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This is what I call a target-rich environment.
May 2, 2010 10:49 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder how military aviators get their callsigns? Chances are good it won't be based on something you're proud of. Apparently being too influenced by Top Gun and asking to be called "Iceman" is a frequent, and bad, move: see "Slush" and "Snocone", and that's just from the S's.

Found this after idly wondering if callsigns were in any way predictive of a pilot's career. Not enough biographic detail here to make a start on that question.
posted by George_Spiggott (31 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

I learned from Battlestar Galactica that if you screw around during a meeting, you get a memorable callsign.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:01 AM on May 2, 2010

Every one in my squadran [sic] SAW that I was bad to the BONE.

...nice try, but we all know this is another one of those homoerotic caught-nude ones.
posted by griphus at 11:11 AM on May 2, 2010

Speaking of BSG, there's a Hawkeye pilot with the callsign DRADIS.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:16 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Found this after idly wondering if callsigns were in any way predictive of a pilot's career.

posted by squorch at 11:17 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speaking of BSG, there's a Hawkeye pilot with the callsign DRADIS.

That's gotta be an NFO - or maybe their ultra-nerddom has infected the cockpit.
posted by squorch at 11:18 AM on May 2, 2010

maybe their ultra-nerddom has infected the cockpit

From the wikipedia entry on the F-16.

Although the F-16's official name is "Fighting Falcon", it is known to its pilots as the "Viper", due to it resembling a viper snake and after the Battlestar Galactica starfighter.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:37 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

SlyPig - last name Cunningham. heh.
posted by Rumple at 11:39 AM on May 2, 2010 [8 favorites]

There was one woman who served as the "guy in back" for an F-15 in Afghanistan in like 2002 whose call sign was BALDD (pronounced "baldy").

She's married to the pilot of an F-16, so BALDD stands for "Balled by a lawn dart driver".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:48 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

From when I worked on F-14's:
First name: Herman, call sign: Munster
Last name: Seidewand, call sign: sidewinder
Last Name: Fillipone: Call sign, Tubes (get it?)
First name: Leo and he was a RIO (the guy in the back seat), so he was LTR for 'Leo The RIO'.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:50 AM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know a "Cyclops" who got it because of an eye infection. :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:53 AM on May 2, 2010

F18 driver on det in Tyndal Australia smacked a kangaroo at eight thousand with a five hundred pound blue bomb.

hahahaha. punch that you hopping marsupial jerk.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 12:05 PM on May 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

The guy was from Iowa

Yeah. Iowa. The potato state...
posted by BlooPen at 12:06 PM on May 2, 2010 [9 favorites]

When I was studying astronomy at the University of Iowa, my very confused grandfather would go around telling people that I was studying astrology at the University of Idaho.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:11 PM on May 2, 2010 [27 favorites]

Just found the callsign of a guy who`s son went to school with mine. His wife told me the story at some school function:

A drunken night at the Kun (Juvats of course) for a young Lt. 3 seconds away from being named Opie for the rest of my life when another punk saved me. Offered up B.B. to the crowd - complete silence since no one could figure out what B.B. meant. "Has anyone ever been stuck next to this kid at the bar? Blah Blah (f^*$ing) B.B. for short." No vote, no more names, just a nametag with B.B. on it. What is Good!
posted by smcniven at 12:30 PM on May 2, 2010

Last name: Seidewand, call sign: sidewinder

All things considered, that one's about as good as it seems like you're going to get. Note to self: if becoming fighter pilot seems likely, change name to Seidewand.

I'll file that note right next to the one with my new name if some geneological accident leads to my being crowned King of Norway. Harald.
posted by Naberius at 12:42 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

These are hilarious. Thanks for posting!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2010

My favorite: BULIT, an acronym for "Beat Up Lithuanian In Cab", after said Lithuanian drunkenly challenged the pilot in question to a fight in the back of a cab somewhere in Spain.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

"in TAXI", duh
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:47 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only pilot I ever knew flew F-18s for the Marines. Last name was "Jenkins," so his callsign was "Junkers." He thought they were making fun of his name and his shitty car. I had to explain that there may have been a bit of history involved.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:10 PM on May 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

This is down-to-the-last-detail the same as how the Hash House Harriers give out hash names.
posted by jewzilla at 2:22 PM on May 2, 2010 [3 favorites]

I know a guy, who knows a guy, who heard of a guy, who, after one particularly unfortunate flight, earned:

"Lost In Med, Please Don't Inform CAG^"
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 2:53 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Man, you f*ck just ONE goat ...
posted by kyrademon at 3:30 PM on May 2, 2010

NAFOD is pretty common, although that's more of a name that you call someone behind their back. Same with ATIS (broadcasts all the time whether you listen or not).

SLAB = Short Little Asian Buddy
DIM = Dick In Mouth (don't ask, right?)
Cornfed = guy from Washington, Georgia
BDA = Big Dumb Animal
Teapot = short and stout

etc. etc. etc. Some guys try to take the allusions and metaphors a bit far - the best callsigns are one-syllable abbreviations.
posted by squorch at 4:03 PM on May 2, 2010

Oren Monash: Fish. Why the hell do they call you "Fish"?

Spurgeon Tanner: Spurgeon, sturgeon, fish. Took me about 15 minutes of my first day at the Naval Academy.
posted by bwg at 4:56 PM on May 2, 2010

Hawkeye NFO here. Callsign? Matty. Name? Matt (yup, that boring, but it's just what everyone always called me anyway)

I've seen em all, but I think callsigns and their 'screw up' factor tend to vary per aircraft community and even airwing. Some squadrons may be no-holds-barred (like the African American WISO who married a Jewish woman - callsign "Dr. Dredel"), while others may just go for the funny factor, ex. - Hornet pilot callsign 'Stupid' cause his last name was Petrick.

And then of course, some just go for the obvious. A good friend of mine, well his name is Ed. "Special" Ed.

posted by matty at 5:17 PM on May 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looked up the call-sign I know for one of the pilots I work with (I'm a flight attendant), really nice guy, former Blue Angel, with the last name Packer.

Oh yeah, "Fudge" is in there!
posted by theDTs at 6:26 PM on May 2, 2010

My cousin used to fly B1s out of the Dakota plains. After drinking a bit too much and playing in the yard he ran out into the field and managed to run straight into the only tree for miles. His call sign?"Lucky"
posted by gofargogo at 9:28 PM on May 2, 2010

I was so impressed that my new SO's buddies called him "Ace." Wow, he is even cooler than I thought. Until he admitted it came from the Ace bandage worn around his head as a sweatband once. *sigh*
posted by evilmomlady at 5:06 AM on May 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Related: John Eales, former captain of the Australian rugby union team was an unusually talented player who, besides playing in the scrum and captaining his team also had a knack for kicking goals. At the height of his fame his teammates knew him as "Nobody". As in "Nobody's perfect."

At about the same time, a fairly gnarled policeman called Dean Richards who played rugby for England was known as "Warren". As in "Warren (what an) Ugly Bastard."
posted by MuffinMan at 5:44 AM on May 3, 2010

I work (and have worked) with a bunch of miltary and ex-military pilots, including "Schlong", "GT", "Wizzer", "Stoney" and "Hoppy" - I think you get an easier time if you're RAF or RN than if you fly for the US military (I currently work with a US Marine pilot whose callsign is "Squirt". I've not asked why... )
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2010

I worked a few weeks with "Jism". It's rather odd, working professionally with someone, calling them that to their face.

Guess I'd have to say that the US military is, in places, not quite a "professional environment".
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:55 PM on May 3, 2010

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