Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

26 September 2007

Aviation Jargon

It occurs to me that the aviation jargon we pilots so casually use might seem strange to someone not in our field. For instance, we refer to an aircraft as a ship. I did in my last post ("We Bought A Ship!"). Some of the responses hinted at the strangeness of my use of the word. Except for fellow pilot Hal Johnson, who congratulated me for getting another aircraft "under" me. As though it were a horse - a metaphor I accept; Two-One-Eight Alpha Lima is a good steed.

The earliest airplanes were flying boats, since airports as we know them today hadn't been invented yet. As airplanes grew and acquired more than one crewmember, much of the terminology carried over from boats. That tradition continued as seaplanes faded and landplanes prevailed. Thus we have port and starboard for left and right, and a host of other terms. That big vertical thingee on the back of an airplane is called a rudder, although it has less to do with turning the airplane than the same-named device does on a boat.

Moving forward (or upward, actually) we even refer to manned rockets as "space ships." In the original "Star Trek" television series, James Tiberius Kirk sat on the bridge in command of his starship Enterprise. Like the captain of a big ocean liner, he didn't do the actual driving; he had special people for that. If you were watching one of those old "Star Trek" episodes for the first time and missed the opening credits you might think the action was taking place on some wierd WWII battleship with the multi-gender crew and women in tight spandex uniforms and automatic doors that *whoosh* open and closed. The writers obviously assumed that nautical traditions would survive into the final frontier. Well...except for the nifty spandex uniforms; we didn't see any bell-bottoms on Mr. Spock or Lt. Uhuru.

Back here on planet Earth, I've also heard helicopter pilots call them birds, which is naturally and obviously more appropriate. A helicopter pilot will also sometimes call it an airplane, or just the plane. As in, "Man, the weather got so bad, all I wanted to do was get that airplane back on the ground!" But not a lot of helicopter pilots use airplane because it confuses even us.

By the way, you will never, and I mean never hear a real helicopter pilot call it a "chopper." It is just not done. We detest that word for some reason. Using it immediately pegs the speaker as either an outsider (a "non-aviator" in our parlance), a newbie, a rank amateur, a poseur, or worse, a newspaper reporter. Maybe all of the above. It's just sort of this strange thing that no self-respecting helicopter pilot ever calls his ship a chopper.

Although...down in Guanaja, everyone referred to Three-Four-Whiskey as "the chopper." If I ever called it the ship or the bird or the plane they wouldn't know what I was talking about. So I'd just say, "The helicopter will be ready when you get there." But me, being lazy and "helicopter" being an overly long, multisyllable word to say, I have to admit that sometimes for the sake of brevity I'd just say, "The chopper will be ready when you get there." But don't let any of my aviator buddies know that, okay? I might be drummed right out of the helicopter pilot corps.


Redlefty said...

For some reason I can hear Arnold Scharzenegger in the background...

"Git to dah choppah!!!"

You're right -- he wasn't a pilot, so he could say that.

Hal Johnson said...

"I might be drummed right out of the helicopter pilot corps." Only if you were to give up rum and switch to white zin.

Yeah, to this day, I have to suppress a shudder when I hear "chopper."

David said...

"I know I haven't posted in a while" But, I really blew it this time!!!
Belated Congratulations Bob!!!

I hate 'that' word too. Know idea why exactly.

Sharon Jones - sltmjones@hotmail.com said...

Well, the new ship is under you and the rudder is full. Keep the bird on course and belay people referring to your ship as a chopper.

Anonymous said...

Sorry... I can't resist having a little fun with this.

Picture M*A*S*H's Radar O'reilly hangin out in the Swamp, jumping up and saying,"Uh-oh, BIRDS! Birds!" :)


andis said...

You seemed very pleased and content, nice. Good to read this, and enjoy your new ship.