Our good friend and master F-14 Tomcat Radar Intercept Officer Joe “Smokin” Ruzicka is back to share with us his list of the weirdest terms any Naval Aviator or carrier-borne Naval Flight Officer would know.
Make sure to also check out Joe’s fantastic Foxtrot Alpha contribution that puts you right in the Tomcat’s cockpit during a tense night carrier catapult launch by clicking here.
1. Ease Guns to Land: As soon as carrier pilots hit the landing area, the engines are at full military power (full power without afterburner). This is because in case the hook misses one of the wires, the plane has enough power to take off and continue flying. Ease Guns To Land is when a pilot pulls the throttles back in an effort to help set the hook for arrestment. This is a big no-no, and results in a stern debrief and probably a mandatory break from flying.
2. “Taxi One Wire” written as “T1W”: The ship has four arresting cables (CVN’s Reagan, Bush and Ford only have three), with the most aft wire being #1 and the most forward wire being #4. The target wire (what every pilot is trying to hit) is normally #3. While catching any wire can be considered “good”, you want to avoid the #1 wire because it is the closest to the back of the ship. Hitting the back of the ship is not recommended. Taking that thought a step further, pilot’s who land well before the #1 wire and “taxi into it” are on a very dangerous path.
3. Tower Flower: During the launch and recovery of aircraft, each squadron has to send a Junior Officer (JO) up to the tower (called Pri-Fly, short for Primary Flight Control) to provide the Air Boss and his team with a liaison for their aircraft and any problems (or stupidity) that may arise. Unfortunately for the JO, the Air Boss is not always in the greatest of moods, so communication tends to flow in only one direction. The poor soul on the receiving end of the Air Boss’s wrath is the Tower Flower.
4. Greenie Board: Each pass at the carrier is graded by Landing Signal Officers (LSO’s). The results for each pilot are displayed using colored dots on a “greenie board” displayed in their respective ready rooms for all to see. The green color represents the highest grade a pilot can receive. A fair is normally yellow and considered an average pass. Red represents the worst and is referred to as a “cut pass” (such as ease guns to land). A Brown dot is used for a pass called a “no grade.” This pass is considered safe but certainly below average and affectionately known as a turd. A rule to live by: Avoid the brown.
5. Foc’sle Follies: At the end of each grading period for landings (called a Line Period), the awards for Top Hook and other accomplishments are handed out during Foc’sle Follies. The name comes from the location on the ship where this ceremony takes place (Ships Foc’sle) and where crazy, funny, and sometimes straddling the line of political correctness skits are performed. It is a great camaraderie building event and normally happens before a port call or just prior to the end of a long cruise—so spirits are high.
6. Roll ‘em: A Roll ‘em is a term used for showing a movie in a squadron’s Ready Room. Roll ‘ems can be very formal events with set doctrine and mandatory attendance. The events might include a Call Sign Review Board where a new guy is formally blessed with a call sign, a “Stoning” where someone is brought before the crowd and stoned with paper rocks for performing a mildly dumb act that day, and an attempt to guess the movie about to be shown using drawings of the movie subject matter—kind of like charades. Roll ‘ems include popcorn, sodas, and as much candy as can be purchased from the ship’s store.
7. Mid Rats: Formally known as Midnight Rations. It’s one of four meals served on the ship and one of the most popular because the grill is open for orders. If you are a nightly attendee to Mid Rats, you better have a good workout program in place to keep the extra pounds off.
8. Mr. Hands: The ship has closed circuit television that is piped through to nearly every space that has a TV. Two of the most watched channels at night are the PLAT camera—(Pilots Landing Aide Television or PLAT), which shows landings from the perspective of looking aft on the ship and the Mr. Hands channel. Mr. Hands is a real time depiction of traffic in the pattern using small pucks symbolizing aircraft that move around a board. It gets its name from the sailor’s hand (sometimes in white gloves) that would pick up the pucks and move them around, placing them at the proper location as aircraft made it around the pattern. Mr. Hands has now been upgraded to a video depiction rather than someone’s actual hand, but old-timers still refer to it as Mr. Hands.
9. Dog Machine: If you’ve ever been to a Golden Corral or similar restaurant where they have soft serve ice cream, then you’ve seen a dog machine. Soft serve ice cream is known on the ship as “dog” because when it comes out of the machine it has a strong physical resemblance to dog poop. In the wardroom, pilots always know if there is a good batch of dog. If you hear someone exclaim, “That’s a good dog!” a rush to the dog machine ensues. I guess pilots don’t have much to do.
10. The Smoking Lamp is Lit: This old Navy tradition is slowing fading away as the Navy encourages people to quit using tobacco. While there is no actual lamp, there are announcements made on the 1 MC establishing when folks can go smoke. The smoking lamp is out during refueling, drills, and ordnance loading. Kind of makes sense, I guess.
11. Six Pack: With more than six acres of usable space, the flight deck is divided into different sections with nicknames so people can figure out where your aircraft is parked. One of the most well known areas is the “six pack”, which can hold roughly six jets and is located just in front of the island. Tomcats were always parked on the fantail. In the later years of the Tomcat, that area was referred to as “Jurassic Park”.
12. Covey Launch: To help two aircraft expeditiously rendezvous sometimes the deck will perform what is called a “covey launch”. This is when two aircraft go down the catapults at the same time, typically catapults #1 and #3. It is a well-timed and coordinated event usually performed by a seasoned air department deck crew. Plus, it looks pretty cool!
13. Mark Your Father: This is a term used by aircrew and controllers to identify where an aircraft is in relation to the carrier using a radial and distance from the ship’s TACAN. It is normally an imperative statement and goes something like this:
Controller: “101, mark your Father” (In his best Darth Vader voice)
Pilot: “101, marking mom’s 230 for 25” (i.e. Southeast of the ship at 25 nautical miles)
The verbiage “marking mom’s XXX” is used to clarify the direction as “from the ship to the aircraft” and avoids having the reciprocal direction being interpreted as the position—albeit incorrectly. (The reciprocal would be “Mom bears 050 for 25” but then it just gets confusing and we try to keep directions to one way)
14. Clara: One of the first times coming down the chute at the ship, my pilot told me he was “Clara.” I had no idea what he was saying, so I quizzically asked him over the aircraft’s internal intercom system “Clara who?”
Clara is the term pilot’s use to tell the Landing Signal Officers that they cannot see the ball (the Fresnel lens landing aide). Clara is short for “clarification” or more bluntly “tell me where I am on glideslope, I can’t see the ball”. The LSO’s response after Clara is normally a position call. “Roger, you’re high”. In my case, the “Clara who” back to my pilot did not help our situation; he still had no idea where we were on glideslope and the LSO’s had no idea he was “Clara”.
15. Bolter: This is one of the most well known naval aviation terms. If a pass is made at the ship and the aircraft’s hook does not engage an arresting wire (typically because of being too high), then it is known a bolter. If the hook touches in the landing area but fails to catch a wire (several things could be a factor for this happening), it is known as a hook skip bolter. A hook skip bolter is shown on the event status board as a “B” with a circle around it, where as a bolter is simply shown as a “B.”
16. “Bingo on the Ball” aka “Trick or Treat”: During flying operations when there is a usable divert field within 200 nautical miles, the carrier is under what is called “Bingo Ops.” This means if an aircraft has a problem or is low on gas and cannot make an arrested landing, the pilot can divert—or bingo—to land at the divert field. When a pilot calls “Bingo on the Ball” (or “Trick or Treat”), it means this is his last pass before he has to bingo back to the pre-determined divert field. The aircraft shows up on the event status board as “BOB.” BOB always makes you nervous because you don’t want an aircraft to head back to the beach unintentionally.
17. Red Light: Each carrier has a Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter that launches first before any other aircraft. This is in case an aircraft does go down, a rescue helicopter is in place to pick up the pilot. Before launching, the SAR helo gives a report on how long it can stay airborne and still perform the search and rescue mission. This is known as red light, and is normally given in hours and minutes: “610’s red light, 3+15.” Thus, 610 has 3 hours and 15 minutes where he can be SAR capable. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to use it.
A huge thanks to Joe Ruzicka for putting another fascinating piece together for FA readers!
Top photo via DoD/public domain
Contact the author at Tyler@jalopnik.com.