Let’s let our hair down for a bit and have some fun! I’m about to give you your first lesson in a whole new language. That language is the all-too-elusive “Fighter Pilot Lingo.” It’s always funny when a bunch of pilots get together at a social occasion. We all break into this strange unintelligible language…and all of the wives roll their eyes because they know they’ll never understand a word of it. They just say, “They’re talking shop,” and then head over to other side of the room to talk about their stuff.
But one of the cool things that makes pilots unique is our very special language. There’s a reason for all of the brevity. It’ out of necessity. Seriously…when you are flying at 700 miles per hour it’s lot easier to say “Bogey, left 9, 3 miles” than to come on the radio and exclaim, “Look, gentleman! I see an object on the horizon of an unidentified nature who seems to be about 3 miles away and approximately at an angle off my left shoulder!”
You get the idea…
Ok…here’s some Fighter Pilot Lingo to put into your vocabulary. It may not work well in your local town, but it sure does sound good in the squadron!
Bogey – officially this is an aircraft that has not been identified as a friendly or enemy aircraft. While it may end up being classified as one of the two, this aircraft has no identification and therefore you can’t shoot it. Shooting a bogey is a bad idea…really bad. Of course, it may be the Chinese F-8 that’s going to bomb Taiwan. But then again, it could be a Boeing 737 that lost communication. They key with the “bogey” is to identify him as soon as possible so everyone can start shooting.
Finger Fire – this is what happens when you combine a complicated airplane with a confused pilot. For example, the F-18 stick has about 7 switches on it. The throttles have about another 7. When you are trying to get one of those switches to do one thing and you hit the wrong switch, then try to correct the problem by switching the wrong one again, that’s a finger fire. Your fingers are just not doing what they are supposed to do. It’s the same thing as accidentally “tpying a snetnece like tihs” because you keep hitting the wrong keys on your keyboard. Of course, most keyboards can’t fire a Sidewinder…and most fighters can, which makes finger fires more of a problem then some spelling errors. (Oh…and for the record, I’ve never accidentally fired a Sidewinder because of a finger fire although I have speled many words wrong because of one. Case in point…last sentence.)
Pickle – no, not a green, salty treat to go with a sandwich…in this case pickle is actually a verb. This is when a pilot pushes the button to drop a bomb. One of my favorite lines to use when I speak is that I promise the audience that I can teach them to fly the F-18 in 3 simple sentences. Then I say, “It’s easy, so pay attention because this is going to come fast. 1. When you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. 2. When you pull the stick back, the houses get smaller. 3. And…when you push that little red button on the stick; all the houses go away.” The “red button” is affectionately termed the “pickle switch.” And to pickle a bomb is to drop one. Now, here’s the great part about phrases like this…they start to grow and take on new meanings. And this one has also come to define what happens when (I kid you not) a pilot’s wife delivers a baby. When she is pregnant, we say that she “Has One In The Hangar” and when she goes to the hospital to deliver the baby she “Pickles.” Yep…just like that bomb…only in this case, instead of exploding when it comes out, the baby just keeps his fighter pilot Daddy awake at night for the next 3 years.
Now that you’ve got a little bit of insight in the way that fighter pilots talk, now’s a good time to do something else that a fighter pilot does: TAKE ACTION!
Do something each day that brings you closer to your goal of becoming a fighter pilot and stay informed!
We’ll talk about some more fighter pilot lingo next time!