On this episode, US Navy Captain Brian “Ferg” Fergusson and I talk callsigns–those whimsical, often juvenile nicknames many military aviators go by instead of their real names when flying and on the ground.
Only in the movies do fighter pilots end up with cool A nickname aircrew use to address one another on the ground and in-flight, in lieu of using real names and ranks. like “Viper”, “Iceman”, or “Maverick”. In the real world, callsigns are generally plays on names (e.g. “Notso” Sharp), reflective of a pilot’s physical resemblance to some well-known character (“Shrek” Olsen), or the result of a mistake the pilot made at some point in his or her career (“Skids” Pennington). Callsigns are at times derogatory, and frequently not politically correct, but they are almost always funny.
Ferg and I discuss how callsigns are assigned, whether they ever change, and why it’s actually a good thing when a new fighter pilot despises a newly-assigned callsign.