises trailing feathers on the left wing, which spoils the lift there and lowers the left wing. These two coordinated movements are exactly copied by an aircraft's ailerons when the pilot moves the stick to the left, thereby putting the aircraft in a left bank, resulting in a left turn. (This is not going to be a lecture on aerodynamics, but the only effective way to turn an aircraft is to bank it. Because the lift vector generated by the wings is always perpendicular to the plane of the wings - i.e., straight up when you're level - when you bank left the vector points up and left. The left-pointing vector component drives the aircraft - or the bird - to the left.)
AirwayThe air equivalent of roads and sea lanes. Airways are defined by TACAN fixes (radials and distances), and keep commercial traffic organized. Anyone (including military aircraft) flying above 18,000 feet in the U.S. flies under air traffic control by FAA, and is normally on an airway. High altitude (jet) airways are designated with a "Juliet," as J-22, while low altitude airways are designated with a "Victor," as V-20. Aircraft fly at an assigned altitude, and you can check your airline pilot with this hint: Eastbound traffic (above 18,000 feet) fly at odd thousands plus 500 feet (say 27,500'), while westbound planes fly at even thousands plus 500 (say 28,500'). So there's 1000 feet of vertical distance between planes in opposite directions. (See "Flight Level" for a fine point about altitudes.)
AlphaThe letter "A" in radio comm. In squadron and aircraft abbreviations it stands for "attack"; e.g., aircraft such as the A-1 Skyraider, the A-3 Skywarrior, the A-4 Skyhawk, and the A-7 Corsair II. In squadron designations, together with the letter "V" (meaning fixed-wing) it designates attack squadrons, e.g., VA-81, VA-83, etc. Also useful in common naval shorthand such as "The new skipper's an Alpha-Hotel."
  (radio com.)
Don't come here with "D as in David" or "P as in Paul." Here's the proper Navy spelling code (only the entries that have extra comments are linked): Alpha (see above), Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-ray, Yankee, Zulu. (Old salts may still remember the previous system that was used in the stone age: Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, etc.)
AltitudeYou wouldn't think there would be any dispute about this; it should simply mean how high you are.  But there is a small problem:  Standard altimeters work by measuring barometric pressure.  Before taking off, the pilot adjusts the altimeter to the altitude of the take-off airfield.  And why does he have to do that?  Because the local barometric pressure has changed since he the aircraft landed!  This means that all the aircraft in the sky could be operating with different altimeter settings, depending on the barometric pressures at their many departure airfields.  And that means that my reading of, say, 10,000 feet may be widely different from another aircraft's reading of the same altitude.  When you're flying IFR that can easily lead to disaster. If you're an American Airlines jet with passengers walking in the aisle it's unpopular to be making constant violent avoidance maneuvers, so the FAA has come up with the idea of standardized "Flight levels" at higher altitudes, to solve the problem.  So when entering the high altitude system, all pilots pretend the pressure is 29.92 inches of mercury pressure and set their altimeters to that reading. I guess it does solve the problem of "midairs", though tossing a few passengers about in the aisle now and then used to keep a little excitement in flying.
Angels'Altitude', in thousands of feet. As in an air controller's: "Gruesome Five, Elevator Angels three zero" means: "Gruesome Five (callsign), climb (or descend) to altitude 30,000 feet." But see also Angel (which is not simply the singular).
Angle of
The angle between the plane of the wing (yes, the plane of the wing of the plane) and the relative wind as the aircraft flies. At low speeds, a higher angle of attack is needed to give enough lift, and the aircraft will fly with a nose-high attitude. To avoid landing in that attitute, we extend flaps and slats to increase the lift from the wing, and level the aircraft's attitude, allowing the pilot better visibility for landing. (The most drastic measure to achieve this was perhaps that of the nonpareil F-8 Crusader, where the pilot would pivot the wing up - or the fuselage down, actually - to be able to see to land.) On final approach, naval aircraft use Angle of attack as the primary indicator of proper landing speed. (See "indexer lights" for the pilot's traditional "heads up" display of 'AoA'.) Its advantage over using the airspeed indicator is that the correct angle of attack for landing does not vary with the aircraft's weight, whereas the landing airspeed varies with fuel load. So the pilot flies a constant 14 units, say, of angle of attack on every landing pass. The aim, rarely realized, is routine repetition - as in bowling.
Attitude Not the pilot's but the aircraft's. Refers to the pitch angle of the aircraft; nose high or low. On a carrier landing, the LSO, a man of few words, may transmit the one word: "Attitude!" to mean "Raise your nose!" Again, the aircraft's, not the pilot's.
Auger in To drill a hole in the ground (or the sea) with your airplane, while still in it. Unfailingly fatal, and it rarely happens where a hole needs to be drilled.
A system that's nice to have when it works, but can lull the pilot into complacency. On final approach to the carrier, the pilot engages the autothrottle ("Approach Power Compensator"), which will keep a constant angle of attack (i.e., speed control) while the pilot controls rate of descent with the stick. Problem is, when the APC isn't working right the pilot has to revert to a manual approach, which means controlling speed with the nose attitude (i.e., with the stick) and rate of descent with the throttle, an opposite procedure. The Air Wing or squadron requires their pilots to regularly make "manual" approaches, to maintain a level of proficiency. You just won't be as proficient. Every silver lining has a cloud.
Bag1. n. The Poopy Suit.
2. n. The Instrument Hood.
3. v. To bag an enemy aircraft is to shoot it down. You try to avoid getting bagged yourself in the process.
BalancedBeing balanced is a good thing. And in formation flying, being balanced makes the flying a little easier. The term refers to a four-plane cruise or parade formation where the No.2 aircraft has crossed over to the port side. In a parade formation, this result in a "finger four." The reason it's easier for wingmen (and especially the section leader) to fly a balanced formation is that four aircraft in echelon is always stressful. It requires much more constant correction and fine control of the formation, which takes its toll. And therefore the balanced formation is more relaxing for the flight leader as well. A good flight lead doesn't keep a 4-plane in echelon longer than necessary.
BalboA huge formation of aircraft, organized for some non-operational purpose, such as to impress dignitaries or scare the enemy. (After Italian general Italo Balbo - a sometime buddy of Mussolini - who led a daring, and unquestionably impressive, flight of 24 Italian "Savoia S55X" Flying Boats from Rome to Chicago and back in 1933. He became so famous and popular in Italy that Il Duce packed him off to be Governor of Libya.) The balbo at right (I count 44 a/c) was to impress NATO brass visiting the Independence in the Mediterranean in 1968, in connection with NATO turning 20.  (Taken from the Shangri-La, which was part of the celebration, sort of.  Don't think any of the bigwigs visited the Shang, though.  Pity; the brass never gets to see things that don't work.)
BanditAn aircraft positively identified as enemy.
BannerThe air-to-air gunnery target, also known as the "rag". You arrive at the squadron (this is a shore-based exercise) to find out that on your first hop of the day you'll be the tow pilot for an air-to-air gunnery flight. You try to think of what you've done to the Flight Schedules officer to tick him off. There isn't much you hate about flying, but towing the banner (you're known as the "tractor") is right up there. (See the Gunnery link.) So you brief with the flight and find out that it's a year since any of them did this, one of the most intricate and hazardous exercises in the fleet. You launch first as the tow. You meet the Ordnance crew at the end of the runway, where they have laid out the approx. 8' by 35' nylon banner (which weighs a bunch as it's weighted and stabilized with metal bars) and the 1200 foot cable that you hope will keep the bullets at a distance. The crew hook up the cable to your tailhook fitting, you take up the slack, and you're off - in afterburner to clear the area quickly. But you can't go over 250 knots to avoid fraying the banner or tearing it loose, so you're nose sky-high staggering through the air with this non-aerodynamic contraption dragging behind you. You hope the banner doesn't fall off (that's happened); it could kill a few folks. A chase plane from the flight has launched with you to discourage other aircraft from driving into your cable.

Arriving at the gunnery range you spend 30 harrowing minutes watching the would-be gunners struggle with the pattern. The pattern's important because if the shooter comes in "sucked" - from too far aft - you'll be seeing bullets flying by the cockpit. It's not unheard of that the tow plane gets hit. Now the banner needs to be recovered because it's scored: Each shooting a/c has bullets painted a different color, and the color can (usually) be distinguished on the frays around each bullet hole. So, back at the field you line up over the grass strip next to the runway, and on the signal "Drop" from the tower you lower the hook. The idea is that the weight of the hook breaks the fitting that holds the cable, and the banner falls free. Usually that works, but if it doesn't you have an emergency. You're flying around, probably over civilians, with a weakened fitting, to try another drop. You could try to drag it off in the bushes... And if eventually you may have to land with the banner dragging... well, let's not talk about it. All in all, a flight where everything can go wrong.

BarberpolebarberpoleTraditional cockpit indicators of the status of landing gear, flaps, etc., show "UP" when the gear is up and locked, "DOWN" (or "DN") when it's down and locked (are you following this?), and a hash-mark indication, similar to the classic barber pole, when the gear is in transit. Most aviators will at some time experience seeing a barberpole when the gear is supposed to be down and locked for landing. It may just indicate a sticky sensing switch in the wheel well, but it may equally well be an unsafe landing gear. Procedures when you get a barberpole include cycling the gear, jostling the a/c with various G loads, and getting a visual inspection of the gear from a wingman or the tower. Landing with an actually unsafe gear is a genuine emergency, which is multiplied if landing on a carrier. Aviators may refer to a peer whose legs are less than fully operative (like after a few hours in the O'club) as having barberpole main gear.
BarCAP"Barrier Combat Air Patrol."  See "CAP".
Barf-bagJust as some concert pianists never get over stage-fright, some fighter pilots never get over barfing. They're still great pilots.
Basic engine The jet engine without the afterburner. The basic engine performance is shown in the cockpit on a tach (RPM gage) as percent of the rotor's rated full speed, so full basic engine power is shown as "100%." We call this "MRT" (Military Rated Thrust), in contrast to "CRT" (Combat Rated Thrust) which is full afterburner power. No matter how powerful your basic engine is, once you've felt the kick of afterburner power, it somehow seems pretty wimpy.
Basket The Air Force has a good method for aerial refueling. The Navy doesn't. The Air Force's stabilized tanker boom, guided to the refueling probe by an airman on the tanker aircraft works fine if you have a tanker the size of a mid-sized building. Since the Navy's tankers have to operate off carriers, they're small, no room for a boom or boom-crew. So the system leaves the onus of maneuvering on the pilot of the receiving aircraft. And on a black-ass night in the middle of the ocean with critical fuel state, that'll raise the pucker factor. The fuel hose extends some 30 feet aft of the tanker, ending in a padded cone (the Basket - also evocatively known as the "beaver") designed to receive your probe and guide it to a successful coupling. This whole business results in one of the trickiest maneuvers in aviation. Never mind that the basket is dancing around the cockpit (a hit on the cockpit plexiglass could ruin your whole day), the pilot has to hold steady until the basket settles down, then add power - if you're lucky, your probe is in the beaver, uh, basket. Thrust drives the probe tip deeper in and completes the coupling. (Enough...this is beginning to resemble an overwrought romance novel.)
Bearing 1.  The direction of some object from your position, given as a magnetic direction in compass degrees. A pilot may hear an air controller report, "The bogey bears one five zero at three niner miles." Translation: "The unidentified radar contact is on a bearing of 150 degrees on the magnetic compass from your position, at a distance of 39 nautical miles." (Note, a bearing is not a heading, silly, but it could be the required course.)
2.  The proper military bearing is never far from the mind of the Naval Aviator.
    (Click on thumbnail for aviator attempting proper military bearing.)
Beaver In addition to any other slang meanings of this term, it's an aviator's endearing appellation for the inflight refueling basket, which see.
Bird An OK word for airplane.
Black-out Loss of vision, soon to be followed by loss of consciousness, as a result of high G maneuvering. Check the hazards of the high G environment at "tunnel vision" and "grey-out." Ignoring the warning sign of "grey-out" may take you to this next step on the slide toward unconsciousness. It's just a brief step from loss of vision (black-out) to loss of consciousness. If you lose consciousness while you're pulling 7 G's the aircraft may depart controlled flight as the pilot's grip is lost from the control stick, with possibly violent and unpredictable effects in the cockpit and on the airframe. The G-suit is the pilot's primary aid in combatting these effects of high G loads.
Blower "A dear child has many names." Here's yet another for afterburner.
Boards Speed brakes (or "air brakes", a Brit term not used in the U.S. but which makes a lot more sense. I mean, what kind of brake isn't a speed brake? What else would you brake but speed??). One or more drag-inducing panels on the fuselage, tail, or wings that are hydraulically raised into the breeze to add drag and reduce airspeed. Effective enough at high speeds to throw the pilot forward in the straps. The boards can be hung almost anywhere on the a/c, as you can see below:

F-8 Crusader

A-4 Skyhawk

A-6 Intruder

F-15 Eagle

F-16 Falcon

F-18 Hornet (model)

(And here's an extra bonus factoid: On final approach to landing, many models of jet aircraft are flown with the boards out, intentionally adding drag. (Obviously not the models where you'd land on the speed brake, like the F-8!) Why? you say. In order to get full power more quickly in case it's needed for a a wave-off. Jet engines take a second or more to spool up to full RPM, and the power always lags that much behind the throttle movement. By flying the approach with a higher power setting, in case of a sudden need for power you'll get to full power faster. The speed brake is controlled with a thumb switch on the throttle, and you snap them back in hydraulically in a fraction of a second as you add full power. So now you know that. You're nearly ready for your check flight.)

Bogey A UFO in a sense; that is to say, an unidentified flying object, seen either on radar or visually. Probably an aircraft, but it could be a weather balloon or a flight of geese.
Bravo The letter "B" in radio comm. The phrase "Bravo-Sierra" (BS) is a common and useful expletive, while "Bravo Zulu" is a courtesy.
Break 1.  As a verb, this means to roll the aircraft at a high rate of roll to a near 90° bank, and pulling a hard turn, like "break right" or "break left".
2.  "The Break": The traditional VFR (visual) flight approach to a Navy field, now surviving mainly on the carriers and at airshows. The flight screams down the duty runway at an impressive rate of speed, in right echelon and shortly beyond "the numbers" (the runway designation painted at the end of the strip, like "24L" for the left of two parallel runways in the direction of 240°, as at Miramar - "Fightertown USA" - God this is a long parenthesis) the leader rolls (breaks) hard left to nearly 90° of bank, closes the throttle, extends the speed brakes, and pulls enough Gs to slow the A/C and set up downwind at 600' altitude. Wingmen follow suit with several seconds between each break. There are variations on this traditional break: In the "fan break" the initial roll rate is less, but the entire flight breaks together. The lead pulls max Gs, and the following wingmen use a progressively lower G loading. This produces separation on the downwind leg. Another variation, pretty much limited to the carrier landing pattern, is the pitch-up break. You come screaming in at water level, and the hard break to port is accompanied by a climb to the downwind altitude of 600 feet. For extra effect it can be combined with the fan break into a pitch-up fan break. Potentially spectacular, but when tried by the unpracticed it's guaranteed to instead produce a humorous effect. Another break, the tuck-under, involves a 270° roll to the right, resulting presumably in the aircraft in a 90° left bank. The less said about this the better. If it doesn't result in an accident it will probably result in discipline. See also The Pattern for more on landing patterns.
Brief Fooling around in the Ready Room before a flight. No, actually, this is sometimes taken pretty seriously: the flight crews gather for a pre-flight briefing by the flight leader. In war-tme the AIO may attend and amuse the flight crews with what the politicians want them to believe about the mission. The brief covers stuff like radio frequencies or radio silence procedures, bingo field and bingo fuel, and a detailed preview of the upcoming flight: Rendezvous point, mission, target procedures, recovery, and the Emergency of the Day.
The external fuel tank from which an aiborne tanker feeds fuel to a thirsty customer. When you're short of fuel, the tanker is your best buddy!
Buffet Not a cafeteria line, and not pronounced like one. (Good, solid "t"; two t's if you want: "Buff-ett.") Even though modern fighters have all sorts of artificial stall warnings (see "depart"), it's hard to beat the feel of what the actual airplane's doing when you're flying close to the edge. And one thing it will do before the wing stalls is to buffet; you pull G's to near the stall point and the airframe literally shakes, rattling your teeth. Flying the buffet to the max (the edge of the flight envelope) without departing the aircraft takes experience and guts. Each airframe buffets differently. Some, like the F-4 Phantom, have a wide buffet range; you expect to be in heavy airframe buffet in every high-G tactical turn. You have to learn to distinguish the point of no return. Other airframes have a very narrow buffet range, meaning it comes on quickly immediately before the stall. In either case you need a well-trained stick hand. These guys spend lonely months at sea. Plenty of time to exercise their stick hand.
Bugout As a fighter pilot, your mission is to a) win the dogfight, and b) live to fight another day. When "a" isn't working out, i.e., you're about to get hosed or you're running out of fuel, you turn your attention to "b". You need to "bug out," to get the hell out of town. The way you do it is your "bugout" maneuver. We leave that to you. (For the grammatically inclined, it's both a verb and noun, as you see.)
Burner Short for Afterburner, which has altogether too many syllables.
Buster Radio command to advance engine power to 100% basic engine, (i.e., "MRT"), without afterburner . When used by the flight leader: "Buster ... now" brings everyone in the flight to full power simultaneously. (The leader may then come back a percent or so as necessary to keep everyone onboard.) Used by an air controller it means proceed at maximum basic engine speed.
Button A radio channel. No matter what the radio selector looks like, a preset channel is known as a "button." A flight leader will brief, "Primary frequency will be button five, back-up button four." A pilot at home may be heard to say, "Honey, you got the remote? Let's check the race on button eight."
Buy the
To get killed, preferably while flying. A lot of Navy pilots have been southern farm boys. The modest government insurance money might pay off the farm mortgage; that is, buy the farm.
 (your eyeballs)
EyeballAttitude gyroTo an airman "caging" the gyro means resetting and spinning up the artificial horizon (or "attitude") gyro instrument (there's usually a "push to cage" button) if the instrument goes crazy during sharp maneuvers, like aerobatics or a dogfight. Fighter aircraft, though, have gyros that can handle pretty much any maneuvers and recage themselves if they get confused. On a catapult shot from a carrier, the G force is such that your eyeballs (which look a lot like little attitude gyros) seem to get "uncaged" like they're just floating there. It takes the better part of a second after you're airborne before you can focus again. So the expression "cage your eyeballs!" means "focus!" or "pay attention." If you're coming out of a high-G turn where you've greyed out and had tunnel vision, it'll also take some milliseconds before your eyeballs cage up again.
(Suggested by Ray Rivera.)
Canter Radio term for "proceed at normal cruise speed." Not much used, since it's a default speed. But if the pilot has previously been given a "buster" command ("proceed at maximum basic engine setting") from the air controller, "canter" will tell him to resume cruise speed. A similar command is "saunter," meaning "use fuel conservation power regime."
CAP Combat Air Patrol. The most common type of CAP is BarCAP (barrier CAP), in which a flight of fighters fly a pattern at an altitude, distance, and direction from the carrier task group that places the fighters between the task group and the threat. The CAP aircraft use their onboard radar to supplement the ship's radar in searching for bogeys. Other forms of CAP are TarCAP (target CAP) which involves flying fighter escort for a strike group and clearing enemy fighters at the target site; and ResCAP (rescue CAP), to suppress enemy activity and support SAR (search and rescue) efforts to extract downed aircrew from a combat zone. On board the carrier, if the degree of hazard from enemy activity is low - as in peace time - a "ready CAP" watch may be maintained on deck rather than airborne during non-flying hours. The degree of readiness can vary from "hot CAP," where the A/C on watch are manned on the catapults and plugged into the start carts, to a "30 minute CAP" watch where the pilots are in the ready room. (Every salty Navy fighter pilot has had the experience of sitting the hot CAP in miserable weather. It's a pretty lonely feeling, strapped in on the port cat on a dark night, the ship's bow regularly burying itself in the waves, alternating with the sea coming over the bow, rain and salt spray covering the cockpit. You're praying - increasingly toward the end of your 2-hour watch - not to hear the air boss' voice over the flight deck loudspeakers: "Launch the ready CAP!"  You know you'd never make it back aboard in this weather. . .)
CAVU Weather "Clear And Visibility Unlimited." (Pronounced "cavoo".) Ideal flying weather.
Chaff A World War II defense against radar that's still in use. It wasn't long after an effective ground-based anti-aircraft radar ("RAdio Detection And Ranging") was achieved by the Brits that some bright soul reasoned that since radar mainly detected metal, let's confuse it with irrelevant metal bits. The solution was (and is) to drop short strips of metal foil (i.e., "chaff") from the aircraft, which gives confusing or multiple returns on the radar operator's screen. It's still effective against radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles. The Brits, who were also first with perfecting this concept, called it "window", and that's still the not-so-secret code word for actuating the chaff.
Charlie 1. Charlie time: The precise scheduled time of an aircraft's arrival at the carrier (or airfield) for landing. If you're in a holding pattern, you may hear, "Your Charlie 14:45" (translation: Be at the break at a quarter to 3 pm), or "Your signal Charlie," meaning get in the landing pattern now. It's the flight leader's responsibility to get the flight to the carrier at Charlie, to avoid gaps in the landing pattern and a corrective talk with the skipper or the Air Boss. See also Final Charlie.
2. The letter "C" in radio comm. And the letter C has a few meanings: In ship designations it stands for "Aircraft Carrier," which see. In aircraft designations it means "cargo or passenger A/C," as in "C-45" (the military version of the old "DC-3") or "C-130," the Hercules. In squadron designations it means "composite," as in VC-7. (The "C" of Composite is identical to the former "U" for "Utility," as in "VU-7," once the squadron name.) A composite (or utility) squadron flies various kinds of aircraft, carrying out duties such as ferrying A/C, flying as intercept bogeys, towing air-to-air gunnery targets (banners) etc.
Cherubs Those who remember their Bible studies will know that cherubs are a little lower than angels. So, since "angels" is a code word for altitude given in thousands of feet, it makes sense that "cherubs" is a code word for a lower altitude. And in fact "cherubs" indicates an altitude below one thousand feet above ground level, given in hundreds of feet. Used more by helo pilots than fighter pilots, a radio report like "holding cherubs four" would mean, "holding an altitude of 400 feet above ground." [Thanks to Kent (Eagle) Ewing for suggesting this.]
Chevron On the indexer lights, a high green chevron means your landing speed is slow (actually, your angle of attack is too high), while a low red chevron means you're too fast. A doughnut means your speed is just right. You'll understand this after you look at this indexer lights link, with illustration.
ChocksThe wood or steel blocks that keep the wheels (and the rest of the aircraft) from rolling when the a/c is parked. See "Pull chocks" for associated creative language. As a verb, you chock the aircraft when you put the chocks in place. After you pull chocks the a/c is unchocked.
ChurchThis code word was all you might hear if you asked about the outcome of a flight accident.  The simple meaning:  "There will be a memorial service."
CleanLanding gear & hook up, flaps & slats retracted; A/C configured for high-speed flight. The way the airplane was meant to fly. Clean, not Dirty
CockpitA Pit for ... uh, a pilot.
A pre-engagement or patrolling formation by a section of two aircraft. In this formation the two A/C fly abeam one another with several thousand feet of lateral separation. The point of the formation is both offensive and defensive. On offense, the lateral separation decreases the chance that an enemy aircraft will visually pick up both A/C, leading to a great advantage for the section. Also, for any engagement commenced by one of the section A/C the other will be in good position to maneuver to advantage. Defensively, the combat spread formation allows each A/C to check the other's six to a great distance, and in any attack on the section one A/C should come out of the first defensive turn with a good chance to pressure the attacker.
CompassThe simple, unpretentious magnetic wet compass, anomalous in the modern high-tech cockpit, is still the final directional back-up in case of failure of GPS, Inertial Navigation, electric Radio Magnetic Indicator or whatever else the pilot has available. And for its rare use it gets an inordinate amount of attention. The aircraft gets taxied to the Compass Rose (see below) from time to time to calibrate the error ("deviation") induced by metals and electromagnetic fields in the A/C. Once the compass has been calibrated, to find the True Heading from the Compass Heading the pilot or navigator simply adds or subtracts the Compass Deviation, which gives the correct Magnetic Heading, and then adds or subtracts the published Magnetic Variation at the specific point on the Earth where the aircraft is located. Voilà! You've arrived at the True Heading. Only, whether to add or subtract depends on whether the Magnetic Variation is "east" or "west" variation. A mnemonic is in order. Pilots use this to convert from True to Compass headings: "True Virgins Make Dull Company - Add Whiskey." Which means, going from True heading through Variation, Magnetic heading, and Deviation, to Compass heading, you add "West" variation (implying you would subtract "east" variation). The mnemonic for the opposite procedure, going from Compass heading to True heading, is the less flamboyant "Can Dead Men Vote Twice At Elections?" We'll leave the exercise to the reader.
A good-size circle with precise magnetic headings painted on the tarmac in a lonely spot of the airfield, supposedly far from magnetic influences, used to calibrate the wet-compass. A J.O. is given the pleasure of taxiing an aircraft to the Compass Rose to "swing" the compass. As he lines up the A/C on various headings he reads off the indicated compass heading to the maintenance crew, who compile a table of compass deviations for the purpose outlined above under "Compass." Swinging the compass is hot work on a hot day (and it's cold work on a cold day...) and nobody's favorite job.
Con(ning)Noun and verb. A contrail (see below), or to leave a contrail behind the aircraft. A fighter pilot fears 'the cons' like the plague; his position there is visible for miles. A flight member will warn another if he's 'conning'. (Alternative terms are 'scratching' and 'marking'.) A slight decrease in altitude is usually enough to get out of the cons.
ContrailThis trail of ice crystals( no, it isn't smoke) forms behind the aircraft from water vapor emitted in the engine exhaust. Contrails ('cons') form under certain conditions of temperature, pressure, and water content, usually at 30-some thousand feet. Climb high enough (or descend) and you're out of the cons (see above).
CourseSo what's what? "Course, heading, bearing, track..."  It can be confusing. You're flying a track over the ground, and your present course is the direction (usually magnetic) of that track at the present moment. If there's no cross wind, your heading will be your course. If you're going directly to a stationary target, such as an airfield, your bearing to the target will be the same as the course to the target. But if your target is not stationary, such as another aircraft, your course toward an intercept will not be the same as the present bearing to the target (unless the target is on the same or opposite course). So there you have it. Course, heading, bearing, track. Plain and simple.
Crab1. An airplane goes where it's pointed, except when there's a cross wind (which there almost always is, so the airplane hardly ever goes where it's pointed). In a cross wind you have to "crab" - to head (or point) partly into the wind - in order to get the course you want. Landing on the carrier, you essentially always have to crab to starboard, because you're not flying the same course as the ship is holding, since the angle deck is offset 10-12° to port. So even if the wind is straight down the angle deck the ship is continually slipping away to the right, and makes a 'virtual' relative wind. To fly the pass without a crab the wind would actually have to come from port relative to the angle deck; you'll grow old waiting for that day.
2. (Constructed as plural: Crabs.) Damnable and persistent arachnid evidence that the naval aviator was not as morally upstanding as naval aviators are theoretically expected to be, in that last port of call.
A nice tradition. Navy pilots need instrument training. You get instrument training by flying cross-country flights. You're stationed in San Diego, and the fresh Maine lobsters are in Maine. You "instrument train" on a hop to Maine. You bring back lobster for a squadron party. A nice tradition. And of course good instrument training.
Cross-overThe move a wingman makes to cross to the other side of the flight leader in a formation. The lead gives a hand signal by raising a fist toward the top of the canopy on the side where the wingman is flying. The wingman then reduces power to pull just aft of the lead, dips down a few feet, and crosses under - that's under, not over! the flight lead to the other side, then moves up and forward to take the proper position.
CRT"Combat Rated Thrust" or "Maximum Thrust" - full power in afterburner. This is all you've got. You ain't got no more.
Cruise1. Or "free cruise." A more relaxed flight formation than "Parade." Wingmen have somewhat more separation and are stepped back farther from the flight lead, and fly on a more flexible gouge.
2. Six to nine months at sea with all the comforts of Alcatraz prison.
F-8C launching from Shangri-LaAh, the Crusader. Fighter pilot Nirvana. "The last of the gunfighters." One of those few airplanes that linger in the minds of its pilots for decades as the ultimate bird. Introduced in the US Navy in 1957 to replace a bevy of subsonic fighters used by the US Navy (F9F Cougar, FJ Fury, F4D Skyray, F3H Demon, and F7U Cutlass), it immediately raised the bar. The first US Navy fighter to accelerate to supersonic speed in level flight, first production aircraft of any type to exceed 1000 miles per hour, the Crusader set a slew of time-to-altitude and speed records, including the coast-to-coast speed record - averaging supersonic speeds, including air refueling times - (with Major - later Astronaut/Senator - John Glenn, USMC, at the controls). Built by Chance-Vought (later "Vought," then "Ling-Temco-Vought" or LTV), the 'Sader (or 'Gator) was originally a pure day fighter, with limited radar and all-weather capability. In time the airplane was updated with longer-range target acquisition and mapping radar, a radar altimeter, and a more powerful Pratt & Whitney J57P20 engine. A unique feature of the Crusader was its variable incidence wing, mounted at the top of the fuselage, which was swivelled up 7° (from a hinge at the back end of the wing) for takeoff and landing in order to increase lift with a flatter fuselage attitude, allowing the pilot to see the landing area over the nose, and incidentally but importantly, to avoid scraping the tail. The Crusader (and this is written with a 'Sader driver's passion) was a near-perfect dogfighting platform, handling a high G environment smoothly. (OK, it could have used another 5K lbs of thrust, and you could wish for more warning of spin-outs, and its slow-speed handling characteristics ... well, it never cared for slow speeds. But it was one handlin' machine!) The US Navy retired the last active duty F-8 fighter in 1976, the last F-8 reconnaissance bird in 1982, and the last reserve squadron F-8 in 1987. The French Navy finally retired the last Crusaders in active service anywhere in late 1999. In addition to the small pictorial tribute to the Crusader on this web site, check Dave "Fireball" the home page of the Crusader Association at www.f8crusader.org.

Click here for a small sample of the 'Sader at work. For more, enter "F-8 Crusader" at YouTube.
Dead reckoning, DR for short, means, essentially, navigating without electronic instruments. It is navigating by means of map, compass, and a watch, with some clue about your speed, and if you're flying, hopefully about the wind. Some skill at DR can save your life when the instruments fail, as they inevitably will if you fly long enough. How many times hasn't an aviator's wife said, "Honey, shouldn't we check a map?" only to hear, "We're fine, dear. I'll get us there by DR."
DeadstickA "deadstick landing" is a landing with a dead engine. This works nicely in Cessna and Piper light planes and in the Space Shuttle, but forget it in a jet fighter. The basic problem is that your average fighter doesn't "glide." It falls. It has to do with "wing loading." The NATOPS manual says it's something you try if you're unable to abandon the aircraft. In other words, if this doesn't work you die. Usually this maneuver involves showing up right above the touchdown point of a runway at about 8,000 feet above ground level, then executing a precision power-off maneuver to a landing which you have never practiced, because NATOPS forbids practicing it. It doesn't help that you're on backup electrical power and partial instruments and flight controls. You don't do this if you can help it.
DebriefThe most critical part of the flight, even though you're back on Earth (or sea). You see, whatever happened up there didn't really happen until it's been said and admitted on the deck. If you were on an "air combat maneuvering" (=ACM, =dogfighting) training hop against another pilot, you never know how the flight will transmogrify in the Ready Room debriefing. Some of the squadron's other pilots will be listening. You're just going to have to outshout your opponent: "On my six, my ass! I Fox'ed you out of the first turn and you know it." And two entirely different versions of the hassle get replayed, using the hands as aircraft. (Do see the link.)  Oh well. Not much has changed in this area since the first fighter flew.
Delta1. The letter "D" in radio comm.
2. "Delta pattern": An airborne holding pattern. If there's suddenly a fouled deck on the carrier, you may hear, "Your signal Delta." You proceed posthaste to the carrier's standard overhead holding pattern, where each squadron has its assigned altitude.
3. A word needed to say "Delta Sierra," one of the most useful epithets in Navy lingo.
Depart1.   The aircraft "departs" from controlled flight when it enters a spin or other out-of-control state. A departure most often happens in a high-G maneuvering environment, like a hassle, as a result of the wing stalling. (An aircraft can theoretically stall at any speed if the angle of attack is increased sufficiently by back pressure on the stick. But at high speeds you'd pull the wings off the A/C before stalling it.) Typically, pulling too much G at the slow-speed top end of a vertical maneuver (perhaps helped by a little rudder input to asymmetrize the wing lift), or too much G for the speed in a rolling maneuver, are favorite ways to lose control. At the moment of departure the A/C may snap rapidly out of control, or at slow speed may "wash" into the stall. A departure can be a serious business in swept-wing jets. Most don't just fly themselves out of the condition, but require positive pilot actions, like activating various combinations of drag chute, speed brakes, slats, droops, crossed stick and rudder input, etc. All this while the cockpit is behaving like a washing machine agitator. After a departure, it can easily require 5-10,000 feet of altitude loss to recover. Fighters also don't typically enter a neat predictable spin. They may enter flat spins, inverted spins, "falling leaf" maneuvers, and variations where both nose and wings gyrate unpredictably up and down through 180° or more. In other words, almost anything can happen. A departure is a high pucker factor moment.

2.   A "departure" is of course also a published route to be followed after take-off from an airfield. These are often a pain-in-the-butt to a fighter pilot, because they make him fly slow and they prevent flathatting, both of which go against his grain. (Actually, just about any prohibition goes against a fighter pilot's grain.) The only authorized departure route suitable for a fighter pilot was a high-performance burn-out at NAS Miramar, San Diego (back when that was still "Fightertown USA"), briefly described as: Afterburner takeoff, stand the aircraft on its tailpipe, and disappear straight up.

Diamond F-8 Crusaders of VF-11 in diamond formation One of the parade formations of four aircraft. Wingmen No.2 and 3 fly a parade wing on either side of the flight lead, while No.4 tucks just below and behind the lead's tail. It's especially exciting in single-engine A/C, where No.4 ("assman") is a few feet from the tailpipe of the lead.
(Illustration of VF-11 F-8 Crusaders credit: Michael Couture.)
DirtyLanding configuration of the airplane. Everything's hanging out: Landing gear, flaps, slats, droops, hook (at sea), wing swept forward (F-14) or raised (F-8). Man, you're dressed to go slow. And you're just not Clean.
DitchLanding the aircraft on the water. Only thing is, jet fighters don't land on the water. They crash into the water. It's not pretty. It's deadly. As the NATOPS manual says, you do this if you're unable to abandon the aircraft. Call home base first, and they'll get a head start on arranging the memorial service.
DivisionA flight of four aircraft flying as a unit. A division, under a division leader, may be part of a flight of several divisions, under a flight leader. The Division is divided in two Sections of two aircraft each, and in combat will normally operate as Sections.
DogfightA term not much used by naval aviators, who prefer "hassle." If the fight is described as a "dogfight," it was a real DOGFIGHT!
DoublenutsA Navy squadron's aircraft carry two-digit tail numbers. From 01 to however many there are, say 15, they also carry the names of the squadron pilots on the canopy rail, in seniority (or "rocket number") order, starting with the skipper on no.01. But in addition there's tail number "00", fondly called "Doublenuts." (I leave the etymology to the reader.)  Doublenuts carries the name of the Air Wing Commander (CAG). Actual flight assignments don't have much to do with the names painted on the A/C, though when CAG wants to fly a hop with your squadron it's considered good form to give him Doublenuts if it's available.  (VF-53 Doublenuts at right):
DoughnutA "doughnut" on the indexer lights means you're on speed for landing. A "chevron" mean you're fast or slow. See the indexer lights link for explanation and illustration.
An aircraft is "down" when it is not safely flyable. (Otherwise it is of course "Up.") Some criteria for down status are listed in the Navy's maintenance manuals (e.g., fuel pressure out of limits), others are more subjective (pilot reports: "the stick was sticking"). But some gripes are in the grey area. And there's conjuring involved: If the Skipper needs sorties to meet the squadron's quota, a Down A/C can magically become an Up A/C without any maintenance work at all.
Downtown"Goin' downtown": An airstrike aiming for the center of the enemy's position, such as a capital city, where a warm welcome usually awaits. Fireworks and everything.
DownwindIn addition to the obvious (I hope) meaning of position and direction indicated by this term (we've all been downwind of something we'd rather not have been downwind of - the Jacksonville paper mill comes to mind), this has a special meaning in the landing pattern. There it means the "downwind leg" of the pattern, that is, the position where the aircraft is at about 600 feet above the touchdown point and about a nautical mile abeam, heading in the direction opposite the landing direction. (Heading downwind, that is, heading in the same direction as the wind.) You're ready to start your 180° turn toward the landing point, and when you get there you will of course be pointed upwind, i.e., against the wind, prepared to land.
DragDrag is really a drag, it's your enemy as a fighter pilot. It prevents you from going faster. As you punch a hole in the air with your airplane, you're pushing molecules closer together than they like to be. Can't blame them for pushing back. Flying is always a battle between thrust and drag.
Echo The letter "E" in radio comm. In aircraft designations, E stands for electronic countermeasures aircraft, such as the E3 Hawkeye, the EA-6 Intruder, and the EP-3 Orion. (Echo is otherwise sadly underutilized. There aren't any graphic expletives starting with E.)
Echelon In formation flying, 3 or more aircraft in a straight line angled back from the flight lead. Like the right half of a flight of honkers. (Good illustration at "Blues".)
Eject To activate the ejection seat to escape from the cockpit. The normal ejection handle is a "face curtain" at the top of the seat, which is pulled down over the pilot's face. An automatic sequence is started which jettisons the canopy and fires the rocket and/or explosive charge that powers the seat up the seat rails and out. The sequence continues with drogue chute, seat separation, and main chute deployment. (Where there's a flight crew of two, it gets trickier. Some recent a/c have an ejection capsule that essentially ejects the entire cockpit intact. But where 2 seats need to fire individually, they are sequenced so that the pilot's seat fires a fraction of a second after the other crewmember.) Modern ejection seats have a "zero/zero" capability: the pilot can successfully eject sitting still on the deck (zero elevation and zero airspeed). Pilots put a lot of trust in the guys in the Seat shop and "Parachute loft" who maintain the seats and maintain and pack the chutes, and usually take care to treat them well. A few bottles of 12 year old Chivas Regal may change hands after a successful ejection. Credit for saving thousands of lives through successful ejections goes to the hyper-reliable Martin-Baker company of England, which first developed ejection seats in the early 1940s, and has supplied most military needs globally since then, including essentially all U.S. seats.
ElevatorAt least 3 important uses:
1. A verb used by air controllers meaning "Change your altitude to", as in "Elevator angels Two Zero," meaning "Climb (or descend) to altitude 20,000 feet."
2. An elevator is also a flight control surface on the horizontal stabilizer, but not many fighters have distinct elevator surfaces any more. Most are designed with a "flying tail" (or "UHT" - unit horizontal tail) where the horizontal stabilizer moves as a unit to provide vertical control.
3. And there are huge aircraft elevators on a carrier, that move a/c between the hangar deck and the flight deck.
EnvelopeTactical performance graphs show altitude and speed restrictions for an aircraft. Add drag index lines and G limits and you wind up with a graph with criss-crossing lines that resembles an envelope, which is what it's called by pilots: The Flight Envelope. When you fly the aircraft near its operational limits you're "pushing (the limits of) the envelope." Next time you hear someone other than a pilot use that term, remember: he/she has no idea what it means. Now you do.
Fan breakA fancy way for a 2- to 4-plane formation to execute the break when entering the landing pattern at a field or at the carrier. The effect is (or should be) the flight of four smoothly rolling into the break together and beautifully separating in the turn to the downwind leg. See the break link for more.
Feet dryFlying over land.
Feet wetFlying over water.
FighterWhat's a fighter? An aircraft with an "F" in its designator? Hardly. A fighter is an aircraft made for close-in fighting against another aircraft, and one that can fight. It's nimble, powerful, and fast. It lives to get to the enemy's 6, and it usually does. And to get the job done, it's got a fighter pilot trained for the job and the weapons to finish off the enemy. Back in a time that now is history (say the late 1960s), the quiet protest decal at the right was literally true. We, the last fighter pilots, were flying the last of the fighters, the incomparable F-8 Crusader. It was soon to be retired, and no further fighter aircraft were planned, the fighter pilots' skills were to be shelved and forgotten. Then the Viet Nam war happened and awoke the sleepy brass at the Pentagon. Entering the Viet Nam war may not have been the smartest thing this country has done, but it served to remind the Pentagon that you can't command airspace without fighters and fighter pilots. So today there are again good fighters in the inventory, and good fighter pilots to fly them. The beat goes on.
FinalIn the final portion of a landing approach you're "on final".
Finger FourA balanced "parade" formation that looks like the four fingertips of your right hand (fingers straight & together, palm down): Flight lead ahead (middle finger); wingmen #2 on the left and #3 on the right equally spaced, and #4 on the right extending the line from the lead to #3.
FlakIf there's one thing aviators hate, it's catching flak, whether in the air or in the skipper's office. Long before it became the common English word for a chewing, it was the German common abbreviation for their anti-aircraft artillery: Flugabwehrkanone (also, for the etymologically curious, reported as Flugzeugabwehrkanone and Fliegerabwehrkanone). To the aviator, flak was the bursting AA shells that, even if they didn't hit the aircraft, laid down a deadly dense rain of near-invisible fragments. Catching flak was more than just embarrassing. Not one of the favorite missions for fighter pilots is that of flak suppression – going in ahead of the main air-to-ground attack to take out the flak sites. Talk about catching flak!
Flame-outWhen a jet engine quits, it "flames out," the fire is gone. A suspenseful situation, especially if you've only got one engine. All multi-engine aircraft are designed to fly safely with the loss of one engine. If you're multi-engine, you'll have bleed air and electrical power from the operating engines to help restart the quitter. If you're single engine you'll probably be extending the emergency RAT (Ram Air Turbine) package into the air stream to give electrical (and perhaps hydraulic) power. The aircraft's airspeed is counted on to turn the engine, and if you have fuel, this should do it. The usual causes of flame-out are compressor stalls, or slow-speed high throttle setting situations where the engine isn't getting enough air, or of course running out of fuel.
FlathattingThe time-honored practice of a pilot scaring the bejeebies out of innocent civilians on the ground by swooping as low and as fast as possible, preferably over an unsuspecting outdoor assembly, in an ad hoc individual air show. A popular target is always one's parents' farm. Less public, but still a lot of fun, is back-country flathatting, or terrain-avoidance flying. The occasional residence that pops up to be terrified adds satisfaction.
On the other hand, the occasional powerline!...
The origin of the term is uncertain, but it may have come from the threat of early barnstorming aerobatic pilots to flatten top hats among air show bystanders.
(A) FlightWhile "a flight" may mean simply the event between a take-off and a landing, in this specialized meaning a flight is a coordinated unit of any number of aircraft flying under a single flight leader (see next entry), as in "the flight is approaching the break." Most operational flights of Navy fighters are flown as flights of two (a "section") or four (a "division") aircraft. Other types of Navy flights, e.g., anti-submarine (MAD) patrols, are commonly flown as a single a/c flights.
Flight LeadEvery Navy flight (see entry above) has a designated flight leader. The flight lead is normally the senior aviator in the flight. The lead calls the shots (literally and figuratively) in the air. Basta! See Wingman.
Flight LevelA kind of formalized definition of altitude, which see.  For some reason, the controllers of the FAA have a problem with aircraft reporting their altitude on the basis of their varying local barometric pressures.  The scenario of two aircraft assuming they're at different altitudes while actually being in the same piece of sky seems to bother them.  They clearly don't have the adventuresomeness of the naval aviator.  So to make the FAA (and similar world-wide air tyrants) happy, when we venture into space above 18,000 feet, we reset the altimeter to the barometric standard 29.92 inches of mercury, and we report our altitude as "Flight levels", which, to confuse everyone, is reported in 100's of feet!  Thus if we're at 24,000 feet (with a standardized altimeter) we're at "Flight Level 240".  That way everybody's altitude reporting is consistent, and airline passengers will live a lot longer.  Maybe that's worth the bother.
Flight Ops"Flight operations", of course. For cyclic flight ops on the carrier, see "Cyclic Ops".
Flight suit Pheeuu ... these things stand upright by themselves after a couple of weeks of sweaty flights aboard ship. You start with this neat, new, fireproof Nomex coverall, then gradually impregnate it with a variety of corporeal exudates. There's usually neither mother nor wife aboard ship to remind a young pilot to wash his flight suit, so after a few weeks of wearing it all day every day it more or less becomes one with him. Has anyone tested the fire resistance at this point? We doubt it; we've experienced flight suits where the BO itself was about at the flash point. During a cruise all the pilots descend together into a communal olfactory coma, where no one offends anybody anymore. What's the problem?
Fly-by-wireAn important flight control innovation at one time. Used to be that the stick was directly connected to the flight control surfaces (ailerons, elevators) by cables and pushrods - as in light planes even today. There was direct feedback to the stick from the aerodynamic forces on the flight surfaces. In the 1950s, as a/c got heavier and faster, and aerodynamic pressures increased, hydraulic lines replaced cables in flight controls. Feedback to the stick was lost, and was replaced by artificial "feedback" through variable spring tensions on the stick. The hydraulics were also much heavier, and more vulnerable to combat damage (it's easier to disable a 3000psi hydraulic line than a multi-strand steel cable). Therefore dual hydraulic systems became the norm, which were heavier still. In the 1970s, "fly-by-wire" became the new rage: though the flight surfaces might still be actuated by hydraulics, the connection from the stick was now strictly through electrical wiring to the actuators. Lots lighter; lighter even than steel cable, but vulnerable to disruption of the electrical system. The coming thing is "fly-by-light," optical systems which are lighter yet than electronics and are not affected by electromagnetic disturbances.
Flying tailNo, no, no! Here you're already thinking this is another of a pilot's terms of endearment for a stewardess. Not at all. We're talking about horizontal flight members here. Hm, that didn't help ...
Sometimes known as "UHT" - unit horizontal tail. Fighter a/c have largely abandoned the "elevator" flight control surface on the horizontal stabilizer, which provides vertical flight control, in favor of a solid horizontal stabilizer ("flying tail") that moves as a unit. Using the entire stabilizer as a control surface gives the potential for more rapid control response, but you pay for it in having to prevent overcontrolling. It may also increase the hazard in a runaway flight control problem.
FOD(Rhymes with "god.") Originally "Foreign Object Damage" (to engines or airframes), now usually the redundant "Foreign Object Debris" (i.e., debris that can cause damage). Jet engine air intakes can have enormous suction, and are notorious for swallowing up whatever gets in their way, from sailors to birds to nuts and bolts left on the deck. Both ashore and aboard the carrier, a "FOD walkdown" of the flight line or flight deck is staged daily to pick up "FOD."
FormationA flight of two or more aircraft are always flying in a defined formation. "Parade" formation (such as echelon, "finger four", or "diamond" is used to look good around the field or the public; Cruise (or "Free Cruise") formation is similar but more relaxed with more spacing, both laterally and fore-and-aft, between the A/C, and "Combat Spread" or "Loose deuce" and other formations may be used in combat, etc.
FoxThe radio call for firing a missile. (Duh...no, we don't call the enemy before firing a missile!) Used in training hops and debriefs. A useful verb in dogfight debriefs: "I fox'ed you out of the rolling scissors."
Foxtrot1.  The letter "F" in radio comm.
2.  In aircraft and squadron designations, F indicates "fighter." The F-4 Phantom, F-8 Crusader, and F-14 Tomcat are examples. (The designation of the F/A-18 Hornet makes the claim of being both a fighter and attack aircraft.) In squadron designations, F is combined with "V" (meaning fixed-wing) to indicate fighter squadrons, for example, VF-51 and VF-53. Also commonly used in such quaint Navy sayings as "Foxtrot Uniform." (Of course this frequently fulsome fricative appears without its "foxtrot" garb in such universal acronyms as SNAFU and FUBAR ("FU Beyond All Recovery"), but such linguistic esoterica takes us far beyond our Navy focus.)
Furball A dogfight with more a/c than you can keep track of, especially one in close quarters, reminiscent of a cartoon cat fight.
G (force) From what I hear, gravity is everyone's enemy. Not least the fighter pilot's. We all normally experience a gravitational force of +1 G on the Earth. (The "plus" sign indicates "positive G," i.e., in a direction toward your feet. If no sign is shown, the positive direction is understood.) Fighter aircraft are designed to subject air crew to 6-9 times the force of gravity. This happens as the aircraft turns (the turn is always made in the plane of the wings - in other words the aircraft always pulls "up" from the perspective of the seated pilot). The tighter the turn, the higher the "G" loading. At +7 G - routine in today's fighters - a 200+ lb pilot (counting gear and helmet) weighs over 1500 lbs. A lot of that weight compresses his spine, and he'll pay for it later in life. While flying, the air crew are kept from passing out or losing vision (see tunnel vision) at such G loads by wearing a G-suit which inflates air bladders around the lower torso and legs, physically restricting blood from draining from the brain and pooling in the lower body. The G-suit can add up to 3 G to a pilot's G-tolerance, though of course it doesn't do anything about spinal damage. An aircraft can also experience "negative G" or "zero G," though they don't like it a lot. Nor would you.
GagglePilots like this word, used for a large flight of aircraft, especially a seemingly disorganized one. Unfair to geese, really, who usually stay pretty organized.

See also "Balbo."

GateA couple of good meanings:
1. Radio call for afterburner. The flight lead's call to select A/B is: "Gates in - now." Deselecting burner: "Gates out - now." (See - it's useful if the whole flight comes in and out of burner together. It avoids having them spread over miles of airspace.)
2. An approach pattern to an airfield or a carrier will often involve a "gate," a defined point on a radial at a specified distance and elevation. The pilot or flight leader is responsible for bringing his aircraft or flight to the gate with the appropriate heading and airspeed. On a VFR approach to a carrier, for example, Approach Control ("Marshal") may ask the flight leader to "report the eight mile gate," at which point the flight may be switched to the tower ("Pri-fly") radio frequency.
GatorAn endearing name for our favorite aircraft and hero of this site, the always-hungry-for-blood F-8 Crusader.
GearThis obviously can mean a lot of things, but in naval aviation the context usually determines whether it's the ship's Arresting gear or the aircraft's Landing gear that's meant.
Glide slope(This term has little to do with gliding. For a jet fighter, a power-off "glide" is more like a fall.) Instead, this refers to the vertical angle of the final approach to landing. To provide a safe (who are we kidding?) hook-to-ramp clearance, Navy carriers use a fairly steep apparent glide slope: about 4°, though with the ship's movement taken into account the resulting angle is effectively about 3.5°, the same as at most land-based naval air fields. The mirror is the pilot's primary glide slope information in close.
Go F-8 section go, John FitzgeraldOne of many meanings is "launch" (take-off). For example, the flight leader may brief: "It'll be a burner go," or "a section go...", meaning the take-off will be in afterburner, or it will be a section take-off. Or "a section burner go..." (Guess what that means.)

Illustration of F-8 section go, courtesy John Fitzgerald.

Golf The letter "G" in radio comm. (Also the aviator's favorite sport, since it only involves walking and can be practiced even if you're still faced from the night before.)
Grey-out Under high G loads, as blood drains from the brain, the first effect noted is tunnel vision. If too high a G loading is maintained, and/or if your G-suit isn't functioning or gets unhooked, in addition to the tunnel effect the pilot will lose color vision - he will "grey out." This is a good time to relax the G's, because the next effect is black-out.
Gripe An equipment/maintenance problem noted by the pilot on the "Gripe sheet" or "Yellow sheet". The pilot (or maintenance chief) determines whether the gripe is an "Up" gripe (meaning the A/C can still fly without fixing the gripe) or a "Down" gripe (meaning it can't). All Down gripes are supposed to be signed off (corrected or OK'd for flight) before the aircraft flies again. In the Crusader a few years ago, this meant that overstress cracks in the skin were circled with grease pencil by the maintenance crew and labeled "Crack." Then it was OK to fly. You gotta have faith.
Growl A sound signal transmitted from the heat seeking Sidewinder missile's seeker head to the pilot's earphones, indicating the missile is sensing the target. (It really sounds like a warning sound from a major feline.) With a good solid growl, range in the 1/2 mile to a mile range, G-load and crossing angle within limits, you fire. (If you have all that you probably have a hit.) The growl, by the way, ceases when the 'Winder leaves the rail. After firing (just like a fired bullet - though the 'Winder's a lot smarter) the missile's on its own, and doesn't communicate.
Iron Works
An endearing (sort of) name for the Grumman Aircraft Co., known for building good and VERY SOLID (and very heavy) aircraft like the F-9F Panther/Cougar. On the other hand, they followed that with the lithe and elegant F-11 Tiger, so . . .
G-suit At high speed an airplane can turn only one way: UP. To go left, you bank left and pull UP. So in every turn, there's upward angular momentum, or "centrifugal force," driving the pilot's body (and body fluids) down, down, down...   The angular momentum is measured in "G's," or multiples of the normal force of gravity ("1G"). In a tactical environment, a pilot will pull 6-9 G's for extended periods. Unprotected, this would lead to unconsciousness through blood draining from the brain to the lower extremities. Thus the "G-suit" (formally an "anti-G suit"). This piece of gear, worn over the flight suit from the waist down, is a tight-fitting system of air bladders covering the belly and the back and front of the calf and thigh. An air hose from the G-suit is hooked up to a cockpit bleed air valve. A G-sensitive valve meters air pressure in the G-suit proportional to the G forces on the aircraft. Higher G's, more pressure. The effect is simply, by pressure in the G-suit air bladders, to prevent the migration of blood to the lower torso and extremities - physically keeping the blood in the upper body, like the brain! Wearing a G-suit effectively increases G tolerance (meaning you don't lose consciousness) by as much as 3 G, and makes effective operation of modern fighters possible. (Should we admit here that there is no material or engineering restriction that would prevent an airplane from pulling 20 G's? The weak physical link is absolutely the pilot.)
Guard "Guard channel." The emergency radio frequency - UHF 243.0 MHz - always monitored by Navy aircraft, no matter what primary frequency they're on. If you have an emergency you transmit it on Guard, and the world comes to help.
Gunfighter 1. Radio callsign of VF-124, NAS Miramar, with the proud history of being the fleet training squadron for the F-8 Crusader followed by the F-14 Tomcat, two great gunfighters.
2. "Last of the Gunfighters": Slogan for the beloved F-8 Crusader, the Navy's top dogfighter with guns at a time when guns were thought passé by Navy brass. (Let it be said that - while the slogan was appropriate for its time - even brass can learn, and guns are back on Navy fighters.)
GunneryAir-to-air gunnery. Now, there are only four really difficult things that a Naval Aviator must master, and this is one of them. (The others, needless to say, are carrier landings, swimming, and leaving out expletives in polite company.) Air-to-air gunnery practice is one of the most intricate and diabolical evolutions in naval air, and is a popular wash-out point in the jet pipeline of the aviator training program. In brief, it works about like this: A target "banner" (which see) is towed about 1200' behind a tow ("tractor") aircraft, which flies straight & level through the gunnery range at 20,000 feet. The flight of 4 shooters enters a pattern around the tow a/c, where each shooter successively rolls in from a high "perch" about 7,000 above the target and 2 miles abeam. When the gunnery pattern is established, as "Viking 1," say, rolls in from the perch, Viking 2 is halfway up to the perch but ahead of #1 (the pattern keeps moving forward at the tow a/c speed of 250 knots), #3 has completed the shooting run and is close abeam the tow a/c pulling up, and #4 is just commencing the tracking of the banner. (Get it? No? Student aviators don't either.) It has the appearance of a strictly choreographed aerial ballet, when it's done right. Which it sometimes is. All of this is not without hazard, especially for the tow pilot, but see at "banner" for that.
GunsightOn modern - and not so modern - fighter aircraft, gunsight information is projected onto an angled glass plate in the pilot's field of vision as he looks straight ahead. While newer gunsights add radar lock-on information and greatly improve the accuracy of the sight, you don't always have a radar lock-on. Then you still have the classical non-radar gunsight, which is ingenious but simple in concept: It calculates lead based on G loading (which equates to rate of turn), altitude, airspeed, and bank, and shows the aim point as a floating "pipper", a small circle which is remarkably resistant to being placed on the target. All the pilot is responsible for is achieving steady-state tracking of the pipper on the target in the heart of the optimal firing range - say 1200-1500 feet - (did I mention that this requires outfighting the opponent and getting on his tail?) and if he does everything right, has a fair chance of a hit.
A necessity in formation flying. In close section (two-plane) formations, hand signals are usually used in preference to radio calls even if radio silence is not required. The lead will give the wingman specific hand signals for such actions as: Crossover, fall back to cruise formation, commence descent, turn left or right or level the wings, level off in a climb or descent, change radio channel or frequency and indicate specific channel or frequency, request and give fuel state, transfer the flight lead, and much more. It's surprising what can be done with just one hand. (All right, knock off the snickering there in the back row!) Even specific emergencies can be indicated by hand signals. If the wingman is back in a free cruise or other loose position, the leader will rock his wings to indicate join-up in parade formation. Some signals, like add or reduce power, or select afterburner, are given by head signals, so see that. (By the way, the way numbers are indicated is simple and practical, and deserves wider use. Numbers 1-5 are indicated as usual with 1-5 fingers of one hand held vertically (be sure to start with the index). But since the pilot generally only has one hand available for signalling, numbers 6-9 are indicated by one through four fingers held horizontally, pointing forward. That is, to the number of horizontal fingers you add 5 to get the meaning. (Still not clear? You see, a seven is two fingers held horizontally...) Ten is indicated as two digits: a 1 followed by a closed fist indicating zero.) Hand signals are also used between the pilot and plane captain when starting the A/C and running post-start checks, by the Yellowshirt (flight deck director) to move the aircraft before launch or after an arrested landing, and by the cat officer to actually launch the aircraft.
Hangar You know what this is, right?  It is, of course, the big open building ashore where maintenance is done on the aircraft, and where the flight squadrons have their spaces: offices, ready room, etc.  But did you know how to spell it?  It's not a "hanger"!  And did you know that it comes from a northern French dialect, where it means "cattle pen"?  Nuff sed. (The aircraft carrier analog to the hangar is the hangar deck.)
Hassle Noun and verb: A "dogfight," a tactical engagement with other aircraft. Near synonyms: "ACM" and Tactics. "Hassling" is the fighter pilot's bread and butter. It's all about getting on the other guy's six. Some years from now, when all weapons are launched remotely, pilots with the fighter spirit will still go up and hassle.
Heading This is really too easy. It's just the (usually magnetic) direction that the aircraft is pointed. The only reason to include this is to point out that a heading is not a bearing, nor a course, of course. In case you thought it was. If you're flying to someplace that bears, say, 080° from your position, a heading of 080 will only get you there if there's no wind. If there's a wind, as there usually is, you have to crab into the wind - take a heading to split the difference, so to speak. See, it's a matter of vector geometry. Or something.
Head signals When a flight is flying in close formation, the leader gives hand or head signals to his wingmen before every change of flight regime. Some hand signals are described above. But certain signals are given by head nods: "Adding power" is signaled by the flight lead's head nodding forward (he could also be falling asleep), followed immediately by the throttle movement. "Reducing power" is signaled by the head in a backward motion (and here, of course, he might be waking up again). A turn to the right (or left) is signaled by the leader's head making repeated motions to the right (or left). "Select Afterburner" is shown by a preparatory head move to the right, and then a quick head "slam" to the left. There's a combined hand & head signal for extending the speed brakes ("boards"): first the lead's hand makes a preparatory duck-quacking motion (to mimic the boards coming out), then a forward nod of the head says, put the boards out. If you miss the lead's signal you (as wingman) will go sailing by the leader, unable to keep the formation in order. [A personal protest: I always thought, as a wingman, that I ought to be able to signal back, say to debate the order. But alas, there's no signal for that. Well, there's one, but it's impolite.]
Unlike helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft can't just park in space. When there's a need to wait - as for a ready deck on the carrier - aircraft will be sent to an assigned holding pattern. A multi-plane flight will hold together, usually flying a loose cruise formation. A holding pattern will often be defined by a point in space, given as an altitude and mileage on a TACAN radial from the carrier (see also "Marshal"). Each flight will get its unique holding point. The flight lead will hit the holding point going inbound on the radial, then commence a standard rate left turn for 180 degrees and head outbound for some miles, depending on the expected hold time. Turn again and repeat. In a holding pattern, fuel state is usually a concern; therefore the flight lead is eager to know his expected Charlie time, so he can plan his pattern. Aircraft use more fuel when in a bank, but level flight takes them farther from the carrier. In VFR conditions around the carrier, a fouled deck will send aircraft already in the landing pattern up into a holding pattern centered on the carrier, at predetermined altitudes. See "Delta."
Hood More generally "The Bag": The "Instrument Hood," a devilish device meant to confound pilots-in-training. It's simply a curtain fitted to the interior of the canopy that pulls over the student pilot (in the back seat of a two-seat tandem aircraft) so he cannot see out of the cockpit. The instructor will carry out the take-off, then turn the flight controls over to the hapless student who is overwhelmed by the idea of flying the airplane on instruments alone. Doesn't sound like much to a seasoned pilot, but the average student pilot fears flying under the hood like the plague. A common cause of "D.O.R."
HosedOnly one meaning for a fighter pilot, and as so often, grammar is everything. It's all about "active" or "passive". (I mean, look at the verb form! It's either imperfectum active, or past participle, isn't it! Fighter pilots have to keep this sort of thing in mind at all times. It isn't easy!)  Anyway, if you've been hosed (this is the past participle), you've been peppered from behind with 20mm Vulcan cannon shot, and your dear airplane is on its way down with you in it. If, on the other hand, you just hosed the enemy, you've shot your load and he's on his way down.
   (& Cold)
Apart from their usual meanings, these terms refer to the state of aircraft armaments or a weapons range. At the bombing range, pilots may hear "The range is Cold," meaning no ordnance may be dropped. When the range is ready, the range master will transmit "The range is Hot," and the flight lead will order armament switches on. The radio call "Gruesome 4 is in Hot" confirms armament switches on as this wingman rolls into a bomb run.
Hot CAP"Hot Combat Air Patrol."  (Rather a "deck" patrol than an "air" patrol.) See "CAP".
HotelThe letter "H" in radio comm. In aircraft, carrier, and squadron designations it means Helicopter, as opposed to the letter "V" for fixed-wing aircraft. But its greatest utility is in such useful phrases as "Sierra Hotel."
HUDIn modern fighters, the Heads-Up Display, that magical evolution of the old gunsight. In looking directly ahead, the pilot looks through an angled glass plate on which is projected not only gunsight info but pretty much all the info he needs to fly and fight the aircraft: speed, altitude, G loadings, engine performance, radar contacts, etc. (In earlier days you had to look down on the instrument panel for all that, you actually had to work on your scan.) So it frees the pilot to keep his eyes out of the cockpit, but it's a monster to master - the pilot has to learn to manage potential information overload by filtering out what's not needed at the moment.
HurrevacHere's some military shorthand that seems to make sense. Odd that it isn't much used elsewhere. When a hurricane threatens a Navy airfield, a "hurrevac" exercise (or "evolution" as the Navy would call it) springs into action. It basically consists of flying all the aircraft to a safe air base, early evacuation by ground of everything that needs to be evacuated, and closing everything else up tight. Of course, the military has several obvious advantages over the civilian world in this type of exercise: they're organized, they're using our money and they still get paid, no matter what.
Hypoxia Spooky and insidious stuff. A lowering of oxygen partial pressure in the lungs, blood, and brain from breathing high altitude air, as in case of cockpit pressurization failure and/or oxygen mask failure. Blues your nails, makes you tingle, puts you to sleep PDQ, kills you in the subsequent crash. (This can happen to mountaineers and air passengers just as easily as to pilots. The best-remembered case may be the death of golfer Payne Stewart and his party a few years ago when their bizjet lost pressurization and flew for hours on autopilot, with crew and passengers passed out, before crashing into a mountain.)
IFF The formal name for what's commonly known as a "Transponder". In typical DOD bureaucratese, the letters stand for "Identification - Friend or Foe". A black box ID transmitter (now used on both military and civilian aircraft) that transmits a pilot-selectable code to verify the A/C ID to radar controllers. Of course, it verifies your ID to the enemy, too. So in a real war you just forget about it and turn it off. (See also "squawk".)
IFR 1. Instrument Flight Rules. The FAA is now requiring IFR flight almost everywhere. Also an assessment of the flying conditions: "The weather is junk, it's IFR." Contrast VFR.
2."In-Flight Refueling. Tricky stuff requiring a lot of practice." Check at "Plug" and "Probe".
Inboard /
Not boat engines, but the location of something relative to the centerline of the ship or the aircraft. Or the centerline of the pilot. Such as, Did I put my shades in the outboard or inboard pocket of my flight suit? Naturally this transfers to civilian life. In teaching his daughter to drive, dad will of course say, "Remember, Jane, for 1st gear you pull the stick inboard, for 5th gear push it outboard." (Reverse that for countries that drive on the wrong side of the road.)
indexer lightsNavy jets use the aircraft's "angle of attack" rather than airspeed for the proper landing attitude. But when you're flying the meatball to a carrier landing you can't be looking in the cockpit at the 'AoA' indicator. Fortunately, some brilliant engineer came up with the indexer lights, a "heads-up display" above the instrument panel, in the pilot's field of vision as he looks at the ball through the front left portion of the windscreen. (The indexers are actuated when the landing gear is extended.) This vertical row of shaped lights indicates "on-speed" (that is, on proper angle of attack) by the center orange "doughnut" light, "slow" by the top green "chevron," and "fast" by the bottom "red" chevron. The doughnut may light together with either chevron to indicate the regime between "on-speed" and fast or slow. The pilot sees the display peripherally, and reacts instantly to the color changes. (The illustration is from a mock-up of an F/A-18F Super Hornet. The appearence of all the lights lit simultaneously doesn't occur in real life – if one can speak of "real life" in carrier flying.) The indexers are repeated as colored lights on the exterior front of the aircraft, so the LSO can better judge the aircraft's speed.
A version of "parade" flight formation used specifically for instrument flying. Whereas in clear weather and daylight a wingman on the outside of a turn in a parade formation will rotate on his own axis to hold a position horizontal to the flight lead throughout the turn, when there's no visible horizon, such as at night or in the soup, this isn't possible because there's no way to know what's horizontal. So under such conditions a wingman on the outside of a turn must rotate on the axis of the flight lead, which means riding up and keeping the same visual "gouge" on the leader. When you're flying formation as a wingman through the soup or a black-ass night, you'll have no idea whether you're level or in a turn. And that's the idea. You just hang on.
Jink A flying butterfly is hard to catch, because it constantly jinks. Jinking is a standard flying technique for evading anti-aircraft ground fire. The idea is to rapidly and unpredictably jerk the aircraft in changing directions, to frustrate the gunners. (You still need to progress on your basic heading, if you're going to a target.)
Join-up One aircraft joining another in formation. Typical for a pre-planned join-up is that the lead is in a standard port turn, while the joining A/C cuts to the inside of the turn, gradually approaching on a collision course from the port quarter. In close the joining A/C slows the rate of closure, ensures vertical separation, and crosses under the lead to the outside of the turn, often to a cruise position. A more ad hoc join-up may occur if you've been vectored in to pick up another A/C who has a radio or electrical failure, and needs help to get safely back to the deck. You would approach from the inside of the NORDO's turn, or on his port wing if he's straight and level, using hand signals to take the lead, then standard NATOPS procedures to a landing.
"Judy" On a radar intercept, the pilot or radar operator calls "Judy" when they have a lock on the bogey and are taking control of the intercept from the ground controller.
Juliet The letter "J" in radio comm. Used in designating high altitude jet airways in the U.S., e.g., J-22, distinguishing these from lower altitude airways designated by the letter V ("Victor"), e.g., V-20.
KiloThe letter "K" in radio comm. Sometimes used in the unflattering appellation Kilo-Alpha, a kiss-ass. Yeah, they're in the Navy, too.
Kiss off Not at all an offensive remark. When a flight leader wants his wingman to depart the formation for some pre-briefed task, he will indicate that with a hand signal: Fingertips to lips (oxygen mask, actually), then "blow a kiss" to the wingman. The briefing might go, "After join-up, signal your state [fuel level] and I'll kiss you off to contact Approach."
Ought to be called a "thighboard," perhaps, this little notepad that you have strapped around your thigh, with emergency procedures and all kinds of good information on it. You've written down the outlines of the flight brief, with call sign, your aircraft number, radio frequencies to be used, and perhaps rendezvous points and marshal times. (In a war zone, of course you don't write down any of this.) A red light illuminates the kneeboard. Kneeboard
Knot A knot is a measure of speed. One knot is one nautical mile per hour. (If you thought a knot had something to do with ropes, you're right. Ancient sailing ships measured speed with a 'log-line' divided by knots into parts equaling 1/120 of a nautical mile (about 50 feet). The log-line was passed into the water, and the ship's passage of the line would be timed. Since a half minute is also 1/120 of an hour, a ship passing from one knot to the next in a half minute would be going at a speed of one nautical mile per hour, or one knot.)
The wheels, struts, shocks and actuators of the "Main gear" and the "Nose gear." Modern carrier aircraft use a "tricycle" landing gear system, with a nose wheel (or two) and two main "mounts." One of the most critical systems on the aircraft: failure in the landing gear system is one of the most common causes of landing accidents. And the most common failure is pilot-induced: A three-point landing, which see.
See "Pattern".
Lift In order of importance to the naval aviator, this means:
1. What a Maidenform does for feminine charm;
2. The mystical force that keeps an aircraft airborne. It works like this: When straight and level it keeps you up, in a bank it makes you turn, and when you're upside down it makes the stick work backwards. Of course this is pure magic, but engineers won't admit it.
Lima The letter "L" in radio comm. (Pronounced like the Peruvian capital, not like the bean.)
Loose deuce In two-on-one fighter combat, a flexible tactical formation that maximizes the section's advantage over the single bandit. While friendly "A" pressures the enemy, restricting his defensive options, "B" is free to use the vertical plane (in a way that he could not in a one-on-one situation) to position himself for an advantage. As he comes in, having gained angle on the enemy, "A" comes off, and is in turn free to work out of the plane of the fight to gain further angle. As the section aircraft relieve each other in a series of attacks, the bandit is never free to break off, and the section gradually gains advantage toward the bad guy's six, to be positioned for a shot. At least that's how it's supposed to work. (Of course, with new weaponry that can be shot in any direction from the fighter, you can forget all this; the fighter doesn't have to turn at all, and fighter-piloting becomes a quaint historical footnote.)
LOX Sounds like the salmon dish, but isn't. It's Liquid Oxygen, an explosive gas carried in the aircraft in a small, highly pressurized, LOX container. Navy fighter pilots breathe 100% oxygen (in the gaseous form, you understand) under pressure at all times while airborne. Usually that works out well, but for various ways to kill yourself if you tend toward stupidity see "Oxygen mask."
A stand-off between two fighters that are turning horizontally nose to tail in the same direction. If the flight characteristics of the two A/C are roughly equal, one may not be able to gain an advantage over the other. The Lufbery becomes as much defensive as offensive, and the circle can go on forever. Well, not really. Since it's hard to rendezvous with a tanker for in-flight refueling while you're in a 7 G turn, somebody will run out of gas. Or get bored, or need a nap. Being the first to break out of the Lufbery is usually not a good thing. You can't just fly off, or the enemy will be on your tail. So you try some purposeful maneuver, depending on whether you want to go home or fight on: If you have good power and slow-speed characteristics you can go nose high, which can make the enemy overshoot unless he joins you in a slow-speed fight; you can "split-S" or "high-G barrel roll" underneath if you have sufficient altitude - turning the fight in the vertical plane. You can run into the sun (this may confuse the opponent's eyes and heat-seeking missiles, but not his radar missiles), head into a cloud cover, or dive for the deck and run for home in the ground clutter. Ignominious, but if you're out of fuel... (Named after an American WWI pilot.)
Macadam See "Tarmac."
MachThe speed of sound in a given medium is known as mach 1 in that medium, after the physisict Ernst Mach. Speeds greater than mach 1 are supersonic. In dry air at sea level at 32° F, mach one is about 742 mph, or 645 knots. At higher altitudes the speed of sound drops off considerably because of less dense air. The mach number is often used in aviation in preference to airspeed, especially at higher altitudes and speeds, because in those regimes it relates better to the aircraft's performance. The aircraft's speed gages read out both airspeed and mach number.
MAD"Magnetic Anomaly Detection." MAD gear is the heart and soul of anti-submarine reconnaisance. This ingenious gear is carried in a "MAD boom" at the tail end of dedicated US Navy ASW (anti-submarine warfare) aircraft, such as Lockheed's classic P-2 Neptune and their still-flying-after-50-years P-3 Orion. The gear measures tiny deviations from the expected magnetic field in the sea below, indicating the presence of a large metal body. (Parenthetically, the Navy P-2 Neptune's MAD surveys made great contributions to geology in the 1960s: While surveying the magnetic sea bed environment south of Iceland, US Navy scientists discovered proof of symmetrical magnetic reversals on each side of the mid-Atlantic ridge. This proved both the Earth's history of frequent magnetic reversals - the North and South poles flipping - and the theory of plate tectonics or "continental drift," by showing that the ocean bottom had spread - and is still spreading - from the mid-ocean ridge.)
MarkingAn alternative word for 'conning' or 'scratching', all meaning leaving a highly visible contrail behind the aircraft, always a no-no for a fighter pilot. If you're marking, you need to seriously change your altitude. [Thanks to Luft Pfeiff for the suggestion.]
See CRT for the synomymous "Combat Rated Thrust."
"Mayday"The international radio emergency call for aircraft in distress, equivalent to the SOS of Morse code. (Speaking of distress, that's probably the French reaction to this call, which is an anglicizing of the French m'aidez - "help me." And we know how the French love anglicizations of the sacred tongue.)
MidairYou just need the one word to say "midair collision."
Name fondly applied to the US Navy's F-8 Crusader, which had the highest kill ratio against the Soviet bloc "MiG" (Mikoyan-Gurevich) fighters of any US Navy aircraft in the Viet Nam war. Braggadocious decal shown: Migmaster
Mike 1. The letter "M" in radio comm.  2. The microphone.  3. Used in "Twenty mike-mike," for 20 mm gun ammo. 4. Your buddy Michael.
Mike-click Instead of a "Roger" over the air, a quick double click of the microphone button is the usual acknowledgement of a routine flight leader's instruction. The sound is that "Kh-kh" "static"-sounding thing you can make with the the back corner of your mouth. (If you can't make it, I can come and demonstrate, but I don't come cheap.)
Or "Military Rated Thrust." Not a uniformed sexual practice, though it does relate to performance. See "MRT."
MLP "Mirror Landing Practice", or Field MLP (FMLP). Practice for carrier landings, using the "Mirror." To hit the precise spot on the flight deck, Navy pilots don't flare to ease the rate of descent before touchdown, but drive the aircraft into the deck at a constant glideslope, usually 3½-4°. The touchdown is very hard, at a rate of descent of about 13 feet per second in the fast-landing Crusader (like sitting in a chair being dropped from 6 feet up - this is not good for the spine), slightly less in newer aircraft that land slower. (So the older pilot's bad back is not just from the several hundred carrier landings; it's also from the several thousand carrier-style landings ashore.) Carrier landings are extremely difficult, and MLP is to the Navy pilot what scales are to a piano student. Just as much fun.
ModelThe first version of a military aicraft to be delivered is normally known as model "A", as in F-14A. It's almost always a compromise, because some of the 100 or more manufacturers of components will always be behind schedule, so nearly-as-good components are put in in their place in the first version of the aircraft. The F-14, F-18, and F-111 are some of many examples where the desired engine was not ready for the first model. Thus, the "B" model is generally an improvement, but then you run into the desire of component manufacturers to develop and sell "improved" versions, as well as the Washington procurement brass who love the word "upgrade," and ... but see the entry at "Radome".
Morse codeNavy pilots are still required to learn Morse code, which has some entertainment value, if nothing else. The theory is that when you're hopelessly lost and have no communication equipment except perhaps you can pick up the dots and dashes from a TACAN or ADF station, you'll be able to identify the station by its Morse code call letters and aim for it if that seems like a good idea. Not very useful for that purpose, but knowing the stuff always seems to impress girls. I still remember, in Pre-flite, introducing myself as Dit-dah-di-dit  Di-dit  Dit-dah-di-dit  Dit-dah-di-dit  Dit  Dah-di-di-dit  Dah-dah-dah. Catchy, eh?
MountThe landing gear, the wheels and struts. Fighter aircraft have a left and a right main mount, and a nose gear. If you're out driving with your hubby, the former ace Navy pilot, and he says "Drat it, honey, I've got a vibration in the port main mount!", you'll know he's bitchin' about the left rear wheel. If it were a front wheel he might say, say, "the starboard nose gear."
MRT"Military Rated Thrust" - 100% power in basic engine. See "CRT."
NATOPS(Pronounced nay-tops) "Naval Air Training and Operational Procedures Standardization." The NATOPS manual is the naval aviator's bible. One of its great achievements is standardizing procedures to the degree that any Navy or Marine pilot in any aircraft can join up with another in an emergency situation, and through use of visual signals and understood procedures, guide a disabled aircraft to a safe landing or ejection and rescue. (See also "S.O.P."). Naval aviators drill daily on NATOPS emergency procedures, though of course they exercise their right to grouse about it.
All aviation and ship activities measure distance in nautical miles. A nautical mile is about 15% longer than a statute mile (6,076 feet). There's a good reason for using the nautical miles in navigation: It works neatly because it equals one minute of arc of a nominal great circle, such as a meridian. Thus, one degree of latitude along a meridian equals 60 nautical miles. (90 degrees, the distance from the equator to the pole, is therefore 60x90=5400 nautical miles, and the Earth's circumference is 60x360=21,600 nautical miles - which is about 25,000 statute miles.) One nautical mile per hour is a speed of one knot.
Negative GThe usual force of gravity on Earth, as well as in an airplane, is one "positive" G - acting toward the Earth or toward your feet. If you stand on your head you're experiencing "one negative G." If you flip your aircraft over in flight and fly level upside down you're also experiencing one negative G. Most airplanes (and almost all pilots) don't much care for flying in a negative G environment. As the pilot you're hanging in the seat harness, with your helmet up against the cockpit canopy and your butt off the seat. For the airplane, the fuel pick-up system must be designed to pick up fuel sloshing around on the top of the fuel tank. More of a challenge is designing the airframe to withstand negative G stresses. Generally, the designers count on the pilots' preference for the positive G environment, so airframes that may have a positive G limit of +9 G will not be stressed for more than perhaps -3 (negative) G. And in-between, of course, there's zero G.
The Ninety In a standard VFR landing pattern at the carrier or an air field, the point where the aircraft has 90° of turn left before rolling out in the groove for final approach. The normal altitude at this point will be about 450 feet above touchdown.
No joy "I don't see it." A radio reply to indicate that you don't have visual contact with whatever you're being asked about. The opposite of Tally-ho.
An aircraft that has inoperable communication gear. Help usually swings into action in the form of another aircraft of similar type who will lead the NORDO to a safe approach and landing, depending on standard hand signals for communication.
Notam "Notice to airmen." A time- and area-specific notice issued by civilian or military aviation authorities, often related to flight restrictions, runway closures, or other matters of immediate concern to pilots. If you fly, you'd better be familiar with the current Notams.
November The letter "N" in radio comm. "N" may be added to ship designations to indicate nuclear power, e.g., CVAN-65, the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (though lately the "N" has disappeared from carrier designations, since ... who isn't nuclear anymore?).
o'clock Pilots refer to relative direction by a clock code: 12 o'clock is straight ahead, 3 o'clock is due right, etc. Six is special. Fighter pilots have a phobia about their six.
One-eighty In the VFR landing pattern, the position downwind (i.e., flying opposite the landing direction, the runway or carrier about a mile to port), abeam the touchdown point on the runway or carrier, having "dirtied" the aircraft, where the pilot traditionally calls the tower (ashore only): "Tower, Gruesome 5, 180, gear down," and receives clearance to land. Altitude about 600 feet AGL (above ground level).
Ops Simply "Operations", usually flight ops to the aviator. Aboard the carrier, ops normally means "cyclic ops".
Oscar The letter "O" in radio comm.
Out Ends a radio transmission (or decisive comment to family member) when no response is expected or needed. You don't respond to an "out" unless there's a clear need. And by the way: It's never "Over and Out." It's either "over" or "out", no matter what you hear in old movies.
Outboard Pretty much the opposite of "inboard", which see.
Over Ends your own radio transmission and signals that you're expecting a reply. (If you're dating an aviator, don't be nonplussed if an "over" sneaks into the conversation here and there. It just means he wants to hear your voice.) Compare Out.
Fighter pilots breathe 100% oxygen at all times while airborne. It makes them smarter, and God knows they . . . well, who couldn't use a little extra, I ask you? The oxygen mask contains a microphone. It takes some getting used to, talking against the positive pressure of the O2 flow. You literally have to exhale against the pressure while talking. Removing your oxygen mask in the air for comfort is frowned on, but is not uncommon among less brilliant aviators. (And isnt' it exactly they who need that little extra?) Removing it at high altitude will result in hypoxia, a fatal "high". Removing it to light a cig is stupid, but not unknown among said less brilliant aviators. Forgetting to turn off the O2 flow while you do this is apt to be fatal, and creates candidates for the Darwin award. (Like racing drivers and mountain climbers, the fighter pilot gene pool tends to be self-cleaning.) The drawback is, these clowns usually take a perfectly good airplane with them when they go. Oxygen is stored onboard as liquid oxygen, for that see "LOX."
Papa The letter "P" in radio comm. Used to designate Patrol aircraft, such as the anti-sub patrol aircraft P-2 Neptune and P-3 Orion. The squadrons that fly these have "VP" designations (the "V" is for fixed-wing A/C). Many Navy photo-birds carry the tail letters "Papa Papa."
ParadeF-8 Crusaders on parade.jpg A tight flight formation used when in the public eye. Looks S.H. Parade formation can be either Echelon, Finger Four, or Diamond formations. The wingmen are in close and tucked up tight, often with overlapping wingtips. A tiring exercise requiring extreme concentration by wingmen, as they need to keep their eyes focused on the flight leader. A wingman cannot look forward or in the cockpit while flying a parade formation, and has literally no idea where he's going. A feature of parade formation is that a wingman on the inside of a turn (i.e., to the left of the flight leader in a left-hand turn in a "balanced/finger four" or "diamond" formation) rotates down around the axis of the lead A/C, thus keeping the same visual gouge on the leader, while wingmen on the outside of the turn pivot on their own axes, staying horizontal with respect to the flight lead. A version of this formation ("Instrument parade)" is a bit different, and is used to bring a formation (usually just one wingman) down through the soup to a landing, a vertigo-inducing experience. (In the illustration of a section of F-8s, the wingman is a little acute.)
PerchIn the air-to-air gunnery practice pattern, the position about 10,000 feet to the side and 7,000 feet above the target aircraft, where the shooter starts his shoting run. By extension, in air combat (or romance) an advantageous position where you're set up to roll in for the kill.
PickleThe bomb release button on the stick. "To pickle" is to release the selected bomb load. (If you have a twitch in your right thumb you probably shouldn't be flying a loaded aircraft.)
PigeonsDirections to whatever, usually given as a bearing (in degrees magnetic) and distance (in nautical miles) to whatever, like "Pigeons 080 at 250." No doubt derived from the enviable talents of the homing pigeon.
P.I.O.Pilot Induced Oscillation. The student pilot really learns about this when practicing formation flying. It's the nature of flying that a fraction of a second elapses after moving a flight control surface, like an aileron or elevator, before the change takes effect and the aircraft actually changes direction or elevation. (At higher elevations and/or slower speeds this delay is magnified.) So the student pilot, seeing himself go a foot or two high in relation to his flight leader, puts in slight forward stick. In a tenth of a second nothing seems to be happening so he puts in more forward stick. But now it's too much and he invariably overcorrects. In a second or two he's out of phase with the needed corrections: PIO, the aircraft begins to 'porpoise.' The correction is to stop making corrections. Looks amusing from a distance, but not to the unfortunate perpetrator. PIO can be a serious problem for inexperienced pilots, and has led to fatal accidents. Aviators with a few drinks under their belt may experience PIO out of the aircraft as well, say at a squadron party.
PipperWasn't this Al Gore's wife? Well, whatever...   In the gunsight there's this elusive floating tiny circle, like in a video game, and your essential job as a fighter pilot is to put that little pipper on the enemy's ass and pull the trigger. If you do that you get a medal.
A special way to enter the landing pattern, pretty much limited to the carrier environment (and there it's wise to clear it with the Air Boss). Entering the break at low altitude, the break becomes a hard climbing turn to the downwind leg at 600 feet elevation. See the Break link for more on this and other break styles.
PlaymateYour playmates are the other members of the same flight. A term that sometimes leads to confusion when inadvertently used at home.
Plug Noun and verb. In in-flight refueling, to successfully penetrate the airborne tanker's "basket" with your probe and receive comfort and fuel. The pilot's official log book keeps track of his total number of plugs; reminiscent of Don Giovanni's catalogue.
Power curve The curve that describes a particular aircraft's response on a graph of thrust (y axis) vs. velocity (x). The curve has a surprising upward tail on the left (low speed) side. Maximum power gives max speed, and as you reduce power you reduce speed, 'til a point occurs where you're at the minimum "normal" flying speed. Turns out you can go slower. You can increase angle of attack and compensate for loss of wing lift with an increased vertical thrust vector; in other words, you add power to go slower. You're on the back side of, or "behind" the power curve. A bad place to be. You can only increase speed to normal flying speed by lowering the nose and losing altitude, and if the terrain doesn't allow that, as in the landing pattern, your goose may be cooked. The standard Navy carrier landing, needing to be as slow as possible, gets very close to the back side of the power curve, which makes speed control (or angle of attack) extraordinarily critical.
Prang To impact the airplane on something hard and unplanned, like the ramp or the ground.
The Naval Aviator would no more skip a thorough preflight walk-around inspection of his aircraft than he would forget his wife's birthd . . . uh . . . no, that wasn't the best example. In any case, even though the plane captain has done his preflight inspection, the pilot has ultimate responsibility for accepting the aircraft for flight, and will always do a "preflight." When you preflight the aircraft you find things like little stress cracks in the skin. You bring it to the attention of Maintenance, and they circle it with a grease pencil and write "crack" by the crack. Well . . . duh!
Probe The In-Flight Refueling (IFR) probe. You get fuel from the airborne tanker by "plugging" the probe into the tanker's "basket," which dances coquettishly in the turbulence at the end of a flailing fuel hose. You do this at 290 mph. It would be kind of sensual if it didn't take so much effort. Failure to successfully get plugged in has resulted in a more than a few lost birds.
There are a lot of ways you could measure an aviator's stress in an airplane. The "pucker factor" is the most usual and most graphic. Imagine you're eating a lemon. Your mouth puckers. It's just like that, except that under life-threatening stress it's the other end of the alimentary canal that puckers. Given as a percentage: The aviator at his normally suave self is at near zero percent p.f. unless there's a cool blonde in the vicinity. The p.f. of a black-ass night carrier landing may reach 75%, while at the top end of the scale - like you're getting a fire warning light on that black-ass night in the soup, followed by total electrical failure - (I borrow the following from extraordinary Crusader pilot Ron Lambe - hell, all 'Sader pilots are extraordinary): "with a 100% pucker factor, a pilot could bite a doughnut out of his seat cushion with his ass." (Well, Ron wrote "anus", but we know what he meant.)
Puddle-jumperSmall private airplanes that used to present a real hazard in the days of free-for-all VFR flying. They were often found crossing the final approach path to a jet base, and to fast-flying fighters they looked like immobile flies, when you could see them at all. The rule was "see and be seen," and every jet pilot from "those days" had a few sudden close encounters with them.
Pull chocksWhen ready to taxi for take-off, the pilot signals the plane captain to remove the chocks that block the aircraft's wheels. So "Let's pull chocks" passes into the pilot's everyday speech, meaning "Let's go; let's get out of here." The signal (and a pilot can't say "pull chocks" without doing the hand signal with it) is like: Both loose fists are pulled apart in front of the body, palms up, thumbs extended outward. Every Navy pilot's wife has seen this signal from hubby after a couple of hours at a dull social affair.
Pull G's What's with pilots always "pulling?" They pull G's, pull up, pull left, pull right . . .  Why not push G's? Well, it has to do with the control stick. The stick in a fighter does what a yoke does in many other aircraft: You pull back on it to make the aircraft go up. Thus you pull up. And when you do that, you increase the G (gravity) loading on the aircraft and on your body; thus you pull G's. To turn left you bank the aircraft left and again pull back on the stick. So no matter where you want to go, you get there by pulling. In fact, when you go ashore for some R&R, you "pull liberty!" (While a ship also pulls in and out of port, that's a different etymology.)
Punch Or "punch out." To eject from the aircraft. Informally, "Hey, I've been at this crummy bar long enough. I'm punchin' (out)".
QuebecThe letter "Q" in radio comm. A favorite of bored teenage naval radio operators, who for a century have been sending each other such subtly encoded Morse code messages as "4Q" or its only slightly less obvious homophone "QQQQ." No doubt the repeated musical rhythm of the morse "Q": dah-dah-dit-dah ("Here comes the bride") is the reason for the undiminished attraction of this phrase. (Sorry, Quebecois, the Navy pronounces it with a "w," like "Kwu-beck" or "Kwee-beck.")
RadialEach carrier and airfield, via its TACAN station, radiates electromagnetic waves like the rays of the sun. These rays, organized as 360 "radials," are aligned with magnetic north/south by receiving equipment in aircraft, and the pilot is presented with information showing his location relative to the TACAN station. If you're on the 270° radial, for example, you're due west of the station, and the bearing to the station is due east, or 090°. So the bearing is always the reciprocal of the radial; you just add or subtract 180° on the compass rosette. (Or you look at your TACAN gage.)
Radome Simply the dome covering the radar.  On a fighter that translates to the nose cone.  And here's what happens:  The designer envisions these clean lines for his bird.  Then comes the model "B" upgrade. Probably an improvement. Then "C": Maybe an improvement, maybe not. But later models often result in operational degradation: Something bigger and better has to be hung on the poor aircraft.  By the time the peerless Crusader had gone through model changes as far as "J," it contained everything the admirals and their wives (and of course the manufacturer) could think of, and had gained weight in its maturity, which seriously degraded its dogfighting ability. (Give me the youthful "Charlie" any day.) Most changes were internal, but the radome tells the story:

   The F-8A:  Little radar - little radome.

    F-8C:  Bigger radar - bigger nose cone.

F-8E:  Huge radar - and a Jimmy Durante schnoz!
Rag 1. An informal name for the banner used as a target in air-to-air gunnery.
2. Capitalized: RAG ("Replacement Air Group"), a specialized Navy squadron dedicated to all phases of training in a current fleet aircraft. Newly minted (or "bewinged"?!) aviators are assigned to a RAG squadron for familiarization with their assigned aircraft type. Over six months or so, the aviator goes through ground and flight courses in tactics, weaponry, carrier landings, etc., emerging with enough expertise to be useful in a fleet squadron, to which he is then ordered. Experienced aviators will also go through a (shorter) course in the RAG when transitioning from another aircraft type or as a refresher after filling a non-flying billet for a while.
Rail 1. The rack holding one or more missiles on the aircraft.
2. "On a rail" or "On rails." A perfect carrier landing, "OK3," smooth, on speed, on glide slope and line-up from the top of the groove to touch-down.
RAT Ram Air Turbine. (Also known as "Emergency Power Pack" and other terms, but "RAT" is obviously more colorful.) In the case of electrical or hydraulic failure, this small turbine can be deployed into the air stream to provide emergency power. It will typically power only the more critical A/C systems, and adds drag.
Ready CAP "Ready Combat Air Patrol."  (Rather a "deck" patrol than an "air" patrol.) See "CAP".
Re-heat British for Afterburner; used in the U.S. for effect.
The concept that makes airfoils (wings) work. Wind passing across the wing from front to rear results in a region of lower pressure at the top of the wing, which yields lift and keeps the aircraft airborne. This is only a useful concept once you realize that you don't need to wait for a wind to happen; you get the same effect, and the same lift, by moving the wing through the air, resulting in the same "relative" wind over the wing. When the aircraft is in balanced flight, the relative wind on the a/c is always from the front, over the nose; and in all cases in the direction the a/c is moving through the air. Aircraft carriers are also concerned with relative wind, for somewhat different reasons.
Rendezvous To gather up the several aircraft in a flight into a cohesive formation. If flying from the carrier, the several A/C launched independently will proceed to the rendezvous point, a location specified in the flight brief. Typical might be: "Rendezvous on the three three zero at 25, angels two two." (That's the point defined on the ship's 330° TACAN radial at 25 nautical miles from the ship, altitude 22,000 feet. And it's a moving point, of course, as the ship steams.) The rendezvous circle may be a port 30° banked turn commencing outbound on the radial at the given distance. As aircraft of the flight arrive at the rendezvous point they join on the the A/C already there, the designated flight leader assuming the formation lead on his arrival. At least that's the theory.
ResCAP "Rescue Combat Air Patrol."  See "CAP".
What's this? Rest? Of course the Naval Aviator never rests - he flies, he drinks, he chases poon, and he dreams about flying, drinking, and chasing poon. But he never rests. Must mean something else. Indeed - this refers to a small piece of equipment that we used to call a "computer" in the 50s-70s. But this little circular slide rule, made of several rotatable plastic disks (picture to starboard) had nothing in common with a computer as we know it today. "REST" stood for "Range, Endurance, Speed, and Time," and the device allowed you to calculate good stuff like your remaining max range, max endurance, best speed or time left until you would fall out of the sky for lack of fuel, if you just lined up your altitude and fuel state. It's the rare jock who spent much time fiddling with this thing while airborne, unless of course, you had a GIB with nothing to do.REST computer
In the U.S. and territories, and off-shore, certain volumes of airspace are set aside for special use, commonly military use such as air-to-ground bombing or air-to-air gunnery practice. These areas are shown on aviation charts, and you don't fly through them without clearance. (Conversely, if you're cleared to operate in a restricted area you don't fly out of it without clearance.) Of course, since some private pilots display the same level of adherence to operating rules as the drivers around you on the freeway, you will not be surprised to encounter a Cessna merrily overflying the target as you're about to fire rockets, resulting in the transmission: "The Range is Cold! THE RANGE IS COLD!" from the Range Master.
Roger Radio transmission acknowledging an instruction or information. (See "Wilco" for contrast.)
Romeo1. The natural self-image of every Naval Aviator.
2. The letter "R" in radio comm.
Rotation1. In flying, this is the point during the take-off roll when you reach flying speed; you rotate by lifting the nose (the aircraft's, not the pilot's) to gain a flying attitude and lift off. (When being shot from a carrier catapult, the rotation occurs after you're airborne!)
2. A Navy career consists of more or less alternating shore duty and sea duty. (If you're a prospective Navy spouse, you ought to be aware of this. On the other hand, I feel like I'm "Wikileaking" a secret: Lots of Navy men are married only because their fiancée hadn't grasped this.) So a Navy career consists of "rotating" from sea to shore duty: "I'm due for rotation in February" is a perfectly understandable statement.
RudderFor many jet pilots the rudder is the forgotten flight control because a jet can be flown without paying much attention to it. Fighter pilots, though, make tactical use of the rudder: When you're nose high at the top of a maneuver in a fight, and don't have airspeed to pull G's to get the nose down quickly, you stand on the rudder pedal to induce yaw and wrench the nose down. But you'd better know what you're doing: If you barely have flying speed, and a little roll moment, and as much G as you can get in heavy buffet, you're at the edge of the aircraft's envelope. Stomp on the rudder, throw in a bunch of yaw and the wing can easily stall, resulting in departure and ruining your entire adventure. (Of course, as a last-ditch defensive maneuver, a departure may not be that bad, if you've got a bandit on your tail and you have enough altitude to recover. He's sure not going to follow you through that maneuver!)
Saddle You're "in the saddle" when you're at the bandit's six and in range, ready to fire. So don't talk about it, FIRE!
Sader Along with "Gator," a common nickname for the F-8 Crusader, the greatest fighter of its time.
SAM Surface-to-air missile. Also known as a "telephone pole". A serious attention-getter when it's coming at you.
SAR Search and rescue. A coordinated effort to extract downed aircrew from a combat zone. Involves rescue helicopters, close air support A/C to suppress enemy activity, and "RESCAP" fighters providing air cover.
Saunter Radio term advising a pilot to fly at the "max conserve" power setting. This is normal on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) station and in holding patterns, where you need to save your fuel for more important business. Related terms are "canter" for normal cruise speed, "buster" for max basic engine power, and "gate(s)" for max combat rated thrust (afterburner).
Not that a fighter pilot is known for his instrument flying, but even a fighter jock has to fly through the soup or at night from time to time. At which time you've got to have your instrument scan working. Each pilot has his own scan pattern, moving his eyes from airspeed indicator to altitude gage to attitude gyro to turn-and-bank indicator to rate-of-climb gage, directional gyro, TACAN readout, and repeat every few seconds. Or some variant of that. Of course, with more modern aircraft all this info is given in a single Heads-Up Display, so there's no need to develop and practice your scan. That's been a real loss, since a good scan is invaluable to the fighter pilot on the beach. It allows him to check out a dozen or more honeys at a glance, though experience reminds me that it rarely paid off beyond the checking.
Scissors Out-of-phase maneuvers against an enemy aircraft, where the object as usual is to get to his six. Each A/C turns into the other after each pass, because if you turn away the bandit will be at your six. High-speed scissors are nose down, where the key is pulling more G than the bad guy. The approach of the deck will eventually decide the exercise. Slow-speed scissors are nose-high, where the object is to out-slow the opponent, wallowing into the six o'clock position. (This maneuver, like most fighter tactics, operates at the edge of the flight envelope: It was out of a slow-speed scissors that I stalled and departed an F-8 once, as a fleet trainee pilot, over an overcast and spun into it at 11,000 feet. The "S.O.P." said eject at 10,000 feet if you're spinning, and the instructor pilot (in the opposing A/C) yelled "eject" over the radio. I hung on, though - out of inertia - and pulled out under the overcast, just a couple of thousand feet above a residential area. Turned out we were over some L.A. suburb, though we were supposed to be in a "restricted area" 50 miles out to sea. Well...boys will be boys. That was almost a very ugly day.)
ScratchingLike "marking", an alternative word for "conning". Let the skywriters leave their address in the sky. It's rarely in a fighter pilot's interest to leave a trail, so members of a flight alert each other if one gets into "the cons". Often it's just a matter of adjusting your elevation a few feet, usually down. [Thanks to Kent (Eagle) Ewing for the suggestion.]
SectionA flight of two aircraft. May operate as an independent flight, or as a part of a four-plane division. In a division, the section leader flies as No.3, and his wingman is No.4. The section leader is responsible for the section's position within the division. The two-plane section is a great tactical tool. See for example "Loose deuce."
Shell (out)To eject from the aircraft: "Ablaze like a Roman candle, he shelled out over Hanoi."
Sidewinder'Winder, for short. The AIM-9C missile, the most successful and reliable air-to-air missile made. This heat-seeking (IR) missile is named for its odd helical flight path, reminiscent of the motion of the "Sidewinder" rattlesnake of the western U.S. deserts. The odd flight path comes from a built-in perennial overshoot of the heat source: the missile analyzes the change in IR intensity from its nutating seeker head, and corrects toward the source as it senses the intensity decreasing, i.e., it has just passed through the source. This results in the screw-like flight path around a pure pursuit curve. (Simple in concept, but not in manufacture. The Soviets acquired the plans for the Sidewinder but were unable to copy it because of the tolerances required in its ball bearings.) The 'Winder is fired from 1/2 mile to a mile aft of the bandit, and can be fired in a high-G environment, in response to a "growl" in the pilot's head set. The missile is not expected to hit the target; rather, when abeam the target a magnetic proximity fuse explodes an "expanding rod" warhead, which expands in a ring normal to the missile's path and cuts through the target A/C. It isn't pretty, of course, but effective. Damage is usually to the rear half of the target, often with a chance for the pilot to eject. (There are also radar versions of the 'Winder, but the original heat seeker's the tactician's bread and butter.)
Sierra The letter "S" in radio comm. In designations of aircraft, carriers, and squadrons, "S" indicates an anti-submarine role. So the S-3 Viking is an anti-sub A/C, and CVS-12 ("USS Hornet") is an anti-sub carrier (see that for detail). But see "SH" for "sierra"'s most prominent use.
SixNirvana or Hades, depending on whose six. If the enemy's at your six (o'clock, of course, but "six" is so special that no one says "six o'clock") you're in deep doo. Conversely, if you're at his six you're in fighter pilot heaven. Either way, someone's had it.
Socked inWOXOF.
S.O.P."Standard Operating Procedures." One of the world's few bureaucratic concepts with actual positive value. In Naval Aviation it means air crews follow NATOPS:  maintenance crews do the same job in the same way in every squadron, and in short, you have complete interchangeability of crews, craft, parts, and procedures. (We hear that the worldwide producers of "The Phantom of the Opera" musical stage show operate the same way:  The show plays on a number of stages around the world, and the productions are identical. Each stage set is identical, each performer of a given part plays the part with identical gestures and movements. Every cast member is backed by clones who can appear quickly at any of the worldwide stages and perform the role if needed. The co-players know that the replacement actor will turn and smile in the same way at the same point in the performance. A bit eerie. Perhaps what is a good idea in military utilitarianism loses some charm in the field of art.)
SortieVerb and noun. As a verb it simply means to take off and fly somewhere. But as a noun it comes into its own. A sortie is a single flight by a single aircraft. So what? Well, it's a bean for bean counting, don't you see? Especially when the Air wing is aboard ship, and the squadrons are competing against one another, the Skipper gets obsessed with the "Sortie War." We must fly more sorties than the other squadrons, because the Skipper's promotion is on the line. In the heat of this battle the distinction between "up" and "down" aircraft can easily get blurred. But heck, it's only a little unsafe.
Soup"In the soup" = In the clouds, flying on instruments. (For really bad soup, see WOXOF.) A lot changes when you don't have a visual horizon. Navy pilots fly a special ("instrument parade") formation in the soup and at night, both as normal procedure and to bring an aircraft with failed radios down for a safe landing. Communication is typically via hand and head signals. Flying a wingman position in the soup leaves you without a clue as to your spatial orientation (because you can't take your eyes off the leader to check your instruments), and when you break out below the clouds you're as often as not convinced the air field or carrier is in a 30° bank. It's not. See Vertigo.
Speed brakeThe official term for the 'boards', which see.
SquadronThe essential unit of naval aviation. The squadron operates as one of four or five units within an Air Wing. The squadron is headed by the Skipper, a Commander who typically advances from having held the Executive Officer position in the squadron during the previous carrier cruise. The squadron may have 15-18 aircraft, roughly the same number of pilots, and aircrew and other personnel totaling 150-200. All in all, squadron life aboard is one of cameraderie among the pilots, brought on in part by having common targets for bitching: The Navy, the cruise, the ship, the schedule, the food, the water, the Skipper ...
SquawkYou're flying along, fat, dumb, and happy, when the radar controller interrupts your reverie with "Gruesome Four, squawk code ..." (Here I naturally can't reveal the secret codes; knowing them, your life might be in danger.) What the controller means is, set the secret code on the little black box on your control console, and push the "squawk" button. Doing this makes something happen on his radar screen that makes him happy. And if the secret code is correct, they don't have to shoot you down. The black box in question (I'll reveal only this much) is a transmitter called a "transponder", or, by DOD, "IFF", which conveniently tells both the friendly controller and the enemy just who and where you are.
Stall When the airflow over a wing becomes turbulent (the smooth 'boundary layer' flow separates from the wing) as a result of too great an angle of attack, the wing will stall, or lose the ability to provide lift. This can happen at any speed by pulling G's - which increases the angle of attack - in excess of what the wing will sustain at the given altitude and speed, though it's usually a slow-speed phenomenon. Fighter pilots, who operate tactically in slow speed environments where they still need to maneuver the aircraft vigorously, are routinely on the edge of stalling. In a fighter a stall often results in a violent snap "departure" rather than the gentle, predictable spin common in light plane stalls. Inevitably, the term becomes part of the pilot's off-duty lingo as well: "Honey, your paté is great, but I'm about to stall here." And in the event that an aviator feels he's had enough to drink in the O-Club ... but that's too unlikely to contemplate. My experience is he won't talk about stalling. He'll just stall. And crash.
State You're inbound to the boat, and Approach Control contacts you: "Gruesome Two, say your state." What should you reply? If you answer "Kentucky" you're on some other wavelength. "State" means one thing in the air: "Fuel state", that is, "How much fuel do you have?" You answer, reporting your fuel state in thousands of pounds: "State 3.5", meaning "I have 3,500 pounds of fuel." (The reason we measure the fuel by weight - yes, I know it should be by mass [like Europeans who measure in "kilos"] and "pounds" is a measure of force, you don't need to write me about it - rather than by volume is that the volume of a liquid, say fuel, varies with temperature and pressure, but the mass [again, "weight" is a surrogate] remains constant, so it's a more accurate measure of how much energy you really have in the fuel tank.)
Stick The control stick in an airplane, which in addition to allowing control of pitch and roll is usually tastefully accessorized with such items as a trigger, a "pickle" button, trim controls, etc. Back in the day . . . the stick was connected by cables and pulleys directly to the flight controls (ailerons and elevator), so as the aircraft flew faster and the aerodynamic pressures on the flight surfaces increased, the pressure needed to move the stick also increased. This elementary but reliable system was used in military aircraft as recent as the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk and the Russian MiG 21, and still functions well in modern light planes. But moving a modern jet aircraft by cables would require the strength of Hercules, so we don't use cable controls any longer. The modern ("Fly-by-wire") system yields no physical feedback from control surfaces to the stick, so computer-calculated artificial "feel" adds resistance to stick movements proportional to the dynamic forces on the control surfaces, to fool the pilot into thinking that all is still as it was, back in the day . . .
And then there's the flesh-and-bones "Stick".
Strike 1. An aircraft damaged beyond repair is struck from the inventory. The A/C is a "strike."
2. A coordinated attack by a number of aircraft. See "Alpha strike."
Sucked In formation flying, if a wingman is aft of his proper position, he's said to be "sucked." (No joke.) How many naval aviator dads haven't turned to their lagging child on a family walk with, "Catch up, Billy, you're sucked!" (See "acute" for the opposite formation anomaly.)
TACAN "Tactical Aid to Navigation" radio gear. This great piece of navigation equipment gives the pilot exact direction and (slant) distance to the selected TACAN transmitter. Every military airfield and carrier has a TACAN transmitter operating on an assigned channel, as do commercial airfields and hundreds of locations which define Airways.
TacticsFormally "Air Combat Maneuvering" (ACM), informally "hassling". The nitty-gritty of fighter-piloting. This is fighter pilot against fighter pilot. Mano a mano. One-on-one, two-on-two, or other kinky configurations. It's what the fighter business is all about: Deliver the weapon and neutralize the airborne enemy. Just like racers live for racing, fighter pilots live for tactics. The weapons have advanced, but the better pilot will still win most of the time. The other times, of course, he gets shot down.
Tally-ho Or just "Tally": "I have the bogey in sight," as in "Tally two bogeys at 9 o'clock level," or "Hey, Jim, you got a tally on that babe at your three?"
Tango1. The letter "T" in radio comm. Prominently used in such favorite Navy expressions as "Tango Sierra." ("Tough Sh*t," of course, for the uninitiated.)
2. In aircraft and squadron designations, the letter "T" indicates a training role. Thus the T-2 is a trainer A/C. (Some fleet A/C, say the A-4, have a 2-seat trainer version, in this case the TA-4.) Training squadrons have designations as VT-24 (the "V" means "fixed-wing aircraft").
Tanker Airborne refueling is critical for naval aviation. The naval "tanker" aircraft needs to operate from a carrier, and to date tankers have been specialized versions of naval attack or utility aircraft, carrying the special designation "K" before the a/c designator. (The Navy has never designed a purpose-built tanker.) Traditional tankers were the KA3-Skywarrior and the A-4 Skyhawk (external tanks only), later supplanted by the KA-6 Intruder and the KS-3 Viking. With the recent retirement of the Vikings, the F/A-18F SuperHornet has been outfitted with buddy stores, but this is surely an interim measure, and an inefficient use of a top notch fighter. (The Navy seems to have dropped the ball on their tanker needs.) At right, a KS-3 Viking tanker, with a good view of the receiver's in-flight refueling probe fitting into the basket. The receiving a/c happens to be another S-3.
TarCAP "Target Combat Air Patrol."  See "CAP".
Tarmac Or "macadam": Loosely, the A/C parking area of an air field, or any paved area of the field off the runways and taxiways. Named for the patented bituminous tar and crushed stone mix originally used for such paving, and originally known as "tarmacadam" after its inventor. (In Britain, still - and correctly - a common term for "asphalt.")
A graphic term for a "SAM" - a Surface-to-air missile.
Thrust Jet engines aren't rated by horsepower, but by pounds of thrust, which is a direct measure of force. The direction of the resultant force is usually (except for strange birds like helicopters and Harriers) axial and directed forward. In other words, it conveniently makes the A/C move forward, overcoming drag. A fighter pilot can never have too much thrust. Light the afterburner for max thrust.
"Top Gun" 1.  Or "Navy Fighter Weapons School." A much bally-hoo'ed program that began as a remedial quick fix to turn F-4 interceptor pilots into fighter pilots. The Pentagon dogma of air-to-air warfare from the mid '50s to the mid '60s held that the days of dogfighting were over. Air-to-air in the future would mean firing missiles at one another at a great distance. While the design of the F-8 Crusader preceded this Pentagon silliness, the F-4 Phantom program bore the brunt of it. While F-8 pilot training centered around close-in air-to-air combat tactics, the Phantom pilots learned essentially no dogfighting tactics. As soon as the Viet Nam war began, what had been obvious to fighter pilots became so clear that even the brass could grasp it: You needed visual ID to engage an enemy A/C, which meant close-in dogfighting. Recognizing finally that the F-4 pilots needed retraining, the Navy looked partly to the Crusader tactical training program for help, transitioning a number of F-8 pilots from the VF-124 "Crusader College" to Phantoms to instruct F-4 pilots in air-to-air tactics. The short remedial course in tactics established for the Phantom pilots in 1969 gradually grew and was given the impressive title "Navy Fighter Weapons School", known braggadociously by the Phantom community as "Top Gun". By the end of the war the Navy Phantom pilots had risen to be the second-best fighter pilots in the Navy, with a kill ratio second only to the F-8 'Sader jocks. A great achievement indeed.
2.  One of the silliest movies ever made, ostensibly about the above, in which naval aviators are portrayed as retarded teens, and where just about everything the Tom Cruise character does in the air would have resulted in an immediate Field Board.
TractorWhat a demeaning task for a combat aircraft: Towing the gunnery practice banner. Bad enough even if it weren't for the express purpose of getting shot at. (Check those links if you want to know more. I don't want to talk about it.)
TransponderThe transmitter that sends automatic coded ID info to radar operators. See "IFF" and "Squawk".
TriggerJust like a rifle trigger, the trigger on the stick fires the aircraft's guns and/or missiles.
TrimThe trim control is usually on the stick, operated by the thumb. Trimming adjusts the position of the flight surfaces to hold straight and level flight, without changing the neutral position of the stick.
This is one of those stunts - like an aileron roll off the catapult - that a young aviator with more balls than brains is just aching to pull off. You come screaming into the break (check that link) at the carrier or air field, and not wanting to do a standard old break roll to the left, 'cause you're pretty special, you break at max roll rate 270 or more degrees to the right, which theoretically leaves you in a left bank. Then you pull Gs for all you're worth and voilà! you're set up on the downwind leg, ready for landing. Only thing is, this is a stunt that takes practice, and you don't have any practice. But you're pretty special, so it should work. So when your head bounces off the canopy sides in the hard roll, and you roll out after only 230 degrees of roll 'cause you can't focus your eyes and it all takes a half second, and you pull Gs for all you're worth, the airplane will describe an elegant and rapid arc directly into a brand new hole in the ground. Well, the t/u break has certainly been performed successfully, but the rate of fatal failure by young studs is such that it has for practical purposes been banned. No matter, it's a given that some young hot-shot future fighter pilot will try it again, with the above very expensive result.
You've heard the phrase; high-G aviation is where it comes from. Like other body parts, blood moves in one direction in response to gravity: toward your feet. This is not good for the brain. The sense that's first affected by loss of blood to the brain in a high-G environment is the sense the pilot needs most: Vision. As the pilot increases the G loading, the oxygen level in the brain drops, and peripheral vision begins to contract. In a sustained high-G turn, the circular area of effective sight continues to reduce, until the pilot only has a small "tunnel" of vision left. He can see straight ahead, but that's it. His peripheral vision will return within seconds after he relaxes the G loading. For the consequences of too-high G loading, see "grey-out" and "black-out." For how we combat these effects, see "G-suit."
U.A.V."Unmanned Aerial Vehicle." Will this remote-controlled "toy" be the end of fighter piloting? Quite likely. Fighter pilots are more and more having to face up to the fact that their craft, like that of knights on horseback of past centuries, is a temporary phenomenon. UAVs, which so far have been specialized for reconnaissance or air-to-ground weapons delivery (read: "bombing"), will in the future carry super-sophisticated air-to-air weapons. Directed by satellites, they will be able to clear whole sectors of enemy aircraft. And if the UAV experience to date is an indication, they'll from time to time shoot down someone who wasn't supposed to be shot down. But hey, that's the price of "progress". . .
UndercastAn overcast seen from above.
Uniform 1. The letter "U" in radio comm. It's used in some aircraft designations to indicate "utility," as in the "HU" designations of utility helicopters. "Utility squadrons" were formerly known as "VU" squadrons. Those are now designated "composite" squadrons, and the former VU-7, for example, is now VC-7.
2. See "Uni" and "Uniform of the day" for the stuff you wear.
Up (status)An aircraft in safe flyable condition. Yeah, right. See "Down."
UpwindSimply the direction facing the wind, or a location in that direction: "Let's find another table. That cigar smoker is upwind of us." Aircraft like to land and take off upwind, i.e., against the wind.
VertigoSpatial disorientation. The great hazard of instrument flying. Your body may tell you you're in a nose-down left turn. Your instruments say you're straight and level. Believe your instruments. Seat-of-the-pants flying doesn't work in the soup.
VFR Visual Flight Rules. Clear weather. Used adjectivally, as in "We were VFR the whole way." If it's not VFR, it's IFR. Now, though VFR/IFR can describe the weather, the terms really describe the flying rules imposed by FAA in different situations or locations. For example: Used to be (through the 1960's) that flying in fair weather below 24,000 feet in the U.S. was totally VFR. The rule for collision avoidance was "see and be seen." The usual way for a flight out of, say, NAS Miramar at San Diego to return to base was to follow (approximately) the VFR approach corridors, calling the Initial Point to the tower, and screaming down the runway for the break at some convenient speed, usually over 400 knots. You looked out for airliners and avoided them visually. Then, in the early '70s, FAA restricted flight below 10,000 feet to a max speed of 250 knots. (Yours truly and other F-8 Crusader pilots at the time found this ludicrous because at 250 knots the 'Sader is barely staggering along, with little maneuvering ability to avoid traffic, so there seemed to be a loss of safety in the slow airspeed.) FAA then proceeded to lower the "Area of Positive Control" (where VFR flight is not allowed) from 24,000 to 18,000 feet, and to include low-altitude metropolitan areas as positive control areas. By the end of the '70s, you could hardly fly VFR anywhere anymore. Most military flights since then have operated like airliners. Gone is the Sierra Hotel break. Gone is freedom.
Victor 1. The letter "V" in radio comm.
2. Designation fixed-wing aircraft, as in a fighter squadron, e.g., VF-53.
3. Designating low altitude airways, below 18,000', used mainly by prop planes, e.g., V-22 ("Victor 22").
The standard air-to-air/air-to-ground machine gun found on modern fighters and attack aircraft, helicopter gunships, etc. The Vulcan is an improved "Gatling" type gun, six-barrel, electrically or pneumatically driven. The current M61 type Vulcan fires around 100 rounds per second. (That's a lot of high-explosive lead.) This gun will really tear up an enemy aircraft, and it's a real attention-getter for enemy ground troops.
Walkdown Or: "FOD" walkdown. Whether ashore or aboard the carrier, a sizeable crew gathers well before flight ops to walk the deck or the flight line, eyes down, searching for that stray nut, bolt, rock, paper cup, or whatever else could be sucked up into a jet engine. The simple FOD walkdown has saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of aircraft repair. We wouldn't be surprised to learn that whoever suggested it got a $50 bonus for the idea.
Whiskey The letter "W" in radio comm.
"Wilco" Radio transmission for "Will Comply". Not much used. Normally the simple acknowledging "Roger" suffices, but hell, if you want to be decisive, Wilco's your word. If you ever hear "Roger, Wilco" in a B movie, you now have something to sneer at: It's one or the other. And if you hear, "Roger Wilco Over and Out," leave the flick.
Winder The Sidewinder air-to-air missile.
"Window" Used as a radio signal to activate chaff when being painted by enemy radar. ("Window" was the original British code word for the chaff invention itself, during the second World War.)
Most carrier-based aircraft can fold their wings hydraulically to save space on the deck. (Some, like the S-3 Viking, even fold the tail fin.) It's a brilliant idea, though it adds weight to the wing, not to mention new hazards: More than one aviator has tried to take off with the wings still folded. Some a/c will actually fly and can be landed with the wings folded, but in most you'll wind up in the swamp off the end of the runway. On a normal touchdown on the carrier you raise the hook, taxi out of the wires, and fold the wings in quick sequence, each on a signal from a yellow shirt. (On deck you activate nothing without a signal from a yellow shirt.) The F-8 Crusader with wings folded is illustrated to the right.Wing fold
"Wingie" = Wingman
Without getting technical, in normal 1 G (straight & level) flight this refers to the weight of the aircraft divided by the effective lifting surface. (This used to be a simple calculation (wing area only), but in modern A/C the airframe body may also provide significant lift.) This is a pretty good measure of an aircraft's power-off (or low power) gliding ability (swept-wing jets have a notoriously high wing loading, and basically fall from the sky; they just don't glide worth a damn), and for fighters it has been a traditional measure of turning ability, which is critical in a "dogfighter." However, greater engine power can overcome the disadvantage of high wing loading to yield a tighter turn radius, because if you're underpowered the drag induced by the G-loading will slow the aircraft in the turn, which results in less G available and lessened ability to turn.
Wingman In a multi-aircraft flight, everyone but the flight leader. There's a division of authority between the flight leader and his wingmen: Flight leader 100%, Wingmen zero. Yet being a good wingman is demanding and is critical to the mission. The flight lead is like a dog walker with one or more dogs on leash. If you're a bad dog you can really mess up his walk. (It should be said that in a large flight there may be several divisions, each of which has a division leader and a section leader. These have responsibilities, but are still following the orders of the flight leader.)
W0X0F Weather report:"Ceiling indefinite, vertical visibility zero, sky obscured, horizontal visibility zero, fog." (Pronounced like it looks: "woxoff.") You're not getting me up in that.
X-ray The letter "X" in radio comm.
Yankee The letter "Y" in radio comm. And of course "Yankee Station," the carrier task force's operating area off North Viet Nam which figured heavily in the U.S.Navy's air involvement in the Viet Nam war.
Shorthand in radio communication for "Do the following immediately". Mostly used by shipboard air controllers in such phrases as, "Your signal Bingo", "Your signal Charlie", or "Your signal Delta". (Your signal is obviously "follow those links" if you want to know what it all means.)
Zero G The weightlessness of space travel can occur in fighter aircraft too, but it's usually a transitory state, as when pushing the nose over from a climb to get to a nose-down attitude for descent. If you give the stick a little more forward push you'll get negative G's going over the top. (This is a sluggish process, and the fighter pilot is much more likely to roll the aircraft over and pull positive G to get the nose down, then roll upright again. But once the nose is down, if you're high and slow in a "dogfight," the best way to gain speed is to "unload" the aircraft to zero G and "stroke" the burner for a few seconds, since the aircraft will accelerate better without the G-loading, which causes drag.) A major problem with the weightless (zero G) flight environment is that liquid fuel pelletizes and doesn't behave normally in the fuel system. An aircraft's flight restrictions may include a time limit on operating at zero G, perhaps just a few seconds. (Another problem occurs if you've got someone with you in the aircraft, like a GIB. It's tough enough for the guy to hang on with a pilot who's manhandling a fighter through rapid and unexpected rolls and G loads. You throw a few zero or negative G moments into the mix and you're likely to have the GIB's latest meal raining all over you.)
Zero/zero A rocket-powered ejection seat with the capability to safely eject the aircrew from zero altitude and zero airspeed. Older, non-rocket assisted ejection seats required both a minimum altitude and airspeed to safely eject, since otherwise the seat wouldn't reach a high enough altitude for the parachute to deploy and slow the user before ground impact. (Instead, the ground would slow the user at impact.)
Zulu 1. The letter "Z" in radio comm.
2. "Zulu time"; also known as "GMT" (Greenwich Mean Time), or "Universal Time." It's not clear how London won the right to set the world's time, but the U.S. Navy's onboard, and reckons time by "Zulu." To make it perfectly clear, when it's 2 p.m. in San Diego the Navy calls it 2200Z unless it's daylight savings time, when the Navy calls it 2300Z. Because that's the (standard) time it is in London. Get it?

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The Pilot And Friends


Ace A fighter pilot who has shot down five aircraft, preferably the enemy. Less formally used to describe any pilot with a real or imagined reputation as a Stick, including most frequently oneself.
Acey-deucey Or "ace-deuce" to cognoscenti. Backgammon as played by sailors. The basic difference is that the game starts with no pieces on the board, and the dice are thrown in a dice chute screwed down to the playing table, as is the board. The board, of course, has a wooden lip around to prevent the pieces from sliding onto the deck when the ship rolls. It's considered unsporting to use any subtle strategy in "ace-deuce," a tradition perhaps stemming from the pieces' disinclination to stay in place, much like Alice's croquet equipment.
ACRAC In days gone by, the "Aviation Cadets' Recreation and Athletic Club" at the Naval Air Training Command's NAS Pensacola, Florida. The ACRAC offered the lowest legal form of entertainment, and prepared budding Naval Officers for the onslaught of young women of adaptable morals. Apparently some offended Admiral's wife put a stop to this aspect of budding Naval Officers' training. So now they go out in the world unprepared... Pray for them.
ACRAC Annie Generic term for female groupies congregating around Naval Air training bases. See ACRAC.
Admin When a carrier pulls into a foreign port, the crew gets liberty. If the boat will be in port for more than a couple of days, a squadron's gentlemen officers need a place ashore to sleep off a drunk, or whatever. A J.O. is given the responsibility to rent an apartment (an "admin") for the in-port period. A most useful custom.
A.I.O."Air Intelligence Officer." Hm. They pass on to the flight crews what the politicians want the crews to think is true. At sea they entertain with recognition slide shows.
AiredaleSure, it's a terrier, but in the Navy it means a member of the aviation community, officer or enlisted. Usually used by the non-flying Navy, and not always with flattering intent.
All handsNavy talk for "everybody". But the order, "All hands on deck!", beloved by movie script writers, is much less common in real life.
A.O.M."All Officers Meeting." Some squadron skippers are meeting-addicted and have an AOM every morning (actually not a bad custom during heavy flight ops), where everyone gets told to straighten out what they messed up the day before, etc...  Some skippers are more relaxed (or lethargic) and call an AOM once a week. An unscheduled AOM, as in "All officers to the ready room in 15 minutes!" always means bad news.
A.P.M."All Pilots Meeting." Just what it says: a meeting of all the squadron pilots. Often called to straighten out some aviatin' procedure after a DS nugget has tried to exterminate himself.
AviateSlang for what an aviator does (in the air).
AviatorNaval Aviator, which see. A pretty special person. Here's someone's summary of the type: "The average Navy pilot, despite the sometimes swaggering exterior, is very much capable of such feelings as love, affection, intimacy, and caring. Of course, these feelings rarely involve anyone else."
Basket leaveA special kind of leave: You fill out your leave request, give it to the skipper and go on leave. And if you're not back when you promised, he'll probably charge you the leave. But if you are, the papers go in the waste basket. Though you'll never hear a Navy man say "waste basket" or anything resembling it. It's the sh*tcan.
Belay"Belay my last!" means "Never mind..." or "I was wrong about that but don't actually want to say so."
Blackshoe A "blackshoe" is anyone in the Navy, other than aviators. Black shoes are standard Navy uniform. Aviators, however, wear brown shoes. Two worlds with an uneasy truce. In this forum "brownshoes" are naturally considered superior human beings. (If you wonder about the reason for this important distinction, it's to be found in physiology: Back in the day, you see, when men were men etc, aviators flew wearing their regular uniforms with black shoes. Now, aviating back then could literally scare the sh*t out of you, and it didn't take long before someone figured out that wearing shoes that were already brown would avoid a lot of repolishing.)
BlouseThe uniform coat is not a coat, it's a "blouse". On the other hand, the lower garment is always "trousers" in the military, never "pants", because "only girls wear pants" as we're told by drill sergeants in "Pre-flite". Go figure.
BluesThe Blues flying the FA-18 Hornet1. The Blue Angels; the world's standard-setting jet flying team (Navy Demonstration Team). The "Blues" is a regular Navy squadron, and the team's pilots are chosen from applicants among regular naval aviators for a two year tour of duty. The team of six pilots traditionally includes at least one U.S. Marine Corps aviator. They currently fly the F/A-18 Hornet.

2. The "dress blues" uniform, worn for special events during the winter season. (See "Whites.")

Boat schoolAn irreverent term for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD, which has provided most of the Navy's rug rank officers for a couple of hundred years. Graduates are recognized by a graduation ring the size of a practice bomb.
BoondoggleA useless and often costly exercise or project. Not just a Navy term, of course, but it's used constantly in the Navy because the brass constantly come up with new boondoggles. (See "Leapex" for a variation.)
B.O.Q The "Bachelor Officers' Quarters", fondly remembered as the B.O.Q., or just the "Q", is, sadly, an endangered and vanishing species at military bases. They were never much to look at: a blockhouse with all the amenities of a Motel-6 without TV or Coke machine, attended (if at all) by a single steward. But it was usually close to the O-club (another dying institution), and you could arrive in your sweaty flight suit on an R.O.N. without apologizing for your appearance. The Q's have been largely replaced by more upscale, Holiday Inn-looking, "Family Traveler Services Facilities" or some such, where I think you have to clean up before you arrive. I suspect the change has to do with Admirals' wives, who acquire enormous quiet power:
(She remembers well when hubby, as a young aviator, used to R.O.N. at airbases scattered across the country, spending the night in those unsupervised B.O.Q.'s, where anyone could come and go without being noticed. . . and where who-knows-what may have been going on . . . "Time to get rid of those old Q's!...")
Actually - and you heard it here first - most major Navy decisions have been made by Admirals' wives.  There's a Ph.D. dissertation in Military History just waiting to be written!
Brass The upper levels of the Navy's officer corps. Admirals, generally. They walk on eggshells because their jobs are politically connected. For some, it's a long time since they had much to do with the workaday Navy, and it shows.
Bravo Zulu Bravo ZuluNavy code for "Well Done!" or "Attaboy". Often (perhaps not often enough) appended at the end of a written message from a senior to a junior officer, as a sign of appreciation. The term comes from the maritime flag code, where flags are hoisted above each other on a mast to give set meanings: The combination of the "Bravo" (top flag in the illustration) and "Zulu" flags together carry the meaning "well done". (For those who are totally at sea: The flags are named for letters in the alphabet - Bravo for "B" etc - but have complex meanings in various combinations. It's not like the Bravo flag means "well" and the Zulu flag means "done"!)
Brownnose Often as a gerund: brownnosing. (We've opted for two "n's," though when said or written in anger or derision, as it often is, the terser form "brownose" must also be acceptable.) The time-honored practice of obsequious, toadying pleasing of the boss at any cost. It's been said the fundamental difference between brownnosing and ass-kissing is merely depth perception. 'Nuff said. (For a quick guide, though, see "Fitness report.")
BrownshoeSee Blackshoe. Officers in the Naval Aviation community (pilots and their hangers-on) wear brown uniform shoes. The rest of the Navy wear black shoes. This distinction is very important. Just ask any of them. "Brownshoe" is naturally a term of opprobrium in the blackshoe community (something about bowel control) but a badge of honor among aviators.
Callsign Each aviator has a chosen callsign, an echo from times past, that he theoretically uses for radio calls. The Navy brass have by now decided that that won't do, it's too cool and not bureaucratic enough; so pilots rarely get to use their personal callsigns. But every now and then, mostly on training hops, the flight lead gets to call the flight by his callsign. So if I'm leading a flight, I'm Viking one, and the rest of the flight members have the call signs Viking two, three, etc. But - and may this tradition never die - aviators call each other by callsign as often as by name. Some guys are their callsigns; they're never called by anything else. Why, I remember ... Carl was always just Droopy, and others who I never called by anything but their callsigns are Ace, Wonder, Rattler, Gearbox, Spanky, Cobra, Hoser, Snuffy, Moon, Lobo, Ike, Moose, BlackJack, BrownBear, Snake, Taco, Hotdog... etc. If you're wondering what inspires these callsigns - is it a personality trait, a hobby, a personal peccadillo, a take-off on the name - well, sure, it can be any of these or just a moment's inspiration - often a "friend's" inspiration. And most of 'em are chosen while totally faced. In any case, it's your handle, and you're stuck with it.

Here's a small sample of Naval Aviator (that means Navy and Marine pilots) callsigns, in no particular order, from the F-8 Crusader community of the 1960s and '70s. Many of these, like my own, have been used repeatedly, and of course there are hundreds of others in use.
(All of these aviators, I'm glad to say - except a few, I'm sorry to say - are still with us):

Some Naval Aviator callsigns:
Falcon Hobo Buzzard Cracker Bear Black Truck Fang Brillo
Rookie Yogi Ripper Cowboy Rusty Buckeye Tiger Swan Redneck
Easy Hunjak Flaps Folly Blue Blivet Pork Bad Apollo
Lizard Saber Bullet Warbucks Bean Jock Hounddog Boomer Master
MadDog Apache BlackAl Beamer HoodShooter Taco Rapid Smoke
Spanky Smooth Root ScorpionRed SweetPea Rebel Jonas Admiral
Hoser Ginmill Box Bugger Racer Dude Snuffy Lobo Hotdog
Cobra MickeyDanse Frog Stoney Flips Ajax Katah Gaucho
ClamJaundice Rabbit Eagle Cajun Xandy Spider Razor Mofak
Chance Nickle Droopy Amos Junior Gunner Hammer DiggerStinger
Yank Tuna Crazyhorse Balls Gator Combat ShadowFokker Mustang
Lascar Taz FatDog Checker Willy Lightnin'Fox Mongoose Coffee
DeputyDawg PeachesDork Aggie SatanReb EasyEd Circus Gopher
Troll Ike Dallas KismetCossack Catfish Fearless LuckyJose Fluid
ColdCat Bones Bulldog Pierre Tomcat Muon Flavius Scorch Oompah
Bolt Shoe Gearbox Senator Grump Blackjack Twigs Empire Dog
RamHozay Gridley GrowlerClubLeaf Monk Pointer Buster Rip
Diamond Hubie Menace Swampfox Stud Mo Swede SpikeDuke
PigPen Zot Blackie Thunder Gypsy Skate SimianBadger Skipper
Devil Fire Mallard Zeke Action Pineapple Fireball Rocky Raider
Checkmate Banshee Weasel Tank TriggerCosmo Ski Florida SilverFox
B2 Superheat HawkTex Killer Wonder Viking Moon Turtle
Ribbit FatsDirtbag Klondike Runway Hook Buddha Slammer Mutton
BusterMerlin Laser Deacon Poncho Lash Nomad Bwana Judge
Jammer Toad Rocks Zorro Attila Grumpy Lancer RatchetHeadHook
CityDesk Dutch Sam NeverMiss Satch Masher Muskrat Blade Dragon
Tigger Snake Mac Maverick Puke Rock Viva Sweet Zap
Bubba DancingBear Quiet Yankee Fighter Stoneface Magic Mugs Trees
TennesseeStud Baron Stag Surf Moose Beto IronMike Bomb Torch
Wedge Tarzan OB StreakJet Jungle Gas Tuck Redeye
Beeper Hoss Fubar Humbug Toro Barfly Gun MaxGross Plaster
Shark Padre Panther Speedster Fuji HotRod Lurch Reef CorkTip
Cougar Sheepdog Quaker Ice JollyGreen Worm Poker Nugget Slick
Reptile Maggot Animal Ace Papi SickAss FastEddy Flash GrayWolf
Speedy Vampire Shaker Curly Bat Playboy RenoWaltzer Zombie
Chella WhiteDove Hornet Snail Green Crush Locust Orange Jeep
Finbar Striker Tidbit Spook T-square Nodoz Jinx Terrible Thunder
Cokeman Beaver Gray YumaBruin Wags Crane BabyHuey Organizer
Pagan Wahoo Mole Bandit Whip Garbonza BlackCloud Wild Hotfoot
Rat Bingo Brucelo Frito Sapphire Basic Bluto Hummer Rowdy
Wizard Sader Mako Rattler BrownBear Pnuts Gasm Varmint Track

And these are just a few of my close friends!

"Captain" A Navy Captain is not to be confused with landlubber captains, such as in the Army, Air Force, or Marines – these are equivalent to a Navy Lieutenant. "Captain" (Capt) is the sixth naval officer rank (O-6), ranking above Commander (Cdr) and below Admiral (Adm). A Captain may have command of a major land installation, such as an air or naval base, or a capital ship, such as an aircraft carrier (if an aviator), or may have an admininistrative billet. Before being given command of an aircraft carrier, a Captain will have commanded a "deep draft" ship such as an oiler or supply ship (seems like a good idea, though on the carrier the Captain has plenty of experienced ship's company officers to steer him straight). The skipper of any Navy ship is generally addressed as "captain" in the context of his ship, whatever his actual rank. And he is in fact the captain of his ship.
We don't mean a landing on a carrier, though that's obviously a carrier landing. (See this link for that.) No, this exercise often takes place in an O-Club, or in a local bar far, far away from U.S. shores. Being totally faced, one of the nation's finest is motivated to reproduce an actual carrier landing sans aircraft. Wobbling to his feet, staring bleary-eyed down the long table (or two) where his comrades equally blearily await the adventure, the star aviator makes his ball call, gesticulates to indicate dirtying the aircraft, and in a burst of besotted bravado speeds on uneasy legs toward the "landing area." A head-first leap - a bellyflop amidst glasses and bottles - a noiséd slide amidst the breaking glassware, and either a successful trap (he stops on the table) or an ignominious dribbling off the end. In any case, he's done it; he's The Man. (Thinking back, we - the besotted J.O.'s - never could understand why local officers' wives, out for a romantic dinner at the Club, would object to such innocent expressions of youthful enthusiasm; but they did, and our welcome somehow quickly wore thin at various O-Clubs.)
Chief Chief Petty Officer. It's the enlisted ranks that keep the Navy runnning, and it's the chiefs, the top enlisted ranks (E7-E9), that literally make it run. While each Navy shop or squadron division or unit is nominally headed by an officer, the chief who runs the shop is the day-to-day leader. He came through the ranks, has technical expertise, and has the confidence of his men in a way the officer assigned above him can rarely achieve. (This is doubly true in the aviation community, where the officer, if a pilot, is occupied with his flying duties - which the Navy calls "collateral duty.") One of the first things a nugget officer has to learn is to give his chief deference and respect. A martinet attitude by a junior officer toward his chief will tarnish the young officer's reputation and probably result in an instructional session with the C.O.  Navy Chiefs provide essential leadership and continuity in organizations, and not enough good can be said of them.
C.O. Commanding Officer of a facility, ship, or squadron. In a Navy air squadron, usually a fairly senior Commander (CDR). A squadron C.O. is normally addressed as "Skipper." The C.O. of a ship is called "Captain," no matter what his actual rank.
Collateral duty It grates on naval aviators that their flying duties are labeled "collateral duty" by the Navy. Their primary duty is considered to be whatever organizational assignment they have in the squadron, e.g., personnel officer, ordnance officer, etc. The aviators usually figure they've signed up primarily to shoot down the enemy, and that doing paperwork is slightly less important. But no doubt the Navy knows best. But see Satrapa for an alternate view.
CopeceticFor some reason a favorite word in the Navy. Spelled about eight different ways, they all mean Thumbs Up, OK, Checks out, All in order ... (If it were any better it would be downright hunky-dory.)
CoverThe military word for any kind of uniform hat. You don't wear it indoors, and when you don't wear it you're "uncovered."
Crusader ballA legendary gathering of legendary Crusader pilots, still held every 18 months (or so), to give the still-studly 'Sader drivers a chance to exercise their hands in reconstructions of recalled air battles. (If you know fighter pilots, you'll sense that this is only a "ball" in the sense of "having a ball".) The name is a take-off on the "ball call" that a 'Sader pilot would make on a carrier landing, which includes "...Crusader, ball...". The first "Annual Crusader Ball" was arranged in the '70s, while the F-8 was still active in the U.S. naval and marine reserves. After its retirement in 1976, the party's title was modified to the "Last Crusader Ball." But 'Sader drivers don't quit that easily. The upcoming gathering will be the "27th Last Crusader Ball."
CumshawWhatever little stuff you can pilfer or otherwise get your hands on, like the snacks and yummies you've got stashed in the flight suit.
Date of RankNow Hear This: Nothing in your military experience is likely to be of greater importance to you than this: Your Date of Rank! The services have a simple rule about who's in charge: The senior officer is in charge! Say you're one of a quintet of ensigns assigned to some task (sounds like trouble). One of you has to be in charge. The most senior ensign (that's somewhat like comparing virginity among whores) will be in charge. And that, you see, depends on one thing: the date on which you got your ensign rank. If you have the earlier "date of rank" you're senior and you're in charge. When a new officer checks into the squadron, you first learn his name, and next his date of rank. If he's senior to you he may be the world's greatest Delta Sierra but he'll still be in charge. Ten years later he'll still be in charge. That's the Navy way. (See also "Seniority" and "The Numbers".)
"Dead Bug" 
Not for enemy eyes!

The infamous "DEAD BUG"!

This inane exercise or "game", which is best played in a bar, is testimony to the theory of evolution. We apparently still have some genes left over from the ape. Though I don't think even an ape would ... no, it takes a Marine. In any case, many ex-Marine aviators who no longer have a functioning back can blame it on Dead Bug. It works like this (and this is second-hand information - from Marine officers - I've never had the pleasure myself):

A group of "officers and gentlemen" are gathered in a bar. (Are you paying attention? This is complex.)

At just the right moment (that would be when everyone's dry), inspiration strikes one of the gentlemen, who cries out haute voix: "DEAD BUG!" Now the Marines, who have played this since boot camp, have hair-trigger reflexes when hearing that incontrovertible command, and in about a second-and-a-half they're all flat on their back on the barroom floor, because the last man down naturally buys the round. If he's able to get up. Actually, it's probably the first man down who'll have the most trouble getting up. I regret greatly that I haven't observed this exercise, so you'll have to imagine it for yourself. It would certainly produce some sudden rearrangement of the furniture akin to a minor earthquake. And perhaps the loser also wipes up the blood - I don't know. Nor can I say anything about the best technique, having neither trained nor competed, but I think it must involve kicking both feet forward simultaneously and letting gravity do the rest. That would get you the full benefit of the 32 ft/sec/sec that nature provides. And explain some of the broken backs. Well, there you have it. Clearly this is most fun after a few drinks, when the gentlemen are fully faced, though I suspect the Marines get into the spirit at little expense.

(If you're wondering about the classification of this document, the Pentagon's discovery that an enemy could flatten an entire battalion of Marines with a bullhorn has given them pause. But, like Dr. Ellsberg of "The Pentagon Papers" fame, I just thought you should know. Unlike him, I've warned the enemy off, as you see.)

Delta SierraCode for D/S (Dumb Sh*t), a Naval Aviator's favorite term of endearment.
DemeritsNaval Aviators are born, as it were - naval-aviation-wise - at "Pre-flite" training in NAS Pensacola. And just as with any newborn, what you drill into them at the start will be with them for a lifetime. Take the fear of Demerits. You mess up in Pre-flite, you get demerits. (For an example, see "Word.")  Now the penalties weren't that horrendous, objectively;  it was the fear that did the work. Just the thought of a dressing-down by SSgt Mikitis would make us rush to be the first to comply with whatever order...  Now, decades later, he is still there with his threat of demerits. I feel him rising up when my love asks me to mow the lawn: I mow the lawn. (No disrespect intended to Sgt Mikitis, who was a man's man and a great Marine. Gunnery Sergeant Mike Mikitis was killed in action in Viet Nam on the 27th of January, 1968.)
D.O.R."Drop at Own Request." D.O.R.'s happen at all points in the Navy's flight training program. The student pilot has just had enough, or can't get the hang of it, or realizes he's about to get washed out, or gets wet feet, or whatever. A D.O.R. gets reassigned to ground duties for the duration of his obligated service. He may as well get out then, for he probably won't have much of a Navy career.
Dream sheetAn exercise carried out for their own amusement by the Navy's Bureau of Personnel. Officers are periodically invited to indicate their preferences as to their next duty station or assignment. It's not known just what "BuPers" does with the dream sheets, but pieces of them have reportedly contributed to clogging in the Arlington, VA sewer system.
    "Right or      Left?"
Favorite question of the Pre-flite tailor who measured us for our first uniform. He maintained that he tailored the trousers differently depending on which side the reproductive equipment favored: "Do you dress left or right?" Since none of us knew what he was talking about, he would simply check for himself. Bless him and his needs.
"The Duty"1.  A term that sends shivers down the bravest fighter pilot's spine, since it defines a period of time that he won't be available for flying:  He's been scheduled an all-day watch as a Duty Officer, and has the sinking feeling that a day of his young life is about to be wasted (but then again, several thousand have already, so...).  There are several Duty Officer variants out there; for the fighter pilot it's mainly the Squadron Duty Officer (SDO) watch that terrifies.  See the link for typical illustration.
2.  "The duty" is also shorthand for "the duty runway." As, for example in a flight briefing: "We'll taxi out in order, take the duty together, and launch as a section."
DWEST "Deep Water Environment Survival Training."  The Navy doesn't content itself with the 'SERE' course, where you learn to be tortured. In 'DWEST' you get to discover how close you can get to drowning without actually losing your life. You're dropped into the ocean in full flight gear, as if you've parachuted down, and the game is to try to stay alive. For a realistic touch, the Navy prefers to test your mettle in waters where there actually are sharks. Now the fact is that a number of very fine naval aviators barely made it through the 'Pre-flite' swim test, and haven't given any thought to swimming since then. So for some, the fear factor is real here; he feels he actually could lose his life. (You try swimming in steel-toed flight boots!) Fortunately, Navy trainers are near-by, though, for the fearful, never near enough. But seriously, the first experience of being dragged through the waves by a parachute on a windy day, releasing it, finding and boarding your inflatable raft, and establishing radio contact, is better done before the emergency actually happens than after. All praise to the superb Navy trainers.
Evolution A word peculiar to the military, with no connection to Charles Darwin. An Evolution is an "evolving" exercise, really any exercise. A flight is an evolution. A parade is an evolution. A ball game. A hair cut. A trip to the head. Pretty much anything that has a beginning and an end is an evolution.
F.A.A. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is the tyrant of flying rules in the U.S. Unfortunately this includes military A/C. The FAA has no sense of humor. Don't pimp 'em. (The FAA's reputed motto: "We're not happy till you're not happy." - suggested by Crusader pilot Jim Ryan)
Faced More grammatically, 'faced, short for sh*t-faced, but there's nothing grammatical about the aviator when he's faced. This is the natural state of the young naval aviator (this comes out "nazhal abiator" when you're faced), supported by a steady supply of booze. He sometimes comes out of this state before or during a scheduled flight, but sometimes not. A real aviator's unfazed at being in his faced phase.
Falcon codes The thing is, much of an aviator's usual language is considered unsuitable for over-the-air transmission, so the airborne aviator is limited to officially approved phrases and subjects. This is clearly unfair to aviators, who have a need to express their feelings. But aviators are never at a loss for a solution. The problem is solved by a handy code system - the "Falcon codes." This numerical code allows the aviator to express his deepest feelings without offending anyone. (If you know aviators, you know that when they express their deepest feelings they usually offend everyone.) Now the codes, which seem to have started in the 1960s, eventually grew to an unmanageable number (perhaps as a result of aviators getting caught up in the self-discovery of the '70s, with more complex emotional needs), where you needed a cheat sheet on your kneeboard to interpret the code. But still, there were a few well-known codes that were pretty much all the average aviator needed. For example: "101" (You've got to be sh*tting me!) or "103" (Beats the sh*t out of me.) From the flight leader you might hear a "114!" (Get your sh*t together,) or "223!" (Get your head out of your ass!) Or if you're being verbose on the air, "Hey, 144!" (Shut up and fly the f*ing airplane!) Some codes were groundbased, such as, if the chaplain should make the mistake of walking into the ready room unannounced, "1000." (Cool it, the padre's here.) Well, you get the idea. Most of the codes were less printable than what I've included, but if you want to know more, just google the subject.
Ferp (FRP) Know how when you advance from one school to another you go from being BMOC (that's Big Man On Campus, to non-Americans) to a lowly freshman and have to do it all over again? It's the same in Naval Aviation. After more than 18 months of training the flight student has reached his zenith, and finally gets his coveted Wings of Gold. He has finished the advanced training phase, is a designated Naval Aviator, and has the world by the tail. At that point he's assigned to a "Fleet Replacement Squadron" - there's at least one such squadron for each specific type of aircraft the Navy and Marine Corps fly - to spend another half year or so learning to operate his aircraft type, before being assigned to an active squadron. At this point the proud new aviator is a beginner again, he knows nothing, he's just a Ferp - an FRP: Fleet (or F*ing) Replacement Pilot. (If there's a sudden need for a pilot in a deployed squadron he may even become a "must-pump," hurried through the program to fill a specific seat.) And as he becomes competent in his new airplane over the next half year, as he graduates and is sent to a squadron, he'll start all over again, knowing nothing, being just a bleepin' nugget, the FNG in the squadron.
Field Board What did you do, what did you do, to rate a Field Board? Whatever you did, it was stupid and it was probably in an airplane. The squadron skipper doesn't care for his aviators doing stupid things in his airplanes. They're too expensive. Navy Regulations gives the commanding officer of an aviation unit authority to convene what DOD calls a "Field Naval Aviator Evaluation Board (FNAEB)" and everyone else calls a Field Board (or just a Board), to deal on the spot with airborne Delta Sierras. It may be a matter of breach of flying regulations, violation of orders, above-average stupidity, or just good old-fashioned incompetence. Whatever, if you did what you shouldn'a oughta have done, the Field Board may ground you indefinitely. If the decision is upheld in Washington, as it usually is, you may be done with flying forever. A Field Board is serious! (By the way, remember the idiotic movie, "Top Gun"? Five minutes into the flick all those guys would have been before a board, where there would have been no mercy. But I guess it was good fun for the "hoi polloi".)
"Fightertown" Once upon a time, NAS Miramar, at San Diego, California. For decades, the home of the US Navy's Pacific Fleet fighter squadrons. In the fighter community there was no better address than Miramar. But then... there's this rapidly growing city right next door, whose planning commission through the 70's and 80's was happily approving residential developments off each end of the duty runway. So, whether to reduce the flight volume and noise, or to line it up for an eventual city takeover, DOD was somehow persuaded to evict the Navy from NAS Miramar and turn it over to the Marines. In the late 1990s the Marines brought in their cargo planes and helicopters (!) and Fightertown USA became MCAS Miramar. RIP.
Final Charlie Or "Last Charlie". When a pilot meets St. Peter. See Charlie. Crusader pilot extraordinaire "Red" Best penned the following verse in honor of aviators who have carried out their final order:
  As I complete life's final mission
And am told to RTB,*
I know I have friends in Delta.
Old friends I'll be glad to see.

        * "Return to base"

When I hear the Big Airboss' calldown
And realize His call is for me,
I pray my last ball call is sharp and clear,
And my grade is OK-3.
Fitness report The career success of an officer depends on his annual fitness report, which expresses the C.O.'s opinion of the officer and how he ranks against other officers. For an ambitious climber, the only rational goal, ever in mind, is to please the C.O. To do this well it's necessary to analyze what the C.O. likes. The C.O. may like a good time: you'll be his drinkin' buddy. Or the C.O. may be a military stickler, big on etiquette: you're straight as an arrow, with a snappy salute. In all cases it's important not to do good work quietly and out of the limelight. If the Skipper doesn't see it, what good has it done? So bring your effort out, whatever it is, with fanfare and drama, with poster boards and announcements. For all you young officers out there, take this to heart if you want to move up! Naturally, the Navy brass consists of those who have shown the greatest facility in these skills. They wind up in Washington and feel right at home. See also "Brownnose."
FNG For some reason, most Navy expressions seem to start with the letter "F". An FNG is simply a nugget, a rookie. A f*-in' new guy. What else?
Four-eyes The Navy pilot's name for anyone with glasses.
"Full bird"Strictly speaking, the O-6 officer rank, which wears the Eagle insignia. The Other Services, which have Colonels, use the term to distinguish "full" Colonels (COL) from pretenders like Lieutenant Colonels and Kentucky Colonels. In the Navy it really means a Captain, but as often it's used (with a smile) for "full" Lieutenants (O-3) to separate them from mere Lt(jg) (junior grade). "Full Bird" Lieutenant has an impressive ring. At least to the "J.G.'s"
Geedunk'GHEE-dunk.' Any little shop, preferably with junk food. Every sizeable Navy ship has a geedunk, which provides much of a sailor's nutrition.
GentlemanA fighter pilot. No, really - don't laugh, it's official and therefore true. On receiving his officer's commission, the young fighter pilot becomes an "Officer and gentleman" by Act of Congress. It says so right in his commission. It may be argued that the early Congress that wanted a gentrified officer corps hadn't reckoned with fighter pilots, but no matter. To some surprised recipients of this honor, the unexpected designation is naturally a source of intense pride. In others it engenders internal conflict, while it brings ironic merriment to many fighter pilots' friends.
Ghost fartIn the language of Basic Training (i.e. Pre-flite), the dust balls you chase on your hands and knees as you're 'palming' the floor in preparation for inspection.
GIB Pronounced "gibb", with a hard G. "Guy In Back", the Navy pilot's term for what the Navy more formally calls "Radar Intercept Officer" (RIO) or "Naval Flight Officer" (NFO), etc.: the non-pilot in the back in a tandem A/C like the F-4 Phantom or F-14 Tomcat. To the Navy pilot they're simply GIBs.
Gig line If you're married to a military man you've probably wondered why he worries about lining up his shirt front hem with his fly and the right edge of his belt buckle. The answer is simple: Fear of demerits! He just can't let go of the subconscious fear instilled in him by drill sergeants during basic training/"Pre-flite" that if his 'gig line' is anything but perfectly lined up he'll face unknown but disastrous consequences. (Perhaps you remind him of his drill sergeant.)
"Gitmo" The U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (G't'mo). The U.S. has a lease for a million years or so, signed by the pre-Fidel Cuban dictator, Batista. The base has been a wart on Fidel's nose, and the U.S. has not been receptive to Castro's half-hearted pleas to give it up. Hey, it provides jobs and paychecks in US$ for a thousand or more locals (some of whom are naturally spies) in the town of Guantanamo. To the Navy pilot, Gitmo means a couple of weeks' training deployment away from the distractions of home life, where he can concentrate fully on such professional development matters as snorkeling in the salt water lagoon and getting faced on Rum Goodies every evening in the O-Club bar. Few aviators remember much of their stay at Gitmo.

(Note: The above was written before the "War on Terror". Undeniably, the name Guantanamo now leaves a different impression on most people, with its ill-reputed terror-suspect prison facility. But yet this shall pass, and Gitmo shall rise again in its historical role as the greatest O-Club bar in the Caribbean.)

GougeA flexible word generally meaning useful specific instruction or information. For example, to hold your position in a parade formation, the gouge might be to line up the leader's wingtip with the anticollision light. There's also weather gouge, briefing gouge, good gouge and bad gouge. If you're wearing the wrong Uniform Of The Day, someone gave you bad gouge. "Gouge" may be the most spoken word in naval aviation, excluding of course obscenities.
Grabassin'Messin' around, in an airplane or not. Always said with an apostrophe.
Grampaw Pettibone"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!  Sufferin' catfish!  What was this young buck thinking? Wasn't thinking at all, I reckon. Now doesn't the manual tell you that you can't..."
The irascible old Grampaw Pettibone made his debut in a Navy safety-notes sheet in January 1943, drawn by then-Lieutenant Robert Osborne. For decades after, Grampaw's crusty reviews of actual D/S flight incidents and his salty but sage safety counsel graced the pages of Naval Aviation Week magazine. A few well-chosen words from Grampaw Pettibone were more effective safety training than hours of the usual "safety officer" lectures.
GreensAn alternative aviators' working uniform with dark green blouse and trou's. Not much worn, perhaps because it appears a bit pretentious. To me it always looked like a banana republic uniform, needing a heavy mustache, rows of big medals and a cigar to really carry off the effect. (See "Khakis.")
GroundpounderAnyone who doesn't fly, but more specifically a Navy blackshoe officer.
(In) hackYou've PO'd the skipper, and now you're confined to quarters, or if in port, to the ship. You're in hack.
HandsYou don't have to be Italian to be a fighter pilot, but it can help in the debrief and any time you need to demonstrate your fighter-piloting skills without having your airplane handy. Because, to a fighter pilot, hands are aircraft, and his gesticulations attempt to reproduce the vast space in which the aerial ballet that is air combat takes place: "There we were, I'm rolling in from 5 o'clock high ..."  (My right hand, held rigidly flat, palm down, goes up to eye-level in front of the right shoulder, and turns hard left and nose down.)  "He spots me and breaks hard right ..."  (Left hand hip-high, a little out and forward turns hard into the attacking right hand. But I - the right hand - am ready, and reverse my turn across his six, going nose high again ...)  About here, the limitations of the hands begin to show; they're attached to shoulders and refuse to circle around each other as they should. Never mind, we reset in a new position and recommence. A fighter pilot really can't talk about flying without the use of his "handy" make-believe aircraft. (For the following llustrations, credit Lou Drendel, a great aviation artist, for the two left-most. He's at www.aviation-art.net . The right-hand picture is of an anonymous elderly convention speaker, recounting his glory days while just doing what comes naturally.)

"Helen"Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships," was the mythical ultimate standard of feminine pulchritude, from which we derive a basic unit of beauty, "the Helen." This ultimate unit, though, has little relevance to the naval aviator, except perhaps when he's faced, in which state any female's looks become a good deal improved. So see rather the aviator's more practical measure, the "milli-Helen" (illustrated for clarity).
"High Flight"
The world's greatest poem. (To a pilot.) An inspired, ethereal impression of flying by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a tragic young American Spitfire pilot in the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), 1941. (The poem was once dug out for political purposes by LBJ's speech writer, but seems to have survived that.) Instead of describing it, I'll just show it. Click on the thumbnail to the right, then use the "Back" button to return.
(Or spend some quality time at my poetry site - www.outstandingpoems.com - where you will have arrived.)
High Flight
Hunky-doryPilots love this word for "thumbs up, everything's great," and why shouldn't they? It sounds best said with a southern drawl, though its origins lie farther west. Let me cite the authoritative web page "Origins of Navy Terminology": "The term ... was coined from a street named "Honki-Dori" in Yokohama, Japan. Since the inhabitants of this street catered to the pleasures of sailors, it is easy to understand why the street's name became synonymous for anything that is enjoyable ...."
IndiaThe letter "I" in radio comm.
Irish pennantAny loose thread on your uniform. These are incredibly stimulating to "Pre-flite" (basic training) drill sergeants, who go berserk when they see one.
"I say again"This is for the benefit of the Navy wife: Your hubby is repeating his point, and here, for the thousandth time, comes this inane phrase. Look, don't hold him responsible for this silly phrase, it was drilled into him in the Navy. In the service, you can't get away from it. The military couldn't function without it. It's not meant to be offensive, it just sounds that way. It's meant to . . . well, the military has read somewhere that the key to learning is repetition, so they mechanically repeat everything of an instructional nature, one sentence at a time. And this silly phrase is what they use to announce that they're now going to repeat the sentence they just said. I won't try to convey the feeling of sitting in a class run on this principle, but I remember "Pre-flite" sergeants and instructors even repeating our topic phrase. My feeling was, if you get it the first time, you should be allowed to use the repeat time for other business, but my experience with sergeants was that they actually expected their "dumbsh*ts" to look like they were paying attention to the second hearing, too. My guess is, your hubby expects the same.
J.G.Lieutenant (junior grade). A demeaning title, but a pretty cool time, 'cause you're young and attract chicks. You tell them you're a Lieutenant. It's true, sort of, and they don't know the difference. But you're still just a bleepin' j.g.
J.O. Junior Officer, meaning officer grades O-1 through O-3, i.e., Ensign, Lieutenant (junior grade), and Lieutenant. Very cool. Often unmarried, walk with a swagger, and have the world by the tail. They die a lot. Their worst fear is being promoted to the uncool LCDR.
Jumentous Not a widely used term, perhaps, but this word became indispensable locally after a J.O. discovered it in an ancient medical dictionary during a slow at-sea period. (What the J.O. was doing perusing an ancient medical dictionary is unclear, but he was an unconventional J.O.) This fine adjective was found to mean "having the odor of horse urine," and since fighter pilots constantly have a need to describe something as horsepiss, the term found frequent employment. One can only hope this fine addition to fighter pilot speech doesn't get lost.
Khakis The normal working uniform for naval officers outside Washington, D.C. Everything but the black tie is khaki. Because you looked it up here you're now one of the few non-Indians who know that it comes from the Hindi (originally Persian) word "khak" meaning dust. Thus "dust-colored." (See "Greens.")
Lay of the land When the ship pulls into a new port, the sailors stream ashore, eager to get the lay of the land. But of course she has a limited amount of time, so most of them have to make do with less. In any case, this segues naturally to Sick bay.
Leapex A particularly stupid and useless short-term exercise that for some reason the brass has ordered to be done now, but can't reasonably be done now, and probably shouldn't be done at all. Named for the proverbial leap through an anatomical orifice "where the sun don't shine." An especially egregious form of boondoggle.
Lite Com. Lieutenant Commander (LCDR). The forgotten rank. An unhappy time. A Limbo. You're in your 30's, too old to be cool, but you're not given much responsibility yet either. The (cool) JO's won't hang with you, but you're not invited to the Sr. Officers' functions. The less said the better.
Log An aviator's log book comes close to being his dearest possession. It defines him and his flying career: The number of flight hours, hours in a/c type, carrier landings and on which ships, specifically which aircraft he flew on which date - from where to where, what type of mission, etc. He'd give up beer and pizza for life rather than lose his log book.
"Mary Ann
A classic song about gymnastics:
Mary Ann Barnes was Queen of all the acrobats,
She could do some tricks that would give a guy the sh*ts,
She could shoot green peas from . . .
Sorry, if I reveal more, they'll shoot me. Some secrets are sacred. (But man, could she do some tricks!) Suffice it to say that all Navy pilots know "Mary Ann Barnes".
"Milli-Helen" The naval aviator's practical measure of feminine beauty. From Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships," we have the classical standard of beauty, the "full Helen." But for practical purposes, aviators operate with the "milli-Helen," (one thousandth of a Helen) a face that could theoretically launch one ship. It's true that in the typical bar in a foreign port, many of the faces confronting the hapless aviator are more in the "micro-Helen" range (one thousandth of a milli-Helen, could conceivably launch a cross-spar or a mizzen mast), but yet, with a few whiskeys under his belt, these get upgraded as his vision blurs.




Missing man

The aviation version of the ancient "missing man" military parade, where the absence of a fallen general would be suggested by a riderless horse. At modern memorial services or funerals for (usually senior) air corps officers, a "missing man" formation of aircraft may do a fly-by. Civilian government leaders have liked the looks of this so much that today you can't get a President in the ground without involving a missing-man fly-over. This may involve a formation of four or more aircraft with one spot in the formation prominently empty, or more commonly in recent decades, a full formation where one aircraft pulls up (Heaven-ward) out of the formation as it nears the gathered throng. A good illustration is offered by (gulp) the Air Force Thunderbirds: 
Must-pump Every now and then, operational necessity requires that a replacement pilot be shipped to a deployed squadron post-haste. The typical solution is to designate a "Ferp" (FRP: Fleet Replacement Pilot) going through final in-type training as a "must-pump," in other words, pump this clown through the syllabus and get him out to the fleet as fast as possible. Makes for some hectic training days, perhaps skipping some extras, but nothing essential gets left out, so it's said.
Nads Short for gonads. Balls.
N.A.S. Naval Air Station, as in NAS Pensacola. A lesser Naval air installation may be a NAF (Naval Air Facility).
Naval Aviator The proud wearer of the Wings of Gold. These Navy and Marine pilots have one thing uppermost in their minds (leaving out for now what's always uppermost in a young man's mind): to shoot someone out of the air. (Or in the case of the bomber pilots, to blow something up on the ground, which seems less satisfying to a fighter pilot because it doesn't quite seem like a fair fight. Perhaps it does to a bomber pilot.) To get to legally shoot someone down you pretty much have to have a war. Aviators naturally fall into an informal ranking system having nothing to do with their military rank: At the top are the macho men who have actually shot someone down. Next, those who have at least been in a shooting war. And finally the unwashed masses of aviators who've just flown around in peacetime. A shooting war makes heroes, so at least a little war is needed every decade or so to maintain a sufficient standing crop of heroes. See also notes at "Aviator and "Navy property"."
Navy HymnThe Navy Hymn - "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" - has moistened many an eye, since it's invariably played at memorial services, something aviators are all too familiar with. But it's a lovely song, and even has a verse (the last) dedicated to airmen. Here's a pretty good version:

Navy property The Naval Aviator gets constant gentle reminders that "his" aircraft is Navy property. The skipper may see him off with, "You break my airplane, boy, and your ass is grass!" The warning is meant to instill a sense of responsibility, and is remembered at least until you're manned up. But the interesting thing is that the pilot himself, being part of the weapons system, is also considered Navy property! So an aviator who partied too hard last night and is unable to fly can be had up for abuse of Navy property.
Nellie, darling Ah, how Naval Aviators can surprise with their love of the arts. That lovely song, Nat King Cole's "Mona Lisa," is so beloved by aviators that it has been reborn in the naval musical literature in at least two apparitions: first with its original title with the sensitive words "Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have laid you,..." and as the liberated "Nellie, darling." Modesty prevents actual citations from the latter (except perhaps the first tender line which goes "Oh, your ___'s like a ___, Nellie Darling") but it has to do with stovepipes, green grass, and bright red somethings. All in all, totally charming; assuming of course that your sensibilities are totally debased. But that's assumed.
(on the grass)
Fighter pilot songs are legendary and legion. Most are unprintable (I'm self-censoring here), but that's the way of this breed of men. This well-known parody of a revival song starts,
Hallelujah, hallelujah. Throw a nickel on the grass; save a fighter pilot's ass.
Hallelujah, hallelujah. Throw a nickel on the grass and you'll be saved.
The minimal spiritual message here still leads fighter pilots to reply, when being told of a fellow pilot's final Charlie, "Throw a nickel on the grass."
Night vision At night, the ready room and the entire carrier is bathed in red light. It's well known that our eyes take a while to adjust from white light, so as to give acceptable night vision. What happens is that the rhodopsin molecules in the rod cells of the retina, which are needed for night vision, absorb energy from white light and take on a shape that make them unable to function in dim light. It may take as much as 30 minutes for the rhodopsin to return to their useful conformation, after being exposed to white light. But red light doesn't have this effect, so the aviator is good to go. You may now be the only one on your block to know this.
Niner The way to pronounce the number "9" in radio communications.
Nugget A rookie aviator, especially one on his first carrier cruise; an "FNG". Nuggets naturally get most of the dirt jobs in the squadron, like boat watches and integrity watches. A nugget usually flies as wingman with the Skipper or one of the squadron's senior aviators.
"Numbers" 1. Seniority is everything in the Navy officer corps. If a squadron mate has "The Numbers" on you, i.e., he has an earlier date-of-rank (don't fail to check this - the most important link in this document), he'll always be the flight leader, you'll always be the wingman. Tango Sierra. The Numbers rule. The senior officer's in charge.
2. "The Numbers" is the approach end of a runway where two large numbers are painted on the r/w, giving the runway designation. (The designation is the approximate magnetic heading of the runway, in tens. A runway on a magnetic heading of 220° is runway 22. In the opposite direction the same runway will have a heading of 40° and bear the numbers 04.) For a Sierra Hotel VFR fan break, the flight lead will brief "Break at the numbers," which theoretically gives an impressive tight, circular pattern to touchdown.
O-Club The on-base Officers' Club. A curious mixture of family dining and drunken revelry; though, true, these may go on in different rooms. Actually, the debauchery, the glass-breaking, the body-surfing "carrier landings" on tables, the fights, the "Dead Bug" contests (if Marines are in the house), the injuries, usually happen at an O-club away from one's home base. Basically where the squadron wives aren't, and undoubtedly because they aren't. A number of O-clubs are now also admitting petty officers, perhaps in an effort to moderate the gentlemen's behavior. Some bases have given up on the O-Club altogether, providing instead a restaurant for all personnel.
Penetration 1.   Every Navy man who goes ashore for liberty in a foreign port hopes to meet interesting locals. He carries in the back of his mind (at least while he's sober) the only phrase he's likely to know by heart from the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), warning of dire consequences in the case of inappropriate contact with the locals: "Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offense."
2.   For a less romantic meaning: When flying, going through a cloud layer to get above or below it is a penetration.
Pensacola, Fla. The Valhalla of Naval Aviation and center of Naval Air training, including the charming Pre-flite program. It's where Navy pilots have their birth, naval-aviation-wise, and many go back there to await their Final Charlie, or perhaps to see if that sweetheart from 30 years ago is still there, waiting. Almost every Navy flight student leaves a sweetheart behind in Pensacola. NAS Pensacola is also the home of the very fine Museum of Naval Aviation (web site link).
Photobeanie Just an affectionate term for flyers of the photo-birds, reconnaissance aircraft that carry cameras rather than weapons. Don't think they're not it the heat of battle! Their job is to go in after a strike, when every anti-aircraft gunner is awake, alert and mad as hell, and photograph the damage. Fighter jocks appreciate them at least a little bit, for without them the brass would probably make even worse targeting decisions.
Pilot To you who read this some years from now, when I am but ashes . . :    You know that Air Combat Center on the 5th floor of the Federal Building on Main Street in Peoria? The one with the eight hundred 13-year old pilots who operate the air combat game controllers? Well, of course that's how air combat should be and is fought now-a-days, but back in the day . . . fighter aircraft weren't flashlight-sized, nuclear-powered, submarine-launched, laser-armed, remote-controlled weapons like today. No, the aircraft were 50-60 feet long (!), weighed tens of tons (!!), and floated around on the ocean on thousand-foot long ship-like platforms called aircraft carriers, from which they launched but could only stay up an hour or two before needing refueling. And, unbelievably, in a clear plastic bubble on the front end of these giant aircraft sat the ancient version of a "fighter pilot." He was actually up there with the aircraft, subject to all the hazards of personal combat! You can read about them in military history books, and some aviation museums still have a couple of these behemoth aircraft in a back room, though most of the display space is naturally taken up with improvements in game controllers, as it should be.
Pimp No, this has nothing to do with whores. To pimp someone means to tease, to intentionally irritate. Of course those most often pimped are those who are the most pimpable. You usually pimp downward in the presumed pecking order, though lateral pimping is common among JOs. Not surprisingly, not everyone responds placidly to being pimped, while others are known for their impimpability. (Take that, Webster!)
The naval aviator's everyday khaki uniform hat, known in official parlance as a "fore-and-aft cap". No one who wears it calls it anything but a pisscutter. (Here's fighter pilot extraordinaire Dave "Fireball" Johnson sporting his.)Dave (Fireball) Johnson with pisscutter
Pogey-bait Candy, often secreted in flight suit pockets, to be rediscovered after months of heat and sweat have turned it into some kind of disgusting fossil.
P.O.W. Younger readers may not be familiar with this term, but it has been, too many times in the past, one of the most common terms in our language. A "Prisoner Of War" - a P.O.W. - is supposed to have rights under international ('Geneva') conventions, but those rights have been more often "honored in their breach."
Pre-flite"Pre-flite" is the 4 months or so of academic, physical, and military training preceding "real" flight training. In "academics" you're taught aeronautics, meteorology, avionics, and naval history and tradition, such as the importance of leaving a calling card on the silver plate by the door when you're invited to the skipper's house for the compulsory social introduction. The "physical" syllabus will get you in shape or get you washed out (the requirement to swim is particularly traumatic to many). In the "military" program you're abused for some reason by US Marine drill sergeants who amuse themselves by making you fold your handkerchiefs in exactly 3¼" x 4½" piles for inspection, and making you believe this is important. This will make you a better officer. (The purpose is of course to find officers who will obey unquestioningly. We swallow hard, keep our goals in mind, and do as we're told. Some of us even begin to believe the handkerchief piles are important.)
"Q" The B.O.Q. (Bachelor Officer's Quarter).
The seniority number of each pilot in the squadron. The Skipper is Rocket 1, which means he has his name painted on the cockpit rail of the "01" bird. If there are 15 A/C in the squadron, Rocket 15 is S.O.L., because CAG gets Doublenuts. If you don't see the importance of all this, see "The Numbers" or "Seniority".
R.O.N."Remain Over-Night." Military orders to spend the night at some particular place before moving on. Naval aviators have an undeserved reputation - probably self-generated - for being party animals on R.O.N.'s. The truth is usually something like this: You arrive, see about tieing down, fueling and servicing your aircraft, drag yourself to the B.O.Q., get out of your stinking flight suit, catch a shower, walk to the O-club and nurse a drink or two and eat dinner, maybe a few words with the locals, before hitting the sack. Pretty exciting. Of course, wyf back home is convinced that hubby's out tripping the light fantastic.
R&RRest & Recreation. Of course, this term has found its way into the civilian vocabulary, but it's of military origin. When a young fighter pilot comes to town on R&R, lock up your women. Or offer him a drink.
RTB"Return to Base," usually used in military TAD orders. After a period of performing Temporary Additional Duty somewhere, the orders call on you to RTB.
Rug rankIn the Pentagon, you've got "rug rank" if you're important enough to rate a carpet. (Installing your own carpet is a no-no.) In the fleet, an admiral is a pretty big deal, but when he gets to Washington he starts all over, like a college freshman. He has "flag" rank, but may never reach "rug" rank.
Rules of flyingFighter pilots don't like rules.  It's all they can do to remember a few of these:
  1. Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is dangerous.
  2. Takeoff is optional. Landing is mandatory.
  3. If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the stick back, they get smaller. If you keep pulling the stick back, they get bigger again.
  4. It's better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here.
  5. The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.
  6. The motor runs the air conditioning. If it stops, expect to start sweating.
  7. When in doubt, hold your altitude. No one has yet collided with the sky.
  8. A good landing is one you can walk away from. A great landing is one where the aircraft is still useable.
  9. If it takes full power to taxi in you've landed gear up.
  10. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle of arrival. Small angle of arrival, large probability of survival, and vice versa.
  11. Try to make your number of landings equal your number of takeoffs.
  12. You start with a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.
  13. In skirmishes between objects made of titanium going hundreds of miles per hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.
  14. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.
  15. Gravity is not just a good idea. It's the law.
  16. The three most useless things to a pilot are the altitude above you, the runway behind you, and a tenth of a second ago.

  17. And a couple contributed by Crusader pilot extraordinaire Andy Hill:

  18. As a pilot only two bad things can happen to you (and one of them will):
    a. One day you will walk out to the aircraft, knowing it is your last flight.
    b. One day you will walk out to the aircraft, not knowing it is your last flight.
  19. You have to make up your mind about growing up and becoming a pilot. You can't do both.
Rum GoodyThe specialty of the house at the O-Club bar at Gitmo. This drink bids fair to have put more aviators under the table than any other in Naval Aviation history, and that's saying a lot. The recipe is top secret. It is: Anejo Rum, fresh lime juice, and simple syrup. Ah, but the all-important proportions? I'm not telling, but only because I don't know.
SatrapaStill flying firefighting tankers in California at the age of 70-some, Joe "Hoser" Satrapa deserves an entry. [Update: Sadly, Hoser launched today, 17 March, 2019, for his final Charlie, after a brief illness.] This legendary wild man of the air was simply the quintessential classic fighter pilot of the 1960-70's, both in the Crusader and the Tomcat. While most of us grudgingly managed to accommodate to the Navy's notion that the aviator is first a well-bred Officer, and only secondarily a fighter pilot (flying is actually listed as "collateral duty" for aviators), Satrapa never bought into that. He was a fighter, and he was hired to fight. And he showed, time and again, that a born fighter could do things with an airplane that the genteel officer who had learned to fly and fight as a "collateral duty" just couldn't. A skipper couldn't ask for more in a war than a squadron of Satrapas. The paperwork might suffer, but so would the enemy. My own view is that the latter is more important!

(There are hundreds of Satrapa stories extant [Google "Satrapa" for some flying stories] but I'll just add a couple of everyday squadron moments. After I'd beaten all comers in the squadron in arm wrestling, someone suggested Satrapa. Well, OK, bring him on, he doesn't look all that strong. Long and lanky, laconic. No threat. He sat down, his Peter Lorre eyes betraying nothing. Someone said "Go" (I wondered later whether it was Joe himself), and Mount Etna erupted. My arm was on the table in less than a second. It was a matter of focus of total force, as if every other function of Joe's body paused and he threw it all into his arm. Same thing in the air. In training dogfights he would win or die. Another day, when I had the duty, and was sitting prim and proper at the desk (illustration below) at the front of the ready room, a sudden soft "whoosh" got my attention. It turned out to be a sharpened pencil, now stuck in the corkboard a few inches from my face. Joe's grin, about fifteen feet back in the ready room, told the story. A master at knife-throwing, as much as with guns, airplanes, and whatever other instrument of destruction was at hand, Hoser amused himself with his lessers. While I might have had some doubt about his ability to miss my face with his missile, he didn't. I'm glad he was right.)

Scope A 'scope' may be a RIO (see GIB) or a BN (bombardier navigator) or an ECMO (electronic countermeasures operator). A 'good scope' is a term of respect paid by other squadron mates, including their 'sticks'.
Scuttlebutt Shipboard rumor. A genuine Navy word for the usual way you get information (the straight skinny) in the Navy. As to origin, I can't do better than to quote from the site "Origins of Navy Terminology": "Butt – a cask or hogshead used in the days of wooden ships, ... the butt from which the ship's crew took their drinking water – like a water fountain – was the "scuttlebutt". Graham Fielding tells me (thanks, Graham) that "scuttling" the butt meant to open a hole in it. [No scatological comments, thank you.] Since the crew used to congregate around the "scuttlebutt", that is where the rumors about the ship or voyage would begin. Thus, then and now, rumors are ... scuttlebutt." (This also explains the origin of "scuttle", as in scuttling a ship - which means to sink the ship by opening seacocks or making openings in the hull.)
S.D.O., or
"The Duty"
"Squadron Duty Officer." It's a J.O.'s lot to regularly miss a day of flying by being assigned as the day's SDO. Not a J.O.'s favorite occupation. In case of war the SDO will notify the squadron C.O. That's what it says in the watch brief. Spends the entire day manning the desk in the Ready Room. Answers inane telephone calls; attempts to keep order among fellow officers; prevents snoring in the Ready Room.

When you have The Duty you're expected to be serious for several hours at a stretch, which can be a significant challenge for a J.O.

HP has The Duty
Secure In the Navy you don't "close" a thing, or "turn it off," or "finish" it. You secure it. It doesn't necessarily mean you tie anything down or lock a door, though it could mean that. Some examples may help: "You're secured." (You can go home now.) "This fire drill is secured." (The drill is over.) "Secure the lights." (Turn them out.) "Flight ops are secured." (That's the last flight of the day.) In short, if you're ending something, you're securing it. An evolution can be secured; even liberty can be secured. When ashore, an early "Let's secure" from the Skipper is welcome.
Seniority Now here we have the key to the military services.  Whereas many civilian firms and organizations operate under the delusion that such qualities as skill, knowledge, or effectiveness count in choosing their leadership, the military services know better:  The key to leadership is time-on-the-job!  The great advantage of this system is that wisdom is so easily determined:  It is that which issues from the person with most time on the job.  To determine the wisest course of action in any situation, we look to the person with most seniority.  Pronouncements from the most senior person present represent truth.  In this way we avoid such disturbing moments as disagreement and debate.  It's remarkable that more civilian operations haven't discovered the beauty of this incontrovertible-truth method, though it's reported that some have.  For a Navy application, see Date of rank and "The Numbers".
Sick bay Whether ashore or at sea, the Navy medical clinic is known as "sick bay." When on liberty in overseas ports, the sailors often bring back souvenirs from their new-found friends ashore. The doctors and corpsmen in sick bay treat the souvenirs with Penicillin.
SERE "Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape" training. They tell me that the guys who run this military 'training' course are actually not sadists, but you couldn't prove it by me. Of course, they're hired to act like sadists, and I always thought they looked a little too much like they were enjoying it. It's supposed to prepare you psychologically to be stuck behind enemy lines, and maybe teach you a thing or two. It'll certainly teach you something about yourself. I went to SERE training in Warner Springs, CA. It worked about like this: We were dropped, about a dozen aviators, out in the woods up in the hills. We had some minimal survival gear with us: A map and compass, a knife, some string, a cup, a poncho. "See ya in three days." So you eat what you can find or kill (no fair killing your buddies), and you try to find shelter from the cold and rain (the 'survival' part), until one morning you hear the 'bad guys' beating the bushes farther down the hill. Now comes the 'evasion' part. Plan on getting bloody as you spend the day running frantically through brush, tripping on roots, rolling down embankments, getting torn up by thorns. There are a lot more of 'them' than there are of you, 'cause you're all alone. In any case, there are 'out of bounds' rules, and you will get caught by some highly unpleasant goons before the day is out. You get tossed in the back of a truck with a couple of armed guards, and you're taken to the prison compound. Here you'll be trained in 'resistance.' They want to find out how much pain you can take. They question you, and you give them 'name, rank, service number, date of birth,' just like the Code of Conduct says. (That information is so that they can identify you correctly after you've died of the torture.) But if you think this is all play, you've got another think coming. They're not happy with just your name, rank, etc.  So they try to encourage you to talk. The worst for me was the 'box.' You're jammed for some hours into a small wooden box with your legs curled beneath you and your neck bent down by the tight lid. The idea is that your legs will lose circulation and become extremely painful and then unusable. They're right. Actually, every part becomes extremely painful. (Marine pilot Frank Garrick contributes this story: "Jimmy 'Hutch' Hutchinson (Marine 1st Louey) was put in the box as per usual. After about ½ hour, the guard put a snake in with him. Jimmy ate the snake. One pissed off guard.") Other guys experienced 'waterboarding,' which was no more fun. Some guys just broke down. The 'escape' part is mostly theoretical. You're supposed to try to get away from the P.O.W. compound, but nine times out of ten you'll get caught and get treated to another round of torture. So most of us learned the 'escape' part by watching others try, fail, and get re-tortured. That was lesson enough. See also 'DWEST' for the Navy's charming water survival add-on.
Sierra Hotel S/H: "Sh*t-hot", a Navy pilot's favorite expression of admiration. When constructed as plural: "Sh*t-hots", it means a customized, tailored, dolled-up, patch-bedecked "babe-magnet" flight suit reserved for special social occasions in the bar.
SitRep Standard military jargon for "situation report." You wanna know what's going on ... you ask for a SitRep.
Skinny Information;  The Word;  the truth: the straight skinny.
Skipper The Commanding Officer, originally of a ship, but now of any Naval unit, especially a squadron.
Skivvies The only authorized word for underwear. Any color but white is suspect.
Snake ranch This is actually confidential, but I think the cat's out of the bag already, so . . .
When a squadron is ashore between combat deployments, and the bachelor gentlemen officers find they have no one to legally shoot at, they naturally get bored. In an effort at overcoming this ennui, the gentlemen rent a good-sized house from which they can terrorize the neighborhood of solid burghers until they are sent back to whatever war we're in. This "snake ranch" can be anywhere convenient, though a beach neighborhood is popular. The dream is that at the ranch young women will somehow be available to satisfy the gentlemen's fancies, and the party's always on. The reality is usually that most evenings are spent emptying kegs of beer, both into the gentlemen and out. But it's a lot of fun, anyway.
Soft Salute Use of this salute, more theoretical than real, is limited to late-night revels in anonymous bars overseas with anonymous women. At its least artistic, it consists merely of extending the two hands directly forward at chest height and squeezing whatever feminine body parts happen to get in the way.
S.O.LThe usual abbreviation for being just Sh*t Out of Luck. No self-respecting Navy man would ever say just "Out of Luck."
SoulCharon ferrying souls to HadesWe're not talking about the aviator's spiritual dimension, though that is not to be sneered at (see next entry). No, a "soul" in the Navy is a very material human body, usually a passenger on a ferry flight. The pilot reports his cargo as "eight souls onboard." That's perfectly historical ferryman's language, of course: The ancient Greeks knew the "ferryman" as Charon ("Kharon"), who ferried the dead across the river Styx into the land of Hades. (Clickable classical illustration appended.) The "souls" onboard a Navy a/c, such as the COD, are undoubtedly hoping to avoid a trip to Hades right at that moment.
Spiritual life
The Fighter Pilot has a reputation - perhaps deserved, perhaps not - of being more spirited than spiritual, yet he has always drawn deep spiritual inspiration from the great religious texts, such as the twenty-third psalm:
Stick (2) "A Stick" or a "good stick" (short for Stick-and-Rudder Man) is a pilot with a reputation for handling the aircraft well. This is one reputation you can't buy, though only a small number of peers may be aware of it. It doesn't count for much with the Navy brass, who are usually more concerned with whether the pilot has done his paperwork. There's also another kind of stick.
Surly bonds I don't know why you're looking this up, and who knows what it means. Maybe it was Barry Bonds after the Giants dumped him. More likely, it's this line ("I have slipped the surly bonds of earth") in the only poem a real fighter pilot is likely to know much of, though he'll probably only know these few words. But look here for the poem: "High Flight" by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., a tragically short-lived American Spitfire pilot in the RCAF, 1941.
TAD Temporary Additional Duty. Short-term orders, usually away from home base, concluding with "RTB" (Return to base) at the conclusion.
The Naval Aviators' professional association. A private, voluntary association, not officially connected with the US Navy. A long and great tradition of charity and assistance for Navy families and others, punctuated by occasional overblown scandals. (The most recent overblown scandal, over which several admirals lost their jobs a couple of decades ago, involved some inebriated young men saying impolite things to some young women at the Tailhook Convention. Some of the women were alledgedly fondled. In the same year, about 20,000 Americans were murdered on our streets, but the impolite young men got about a hundred times as much press. Get perspective, America.)
The Tailhook Association is on the Web at http://www.tailhook.org.
Two-blockedIn ship's rigging or crane operations, two blocks that are jammed together, preventing movement. At Navy uniform inspections: "Two-block your tie" is supposed to get you to pull up your tie knot.
Trou'sYou don't hear "trousers" in the Navy after basic training or Pre-flite. It's too long a word for fighter pilots. Just "trou's."
24-hour clock
The military services use the 24-hour clock for all purposes, with time expressed in 4 digits. I.e., 8 a.m. is 0800, 1:30 p.m. is 1330, and 11 p.m. is 2300. (For some reason the US military pronounces the hours as "hundreds," e.g., "Sixteen hundred" for 4 p.m., though hundreds have nothing to do with the sixty-minute hour. It should be "sixteen sixty." I know, that'll be a lonely campaign.) At shore installations the local time zone is usually observed, but for non-local communications and orders "Greenwich Mean Time" or Zulu" time is used. (See "Bells" for a quaint ship-board time keeping custom.)
UCMJ The Uniform Code of Military Justice. Adopted as law by the U.S. Congress, the UCMJ is the fundamental law regulating rights, obligations and relations in the U.S. military services. At least a few of its provisions are occasionally on the mind of the Navy man, such as the critical rule on "penetration."
Uni The Uniform. A uniform. Any uniform. Again, fighter pilots don't like three-syllable words.
Uniform of
     the Day
So here you've got a rule, made up by some admiral's wife, telling fighter pilots which shirt and pants to wear today. Good luck. Satrapa always wore whatever he damn well pleased.
WAG "Wild-ass guess." A fighter pilot's life often depends on a good guess, like "Which way's the ship?" An old fighter pilot has survived a lot of WAGs.
Wash out To fail the training program and be reassigned other duties. The naval flight training program has a high wash-out rate. The shock of Pre-Flite gets rid of many. In basic flight training, instrument and formation flying are popular wash-out points, and in the advanced training syllabus carrier landing is the biggie. Plus of course the fatal wash-outs, but that's a different kind of reassignment.
Wetting down An expensive tradition, where an officer who gets a promotion blows about a year's worth of raise on an elaborate "Wetting Down" party for squadron mates. Perhaps with the idea that he may not live out the year. May as well spend it now.
White rat "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." It's the same on a Navy cruise. Far away from home for months at a time, a Navy man's moral standards may flex a little. But we don't judge one another's weaknesses, and no harm is done generally, until a morally perfect person (a white rat) decides to write home about his squadron-mates' moral failures. Predictable crises follow, and the rat, if found out, is shunned in the Navy for the rest of his brief career.
Whites "Dress Whites." The uniform worn for special occasions during the summer season. (See "Blues.")
of Gold
Getting his wings is one of any Naval Aviator's two most important achievements. (The other can be what you will.) The "Wings of Gold" are the trophy after the world's most demanding aviation training; they're worn by the world's best-trained pilots.
 (failure to get)
The big "W", the most common demerit in "Pre-flite" training. "Word, failure to get" is the official term for the offense. It's the poor trainee's responsibility to 'get the word,' the straight skinny, and to be where he's supposed to be and do what he's supposed to do at each moment. Failure to get the word is NO excuse. Well, may as well learn it right away - it may save your life later, and prepare you for marriage.
Wyf Pronounced "wiff." Beloved life partner. Raises offspring during long cruises.
X.O. Executive Officer. Second in command to the C.O. Winds up responsible for discipline and administration. Not a tasty job, but you've got to do it if you want to become C.O.
Zoom bag In some quarters, a term for a flight suit.

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Index of Terms


AA/AAA (3ple-A)
Air Boss
Air wing
All hands
Alphabet (radio com)
Alpha strike
Anchors Aweigh
Angled deck
Angle of attack
Arrested Landing
Arresting Gear
Auger in
Autothrottle (APC)
Ball call
Basic engine
Basket leave
Boat officer
Boat school
Bravo Zulu
Buddy store
Buy the farm
Cage (your eyeballs)
"Carrier landing"
Catapult (Cat)
Cat Officer
Clear deck
Clearing Turn
Cold (& Hot)
Cold cat
Collateral duty
Combat spread
Compass rose
Crusader ball
Cut pass
Cyclic Ops
Date of Rank
Davy Jones' locker
Dead bug
Dead reckoning (DR)
Delta Sierra
Dream sheet
The Duty
Expansion joint
F-8 Crusader
Falcon codes
Fan break
Feet dry
Feet wet
Ferp (FRP)
Field Board
Final Charlie
Final checker
Finger Four
Fitness report
(A) Flight
Flight deck
Flight Lead
Flight Level
Flight suit
Flying tail
Fouled deck
Fox Corpen
Full bird
G (force)
General Quarters
Ghost fart
Gig line
Glide slope
Grampaw Pettibone
Grumman Iron Works
(in) Hack
Hand signals
Hangar Deck
Head signals
"High Flight"
Hit the boat
Holding pattern
Hot (& Cold)
Indexer lights
Inflight engagement
Instrument parade
Integrity watch
Irish pennant
"I say again"
Kiss off
Landing gear
Landing pattern
Last Charlie
Lay of the land
Liberty boat
Lite Com.
Loose deuce
LSO code
Mary Ann Barnes
Maximum thrust
Military thrust
"Military time"
Missing man
Morse code
Nautical mile
Naval Aviator
Navy Hymn
Navy property
Negative G
Nellie, darling
Nickel on the grass
Night trap
Night vision
No joy
Now hear this!
Oxygen mask
Pitching Deck
Pitch-up break
Plane captain
Plane guard
Poopy Suit
Power curve
Pull chocks
Pull G's
Rag / RAG
Ramp Strike
Ready CAP
Ready Room
Red Ball
Relative wind
Restricted area
Rocket Number
Romeo Corpen
Rug rank
Rules of flying
Rum Goody
Saddle (in the...)
Sand Crabs
Scan (instrument)
Shell (out)
Sick bay
Sierra Hotel
Snake ranch
Socked in
Soft Salute
Speed brake
Spit a wire
Spotting the deck
Stick (Control)
Stick (Pilot)
Surly bonds
Tailhook Association
Telephone pole
Three-point landing
Tin can
Top Gun
Tuck-under break
Tunnel vision
24-hour clock
Uniform of the day
Vulcan cannon
Wash out
Wetting down
White rat
Wing loading
Wings of Gold
Yellow Shirt
"Your signal"
Zero G
Zoom bag

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