I attended a recent Marine Corps Air Station Air Show at Cherry Point, North Carolina. A terrific display of piloting skills by the civilian stunt pilots, the marine pilots, and the Navy’s Blue Angels. These folks complete unbelievable maneuvers at hundreds of miles per hour and in very close proximity to one another. Truly impressive. And I couldn’t imagine the complex communications that must take place between the pilots as they perform.
A few days after the show a friend sent me a transcript of the flight communications she received from a relative in the control tower on show day. Here’s a portion of it:
Flight Leader: Now that we’re airborne, everyone ready?
Pilot A: I can’t seem to find my course notes. Anyone see them back at the briefing room?
Flight Leader: It’s supposed to all be in your head. Not on a damn piece of paper. Turn right to two four zero and ascend to 3,400 feet.
Pilot A: Ever since I had that head-on collision on my riding mower with my parked car, I’ve needed notes. I’m sure they’re around here someplace. I’ll just follow you Flight Leader.
Pilot B: Are you sure it’s turn right, Boss? I thought we were supposed to go left.
Flight Leader: Turn right NOW!
Pilot B: Yes sir!
Pilot A: Hey, it’s cold in here. Anyone remember where the heater switch is?
Pilot C: The heater switch is right below the fuel dump switch. A, you’re supposed to be able to do this stuff with your eyes closed.
Pilot A: I used to be able to. But that golf ball to the head last week put a damper on the memory thing. Or was it a basketball?
Flight Leader: Turn left at the river and begin the Death to Terrorists formation.
Pilot A: Hey, a red warning light is flashing. Anyone know what it’s for?
Pilot D: Did you happen to hit the fuel dump switch by mistake?
Pilot A: How would I know?
Pilot C: Yes, he did. A river of jet fuel just shot past me. Shit, my engine ignited it as it swung behind my plane. Take a look!
Flight Leader: A, shut that damn thing off!
Air Show Ground Announcer: And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. An unexpected and wonderful new addition to the program. A massive fireball as the Angels pass over the field. How they pulled that off without being consumed by the flames is beyond me. Must have taken years to perfect it.
Flight Leader: Pilot A, meet me in the briefing room ASAP when we finish.
Pilot A: We’re going to do lunch? What a good idea.