Flying Terminology for Flight Surgeons

Here is some flying terminology (slang) for flight surgeons

Reviewing this early in your career will make you look good with the flying community. (For example,  “rotate” does not mean that the pilot stands on his seat and turns around, but rather refers to the action of applying back pressure to a control device, such as a yoke or side-stick  to lift the nose wheel off the ground during the takeoff roll.)    Also, credits, thanks and a “tip o’ the hat” to the Tailhook Association, 9696 Businesspark Ave., San Diego, CA 92131-1643, (800) 322-4665  Note: “Return to top of page” will take you directly to the Tailhook web page.

Also, if you have any terms that you would like to add or modify, please let me know, thanks–WWP


A — “Alfa”

AAA Anti-aircraft Artillery. Rapid-firing cannon or machine guns, often aimed by computers and radar.

ACM Air Combat Maneuvering, or dogfighting.

Admiral’s Doorbell The yellow button in an F/A-18 cockpit that jettisons all the external stores in an emergency. If you hit it, you’ll be “ringing the admiral’s doorbell” to explain why.

AGL Above Ground Level. An airplane’s altimeter reads height above Mean Sea Level (MSL), the more realistic measurement over land is height Above Ground Level. Most military aircraft have a radar-altimeter, which reads aircraft height above ground level.

Air Boss Head of the Air Department on board a carrier; he rules the flight deck.

Air Wing The entire complement of aircraft fielded by the carrier in battle: fighters, attack jets, early-warning planes, tankers, helicopters, antisubmarine patrol craft, etc.

Alert 5 A manned aircraft can launch within five minutes. The Navy has time restrictions as to how long a crew can stand an Alert-5 watch. Similarly, Alert 15, Alert 30, Alert 60.

Aluminum Cloud The F-14 is so large that it is sometimes referred to by this term.

Angels Altitude, measured in thousands of feet (“angels fifteen” means 15,000 feet above sea level). Also, a term lovingly ascribed to the rescue helicopter by any aviator who has experienced an ejection and subsequent helicopter rescue.

Anti-Smash Aircraft strobe, or anti-collision, lights.

Angle of Attack (AOA) Angle of the wing relative to the forward flight path of the airplane. On any aircraft, too great an angle of attack will cause the wing to stop flying (stall), as airflow across the upper surface is disrupted.

Angles Gaining angles on a dogfight opponent involves maneuvering for a shot from astern. The ultimate in an angles fight is an angle of zero — straight up the enemy’s tailpipe.

AOM All Officer’s Meeting. A vehicle that Commanding Officers use to keep Junior Officers in a central location for a given amount of time to keep them from screwing up his (or her ) command tour.

ASW Anti-submarine warfare.

Atoll, Apex, Acrid NATO code names for Soviet-manufactured air-to-air missiles.

Return to top of page

B — “Bravo”

B/N Bombardier-navigator; the specific term for the NFO in the A-6 aircraft.

“Back to the Taxpayers” Where you send a wrecked aircraft.

Bag Flight suit or anti-exposure suit (“Put on a bag”); as a verb — to collect or acquire: as in, “bag some traps.”

Bag Season Cold weather or water conditions which require the wearing of anti-exposure gear; which is very restrictive, uncomfortable and unpopular

Bagger An aviator who manages to obtain more traps or flight time than his squadron mates, usually through dubious means.

Ball An amber visual landing aid that the pilot uses to adjust aircraft-relative position to a desired final approach glideslope. The primary optical landing device on the carrier.

Bandit Dogfight adversary positively identified as a bad guy. Hostile aircraft.

Basement Hangar deck of the aircraft carrier.

Bat Decoder A sheet of paper carried on all fight operations that is the key to current airborne communication codes.

Bat-turn A tight, high-G change of heading. A reference to the rapid 180-degree Batmobile maneuver in the old Batman television series.

Beaded Up Worried or excited.

Behind the Power Curve Not keeping up with expectations. Technically, any airspeed less than that for the maximum lift-to-drag ratio, which is that portion of the power curve (a graphical plot of engine power vs. aircraft speed) at which the aircraft requires more power to go slower in steady level flight.

Bent Damaged or broken.

Big Mother That beautiful butt-ugly H-3 Navy helo that fishes you out of the drink.

Bingo Minimum fuel for a comfortable and safe return to base. Aircraft can fly and fight past bingo fuel in combat situations, but at considerable peril.

Bingo Field Land-based runway to which carrier aircraft can divert if necessary.

Birds Aircraft

Blower Afterburner.

Blue-Water Ops Carrier flight operations beyond the reach of land bases or bingo fields.

Boards Out Speed brakes extended

Boat Any Navy ship regardless of size. The aircraft carrier is “THE Boat.”

Bogey Unidentified and potentially hostile aircraft.

Bohica Bend over, here it comes again.

Bolt, Bolter A carrier landing attempt in which the tailhook fails to engage any of the arresting wires, requiring a “go-around,” and in which the aircraft landing gear contacts the deck. Otherwise it is a “low pass.”

Boola-Boola Radio call made when a pilot shoots down a drone.

Booming Loud, raucous partying (“we were booming last night”); or, fast, exciting flying (“we went booming through the mountains”).

Boondoggle A great deal, usually obtained at the expense of others. (“Shack is a bagger. That guy went on a coast-to-coast boondoggle cross-country with the skipper, even though we’re almost out of OPTAR for this quarter.”)

Boresight Technically, to line up the axis of a gun with its sights, but pilots use the term to describe concentrating on a small detail to the point of causing some detriment to the “big picture.”

BOREX A dull, repetitive exercise (a busy, tense one might be a SWEATEX).

Bought the Farm Died. Originated from the practice of the government reimbursing farmers for crops destroyed due to aviation accidents on their fields. The farmers, knowing a good thing when they see it, would inflate the value of lost crops to the point that, in effect, the mishap pilot “bought the farm.” Student pilots regularly practice emergency landings to farmer’s fields. (This one term must have a bazillion different origins judging from the amount of “corrections” I’ve received. I still like this one – ed.)

Bounce, Tap Unexpected attack on another aircraft.

Brain Housing Group Mock-technical term for the skull.

Bravo Zulu Praise for a good job.

Bubbas Fellow squadron members; anyone who flies the same aircraft as you do.

Bumping ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering), also called “bumping heads.”

BuNo Bureau number, the permanent serial number that the Navy assigns to an aircraft when it is built.

Burner Afterburner; a system that feeds raw fuel into a jet’s hot exhaust, thus greatly increasing both thrust and fuel consumption.

Buster Controller term for full military power: to hurry up, go as fast as possible.

Return to top of page

C — “Charlie”

CAG Commander of the air group (coined in the pre-1962 days when they were called air groups — now they’re called air wings) — the carrier’s chief pilot.

Carqual, or CQ Carrier qualification; a set number of carrier takeoffs and landings required in training and at periodic intervals of all carrier flight crews.

Cat Shot A carrier takeoff assisted by a steam-powered catapult. A “cold cat,” one in which insufficient launch pressure has been set into the device, can place the hapless aircraft in the water. A “hot cat” — too much pressure — is less perilous, but can rip out the nose wheel assembly or the launching bridle. Once a pair of common problems, but practically unheard of today.

CAVU Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited: the best possible flying weather.

CEP Circular Error Probable. The average “miss” distance of ordnance hits from a given aim point, such as a target bulls-eye.

Centurion An aviator who has made 100 shipboard landings on one carrier, typically a centurion patch is then issued and proudly worn on the flight jacket.

Charlie The planned landing time aboard a carrier.

Charlie Foxtrot Phonetics for “cluster-f%*k”

Check Six Visual observation of the rear quadrant, from which most air-to-air attacks can be expected. Refers to the clock system of scanning the envelope around the aircraft; 12 o’clock is straight ahead, 6 o’clock is directly astern. Also a common salutation and greeting among tactical pilots. Keep an eye on your behind, be careful.

Checking for Light Leaks Taking a nap, referring to the eyelids

Cherubs Altitude under 1,000 feet, measured in hundreds of feet (“cherubs two” means 200 feet).

Cold Nose Radar turned off, also known as “Lights out,” (Navy pilots transmit “My nose is cold” before refueling from Air Force tankers).

COD Carrier On-Board Delivery aircraft, used to transfer personnel and cargo to and from the carrier.

Colorful Actions Flathatting, showing off, or otherwise ignoring safe procedures while flying.

Combat Dump A bowel movement before flying; also called “sending an Marine to sea”

Cones Students, short for coneheads: also called nurkin heads, or studs.

Conning Making contrails.

Contract Agreements and ground rules, some minor and some life-threatening, between two-man fighter crews or between wingmen.

Crossdeck Pendant An arresting wire on an aircraft carrier; or the attaching cord between a VertRep helicopter to its externally slung cargo.

Return to top of page

D — “Delta”

Dash Two The second plane in a two-or-more aircraft formation; the wingman.

Deck Spotter Derogatory term for a pilot who looks away from the ball to peek at the deck.

Delta When an aircraft arrives at a boat for recovery, this instruction tells the pilot to stay clear and save gas; refers to a holding pattern at the boat.

Delta Sierra Phonetics for “dumb shit”: describes a stupid action, and erases all previous Bravo Zulus and Sierra Hotels.

Departure Literally departure from controlled flight, usually brought on in high-performance jets by excessive angle of attack coupled with partial power loss in one engine. All aircraft depart differently, but some anxious moments and some loss of altitude will result before control can be regained. Some jets, most notably the F-4 Phantom, are unrecoverable from certain departures.

Dirty Aircraft configured for landing with gear and flaps down.

Dot Refers to how a distant aircraft looks on the horizon, (“I’m a dot” means “I’m out of here”).

Double Ugly Fond nickname for the enormously capable but less than beautiful F-4 Phantom. See also Rhino.

Double Nuts The CAG’s bird usually numbered 100 or 00.

Down Broken, not flying. A sick pilot is “down.”

Downtown From the 1960s song by Petula Clark, meaning any enemy target area where lots of anti-aircraft opposition can be expected. During the Vietnam War, flying missions into the Hanoi-Haiphong complex in North Vietnam, which was defended by multiple SAM and conventional AAA sites, was referred to as “Going Downtown.”

Drift Factor If you have a high one, you aren’t reliable.

Driver Pilot.

Return to top of page

E — “Echo”

Echo Range A corner of the China Lake Naval Weapons Test Center outfitted with ground targets and electronic threat simulators. Many Top Gun training sessions are flown over Echo Range.

ECM Electronic Countermeasures; systems for jamming or misleading enemy weapons, communications, and radar.

Electric Jet The F-16 Fighting Falcon, so nicknamed because of its fly-by-wire controls.

ELINT Electronic Intelligence; the gathering of electronic emissions related to communications, weapons control, or reconnaissance.

Envelope The maximum performance parameters of an aircraft; flying at the edge of the envelope can be both exciting and dangerous.

Return to top of page

F — “Foxtrot”

FAG Fighter Attack Guy; derogatory term for F/A-18 Hornet drivers.

Fangs Out When a pilot is really hot for a dogfight.

Fangs Sunk in Floorboard When a fighter pilot boresights on a kill but ends up getting shot himself.

FARP Fleet ACM Readiness Program; a periodic training program presented in the context of the Fleet Air Wing; dogfighting practice with an adversary squadron.

FASO Flight Physiology Training: recurrent safety training for aircrews directed at emphasizing physiological stressors, conditions, or episodes which might be encountered in flight.

FAST Fleet Air Superiority Training.

Father Slang term for shipboard TACAN station. There is a Father on most Mothers.

Feet Wet/Dry The former means “over-water,” the latter “over-land.”

Fishbed, Flogger Also Fitter, Flanker, Fresco Fulcrum, etc. NATO code names for Russian fighter aircraft.

Flathatting Unauthorized low-level flying and stunting–thrilling, sometimes fatal, usually career-ending if caught.

Flare The nose-up landing posture normal for most land-based aircraft. Carrier jets eliminate flare in favor of a slamming contact with the deck. Also the terminal portion of a helicopter autorotation in which rotor speed can be accelerated while reducing rate-of-descent and forward groundspeed.

Fly-by-wire Electronic, computer-controlled operation of aircraft control surfaces. Supplants mechanical/hydraulic actuation common in earlier jets. The F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and the French Mirage 2000 use these systems.


Abbreviation for “f*cking magic”: very high-tech; used to describe how something you don’t understand actually works. The ASQ-8 1 Magnetic Anomaly System works by “FM.”

FOD Foreign Object Damage. A constant concern on airfields and carrier decks where jet engines operate. Jet intakes can ingest loose objects, and even the smallest item — a rock, a bolt — can seriously damage jet turbine blades.

Fox One, Fox Two, Fox Three Radio calls indicating the firing of a Sparrow, Sidewinder, or Phoenix air-to-air missile, respectively.

Fur ball A confused aerial engagement with many combatants. Several aircraft in tight ACM.

Return to top of page

G — “Golf”

  1. G-loading, G-rating High-performance aircraft subject airframes and occupants to centrifugal forces far beyond simple gravity. One-G equals normal gravity; a pilot and plane pulling 4-Gs in a turn will feel forces equal to four times the weight of gravity.

G-suit Nylon trousers that wrap around the legs and abdomen. Filled automatically with compressed air in high-G maneuvers, the G-suit helps prevent the pooling of blood in the lower extremities, thus retarding the tendency to lose consciousness. Also known as “speedjeans.”

Gaff Off Ignore.

Gate Afterburner. see also Zone

Gigahertz and Nanoseconds Highly technical, detailed, and hard to understand (“It’s getting down to gigahertz and nanoseconds.”)

Gizmo A piece of technical gear (also doodad, thingamabob, or hog-ha)

Glove The huge wing root of the F-14 Tomcat, housing the mechanism for moving the variable-geometry wings. Also, Tom Cruise notwithstanding, fireproof gloves are always worn by military pilots regardless of the outside temperature.

Go Juice Jet fuel or coffee.

god The authority, boss, or person with full responsibility; also descriptive of a pilot’s prowess (“He’s an ACM god”)

Goes Away What something does when you hit it with a missile.

Gomer Slang for a dogfight adversary, the usage stemming from the old Gomer Pyle television show.

Goo Bad weather that makes it impossible to see; in the clouds.

Goon Up Screw up.

Gouge The latest inside information. Also the poop, the skinny. A summary of important information.

Green Apple The control knob for the cockpit’s emergency oxygen supply.

Greenie Board Prominently displayed squadron scoreboard where the landing signal officers rate the pilots’ carrier landings (any color other than green is bad ). Also called the “weenie board.”

Gripe A mechanical problem on an aircraft. An “up” gripe means you can still fly, a “down” gripe means you can’t.

Gut Bomb Any of the (limited) variety of single-handed culinary delights found in the wardrooms or mess decks on the boat.

Return to top of page

H — “Hotel”

Hamburger Helper The bombardier-navigator (B/N) or radar intercept officer (RIO).

Hangar Queen An aircraft that suffers chronic “downs”; hangar queens are often pirated for spares for the squadron’s other aircraft, so when the aircraft leave the carrier at the end of the cruise, the maintenance officer normally flies the hangar queen because he knows which parts have been taken (the “queen’s” ejection seats are especially well preflighted).

Hard Deck An established minimum altitude for training engagements. Early Topgun hops honor a 10,000-foot AGL hard deck.

Hawk Circle The orbiting stack of aircraft waiting to land on the carrier.

Head on a Swivel Keeping an eye peeled for an ACM adversary; also called “doing the Linda Blair,” for the 360-degree head rotation in the movie The Exorcist.

Heater Sidewinder missile which homes in on heat sources.

Helo Universal Navy/Marine term for helicopter. Don’t say “chopper” unless you’re hanging out with the Army.

High PRF Extremely excitable (PRF is a radar term: pulse repetition frequency).

High Warble Unduly agitated.

Hinge Head Slang term for O-4s (LCDR). Legend has it that whenever a lieutenant makes lieutenant commander, he is given a lobotomy and half his brain is removed. A hinge is then installed so the brain half may be reinstalled later (or, in some cases, the other half is also removed).

Hop A mission, or flight

Hook Slap When the tailhook of an aircraft landing on a carrier strikes the rounddown.

HOTAS Hands On Throttle And Stick. Modern fighters have every imaginable control function mounted on either the stick (right hand) or the throttle quadrant (left hand), so that the pilot need not fumble around in the cockpit.

HUD Heads Up Display. A transparent screen mounted on the dashboard on which pertinent data from flight instruments and weapons systems are projected.The HUD eliminates the need to look down into the cockpit to read instruments.

Hummer Any ingenious machine — plane, car, or weapon — whose actual name can’t be recalled. Also “puppy,’ “bad boy.” The E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft is also nicknamed “Hummer,” in reference to the sound of its turboprop engines.

Return to top of page

I — “India”

IFR Instrument Flight Rules, permitting safe flight in conditions of limited visibility

Indian Night Noises The ominous creaks, pops, and shudders of an aircraft in flight

In-Flight Engagement Snagging the arresting wire before the wheels touch the deck. This can result in damage to the aircraft.

In the Spaghetti Where you catch the wires.

INS Inertial Navigation System. A device that, when properly loaded and aligned, permits the pilot to determine his location anywhere on earth within a few hundred feet.

Return to top of page

J — “Juliet”

Jink To maneuver violently to avoid a threat.

JO Junior officer, usually with all the answers.

JO Bunkroom The JO stateroom, where all the good parties are aboard The Boat

JOPA Junior Officer Protective Association. The O-3s (lieutenants) and below in a unit that band together for mutual protection. Sometimes called JORC (Junior Officer Retaliation Corps).

JORP Junior Officer Rest Period. What they do best.

Jock, Driver Pilot, as in “helo driver,” or “fighter jock.”

JP-4, JP-5 Types of jet fuel: the aroma of which makes former aviators nostalgic for flight operations. Usually seen floating on top of a cup of “go-juice.”

Judy Radio call signaling that your quarry is in sight and you are taking control of the intercept.

Return to top of page

K — “Kilo”

Kick the Tires and Light the Fires Formerly, to bypass or severely shorten the required routine of physically inspecting the aircraft prior to flight. Currently meaning “Let’s get this aircraft preflighted and outta here pronto!”

Knife Fight in a Phone Booth Close-in, slow-speed aerial dogfight with a nimble adversary. Often just called a “knife- fight.”

Return to top of page

L — “Lima”

LEAPEX A jump-through-your-ass project, exercise, or drill. Something silly that needs to be done NOW!

Lethal Cone, Cone of Vulnerability Area to the rear of the jet’s tailpipe, into which most infra-red missile and gun attacks are ideally launched.

Lights Out Radar off.

Lost the Bubble Got confused or forgot what was happening.

Loading/Unloading Increasing or decreasing angle of attack and G’s

Loud Handle Lever or grip that fires ejection seat.

LSO Landing Signal Officer. Squadron member with considerable experience in carrier landings, responsible for assisting others onto the deck and for grading their efforts. Also known as “paddles.”

Return to top of page

M — “Mike”

Martin-Baker Fan Club If you eject, you’re a member (a reference to the Martin-Baker company, manufacturer of ejection seats). An official list of members is maintained.

Meatball The glideslope indication light that pilots watch when they’re trapping.

Merge, Merged Plot The point at which aircraft come into contact, after having been vectored toward each other by radar control.

MiGCAP Combat Air Patrol over ground-attack aircraft to protect against an air-to-air threat.

Military Power Maximum jet engine power without engaging afterburner.

Mini-Boss The Assistant Air Boss.

Mort Killed.

Mother, or Mom The boat on which you are deployed, and where you launched from.

Mud-mover, Ground-pounder Low-level attack aircraft such as the A-6 Intruder. The F/A-18 doubles as a fighter and a mud-mover (small amounts only).

Music Electronic jamming intended to deceive radar.

My Fun Meter is Pegged Sarcastic comment for, “I am not enjoying this any more.”

Return to top of page

N — “November”

NATOPS The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program, responsible for rules and regulations governing safe and correct operation of all naval aircraft. Sometimes means in jest: “Not Applicable To Our Present Situation.” NATOPS manuals are sometimes referred to as “the big blue sleeping pill” in reference to their blue plastic covers.

NFO An aviator who is an officer but not a pilot; pilots say it stands for “No Future Occupation”; also called the “Non-Flying Object” and “walk-n’-talkin’ navbag.” Sometimes referred to as DAP for “Double-Anchor Puke” (a reference to the crossed anchors on the NFO wings).

NFOD No Fear of Death.

NFWS The Navy Fighter Weapons School, a graduate school for fighter pilots. Its universal nickname is Topgun.

“Nice Vapes” Comment on an exciting fly-by when high speed at low altitude or high G causes dramatic vapor trails.

No-Load An underachiever. Named after the process of warming up the catapults before a launch. “Stand clear of Cat 1 while firing no-loads.”

No Joy Failure to make visual sighting; or inability to establish radio communications.

Nugget A first-tour aviator.

Nylon Letdown Ejection and subsequent parachute ride.

Return to top of page

O — “Oscar”

OAST Overland Air Superiority Training. A periodic training exercise conducted over land and integrating all the elements of the carrier’s air wing.

On the Mouse Talking on the flight-deck radio circuit that uses a headset resembling Mickey Mouse ears.

Opportunity to excel A disagreeable job without the time or resources to properly complete.

Oversweep When the F-14, on the ground, sweeps its wings to seventy-two degrees aft making it easier to store.

Return to top of page

P — “Papa”

Padlocked To have a bogey firmly in your sights.

Painted Scanned by radar.

Passing Gas What an aerial tanker does.

Pass The point at which fighters, closing head-on, flash past each other. Also, an attempt at landing.

Penalty Box If you get a wave off or a bolter, that’s where you go.

Pickle A device held by the LSO that activates the “cut” light on the lens: as a verb, to drop a bomb or external fuel tank.

Pinging On Paying close attention to; critical scrutinization. Also “bugging” as in, “Quit pinging on me.” From Sonar Pinging in helo ASW.

Pinkie A landing made at twilight between the official time of sunset (or sunrise) and “real” darkness; it officially counts as a night landing, but is cheating; preferred type of “night” landing by 0-4’s and above.

Pit Rear seat position of the F-14 Tomcat or F-4 Phantom. Also the refueling pit.

PLAT Pilot Landing Aid Television. a videotape camera that records all carrier launches and recoveries.

Playmates The pilots of other aircraft on the same mission as you.

Plumber An inept pilot.

Pointy End The front of a boat

Popeye What you are when you’re flying in the goo.

Power Puke or Power Barf Projectile vomiting, a symptom of airsickness.

Pole Control stick.

Prang To bump, crunch, or break an aircraft.

Pucker Factor How scary something is.

Puke Someone who flies a different kind of aircraft than you, as in fighter puke or attack puke.

Punch Out To eject.

Return to top of page

Q — “Quebec”

Return to top of page

Quick Fix Stop-gap measure or computer box change to repair an aircraft quickly.

R — “Romeo”

R2D2 A RIO (a reference to Luke Skywalker’s robot backseater in the Star Wars movies).

Ramp Strike Landing short in the ramp area, resulting in a crash.

Radome Streamlined fiberglass enclosure covering a radar antenna.

RAG Replacement Air Group. Squadron in which newly trained pilots are introduced to, and trained in, a particular aircraft type. The official name is FRS (Fleet Replacement Squadron).

Red Flag A large mock air war, held quarterly by the Air Force at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Many non-Air Force assets — Navy/Marines, Army, foreign — are invited to participate.

Rhino Nickname for the F-4 Phantom and now the F/A-18E or -18F Super Hornet. The Phantom was also known as the Double Ugly.

RIO Radar Intercept Officer. Back-seat crewman in the F-14 Tomcat or F-4 Phantom II.

Rocket One The skipper.

Roll ’Em A movie (“What time’s the roll ’em?”) — a nightly social event in the readyroom.

Roof The flight deck on the carrier.

Rounddown The very back end of the flight deck, so called because of its rounded shape.

Return to top of page

S — “Sierra”

SA Situational Awareness. An all-encompassing term for keeping track of what’s happening when flying. SA involves knowing what your airplane is doing relative to its envelope, where your adversary is and what he’s up to, where the ground is, the status of enemy threats on the ground, and hundreds of other variables. Loss of situational awareness is often cited as a contributing factor tomany military-aviation mishaps.

SAM Surface-to-air missile.

SAR Search and Rescue

Scooter Nickname for the A-4 Skyhawk.

Scope A RIO.

Section Two aircraft operating together as a tactical unit.

Shoe Short for “blackshoes,” a derogatory term for nonflying personnel; aviators wear brown shoes.

Shooter The catapult officer.

Sierra Hotel Phonetic abbreviation for “shit hot,” high praise; the pilot’s favorite and all-purpose expression of approval.

Slider A hamburger cooked in aircraft carrier wardrooms with cheese to ensure the grease contest is high enough to guarantee it will slide off the plate in heavy seas.

Smoking Hole An airplane crash site.

Sniffer A device on the flight deck that checks that an aircraft is broadcasting IFF transmissions.

Snuggle Up During formation flight, to close up under the wing of another aircraft.

Sortie A single mission by one aircraft.

Spank or Shpank What one does to a lesser opponent in a dogfight.

Speed of Heat, Warp One Very, very fast.

Speed Slacks, Speed Jeans The G-suit. which applies pressure to the legs to aid in preventing blackout during high-G maneuvering.

Spooled Up Excited.

Spud Locker The part of a carrier where you don’t want to land; it is well down on the fantail, so if you hit it, you are way too low (at least one Navy pilot earned the nickname “Spud” for doing just that).

State How much fuel you’ve got. Mother requests, “Say your state.” Responded to in the form of hours and minutes of fuel onboard til you fall out of the sky (“splash”). You respond, “State two plus two zero to splash” = 2 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

Stick-Throttle Interconnect Mock-tech term for a pilot (also called just a “stick”).

Sweet Up and working.

Return to top of page

T — “Tango”

TACAN TACtical Aid to Navigation. Navigation aid which provides bearing and distance (slant range) between it and an airplane.

TACTS Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System. A system of computers, sensors, data pods, and graphic displays that permits real-time depiction of an aerial dogfight. TACTS is an integral element of aircrew training.

Tank Refuel

Tango Uniform Polite phonetics for “tits up”; broken, not functioning.

Texaco An aerial tanker.

Three Down and Locked Landing gear down and ready for landing. A required confirmation call prior to landing at Air Force bases. Pilots who fly fixed-gear aircraft are known to modify this call as “three down and welded.”

Three-Nine Line Imaginary line across your airplane’s wingspan. A primary goal in ACM is to keep your adversary in front of your three-nine line.

Throttle Back To slow down, take it easy.

Tickets The jobs, billets, and accomplishments you need to climb the totem pole (the tickets get “punched”).

Tiger An aggressive pilot.

Tilly The mobile crane on the flight deck used to pick up disabled aircraft and move them.

Tits Machine A good, righteous airplane. Current airplanes need not apply, this is a nostalgic term referring to birds gone by. By all accounts the F-8 Crusader was a tits machine.

Top Off Fill up with gas.

TransPac/Lant To cross the Pacific or Atlantic by aircraft.

Trap An arrested landing on a carrier, a helo landing into an RSD (rapid securing device)

Trick-or-Treat If you don’t make this pass. you have to tank or land ashore.

Turkey Nickname for the F-14 Tomcat (when landing, the movement of its control surfaces makes it look like a turkey).

Tweak To fine-tune or adjust.

Twirly Anti-collision beacon on an aircraft.

Two Turnin’ and Two Burnin’ Refers to a P2V-7 in order to capture the flavor of having two Wright R-3350s (turnin’) and two Westinghouse J34 pure jets (burnin’) on takeoff. Jets were later put into standby for a rainy day.

Return to top of page

U — “Uniform”

Up Working, not broken.

Up and Locked As in “Brain Disengaged.” Derives from that bad thing that happens when you try to make a gear-up approach.

Up on the Governor When someone is about to have a tantrum (term comes from the device that keeps the engine from overspeeding).

Up to Speed, or Up to Snuff To understand or to know what’s going on.

Return to top of page

V — “Victor”

Varsity Play for the Deck A skillful landing attempt.

VSTOL Very Short Takeoff and Landing. Also VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing). The AV-8B Harrier is a VSTOL (VTOL) aircraft. Capable of vectoring its jet thrust to shorten its take-off roll or even to rise and descend vertically.

Vulture’s Row A viewing gallery on an aircraft carrier’s island where you can watch flight operations.

Return to top of page

W — “Whiskey”

Warm Fuzzy Feeling of confidence or security. When things feel right.

Warthog Universal nickname for the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft.

Wash Out To not make the grade at flight school.

Waveoff When the LSO orders a pilot not to trap. A mandatory signal, usually a visual (waveoff lights on the lens) or audible command (on the UHF radio) for a pilot to cease his approach and not touch down.

Whiskey Charlie Phonetics for “Who cares.”

Whiskey Delta Phonetics for “Weak Dick,” a pilot who can’t cut it. Such a scurrilous term that it’s almost never used.

’WinderSidewinder missile.

Wingman Second pilot in a two-plane formation. Responsible for ensuring that his leader’s six o’clock remains clear.

Workups Putting a ship through certain tests and exercises before going on cruise.

Return to top of page

X — “X-Ray”

Return to top of page

Y — “Yankee”

Return to top of page

Z — “Zulu”

Zero-Dark-Thirty Technically a half-hour after midnight, but commonly used to describe any event that is scheduled to take place after midnight and before sunrise.

Zone 1 Minimum afterburner in the Tomcat.

Zone 5 Maximum afterburner in the Tomcat.

Zoombag Flight suit.