Pilot Callsigns – The Epitome of Preposterous 

Just like I mentioned in The Iditarod post where I crowned the race the epitome of badass, I am lumping pilots into the epitome of preposterous.

I have an undying fascination with military history, incredible feats of humanity, and a flat out obsession with really awesome stories and experiences people embark on every day.

I’m actually surprised I only have one Astronaut and one Pilot inducted into THE Human Hall OF Fame at the moment. And I haven’t even thought about including Fictional Heroes like Indiana Jones and Spider-Man.

Everybody in the US has seen the film Top Gun starring Tom Cruise. Some people were even inspired enough to join the Navy and Air Force to become like their egoistical idol Maverick.

Others had grandfathers fly during WWII and wanted to follow in their footsteps. For whatever the reason may be, they all have one thing in common: ridiculous, outrageous, funny and badass nicknames (callsigns).

What is a callsign? It’s the name a pilot or crew member is called so they don’t have to use their real name when talking through communications equipment. It’s for both operational security (military) and identifying the aircraft/pilot.

According to The Ultimate F-16 Site, there are three rules in coming up with a callsign:

  1. If you don’t already have one, you’ll be assigned one from your “buddies”
  2. You probably won’t like it.
  3. If you complain and moan too much about 1. and 2. you’ll get a new nickname you’ll like even less.

The site’s author expands on the criteria for getting a callsign:

“Do something stupid or have it fit in with your last name. Obvious examples, ‘Crash’ or LT ‘Cheese’ Kraft. Sometimes it’s based on physical appearance thing like ‘Carrot’. After you’ve earned the respect from your buddies, you’ll get a more ‘heroic’ callsign.”

A Navy SEAL buddy of mine told me that if a pilot has the callsign of something like “Ghost” or “Night Stalker” or something that sounds kind of cheesy or badass, they likely are new or haven’t done much to begin with. HOWEVER, there are outliers in this opinion because a badass female AC-130 Spectre Gunship pilot earned the callsign “The Angel of Death”, when she supported Army Special Forces ODA’s in Afghanistan months after 9/11.

Personally if I was a female pilot I’d want to be called “Mother of God”. But those aren’t the rules and I’m not a female so this hypothetical thought will be placed up on the shelf right next to Superpowers I wish I had and wild animals I’d have in my wolfpack

So without further ado, here are my favorite callsigns from “The Web’s Largest Collection of Pilot Callsigns” (I’ll pick one or two from each letter, some letters like N and Q didn’t have many peculiar ones so I skipped them and added more of other letters).


Agony – a man named Payne

B.B – a drunked 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^cking) Blah…so B.B. for short.” No vote, no more names. Just a name tag with B.B. on it.

Batman – USAF Fighter Pilot – real name: Michael Keaton!

Berlin – Taxied his aircraft into a wall while making a turn.

Caveman – During CAF survival training, guy enjoyed the worst of weather. After sleeping outside in the spilling rain and freezing cold, he woke quite rested. Instructor said, “He’s a f^cking caveman!”.

Coma – a very slow talking Southern guy

DD – Dead Dave – Was actually clinically dead during water training accident…recovered of course.

Elvis – This guy was always hard to find when you needed him, so when someone was looking for him, other people reported sightings (“I saw him over at the…”). 

FORD – Found On Road Dead. After a mission, had a few drinks at the Sqn at Shady J. Then goes and passes out on the grass outside the Sqn.

FROG – While in at VT-7 at NAS Meridian during the strike phase my roommate was on final approach as he touched down he hopped three times on the runway and the instructor came into the ready room and asked if he was impersonating a frog.

Gadget – In pilot training I got named Gadget because I usually carried in my flight kit all the items my crew mates didn’t, such as plotters, color penicils, calculator, … , kleenex, aspirin, snacks, etc.

Hacker – Clipped a lamp post when I was taxiing for take off for night navigation.

Handsome – Ugliest sucker I ever knew – He made Herman Munster look like Brad Pitt!

Hannibal – As in Lecter – One of our Squadron (21FS) Flight Surgeons, also an F-16 Pilot who, while flying a six-ship of Vipers trans-pacific, nauseated us with stories of becoming hungry when smelling cauterized human flesh in the operating room.

Inch – Dutch pilot who is 1.65 meters tall (5’4”), which is VERY short

Intake – This guy had the largest nose I’ve ever seen!

Jaws – Colonel Kevin G USAF Ret – used to fly F-15’s. He would never ever stop telling stories, so they called him Jaws!

Key – Instructor pilot that starts every lesson with, “The Key is”.

Lefty – I had a hernia operation. My roommate told everyone that the doctor slipped and cut off one of my testicles.

Lick – One of the greatest name plays ever. Last name MaWhinney.

Me-So – Last name Horn

Omelet – Dutch pilot who wanted to be called Bouncer because he used to be one at a club in Holland. Bouncer in Dutch (Uitsmijter) also means grilled egg. The squadron decided that Bouncer sounded too cool so they called him Omelet. Lesson Learned: NEVER ask for your own callsign.

P.E. – Premature Ejection – pressed the ejection switch in an aircraft while it was still on the runway.

Pyro – Forgot to “Fence Out” on LAO at Osan. Pickled off a few flares in the closed pull up and started a fire on the field!

Rudy – a short Marine Prowler Pilot who actually walked onto the scrub team at Notre Dame.

Shrek – 6 foot 2 240 pounds – loud when sober, intolerable when drunk.

SLAW – Shops Like A Woman

Tupac – After 9/11, new pilot needed a ride to a civilian airport, but wanted his vehicle left at base for his return. Life Support drives pilot to airport in pilot’s truck and returns to base, only to be stopped at the main gate for random vehicle inspection. Cops find loaded pistol in pilot’s truck. Life Support tech gets detained.

Two Dads – the pilot concerned, acquired this callsign due to his appropriation of a hyphenated name.

Vampire – My last name is Knobloch which translates to the surname meaning garlic in German. And due to my acute hatred for the smell of garlic, I received the callsign Vampire.

Yard Sale – I don’t know how he got this callsign but according to the definition on Urban Dictionary: In skiing or snowboarding when a dude has a really bad wipeout and all his gear flies off – helmet, gloves, goggles, board/poles leaving a trail of equipment across the mountain like a traditional Yard Sale. Now imagine a pilot earning this name for whatever reason, bombs? Survived a plane crash? We may never know…

Find you a friend who will use gravity and other science amazingness to transport a Snickers mid-barrel roll like these legends.


Oh yeah and one more thing. How is Captain Sully not even mentioned in the best pilot conversations? The guy landed a flying schoolbus into the Hudson river like it was another Tuesday! No one died! Hey Matt what’d you do today? Oh I watched  hours of continuous The Office reruns on Netflix then wrote a blog post, not to brag. 

Holy shnikies guys, we need to celebrate these people who have so much radness it makes us feel inferior as human beings. That’s part of the reason I created THE Human Hall OF Fame. You know what, I’m gonna have to blog the best pilots in human history now.

I need to also confirm that my favorite pilot in the history of piloting spacecraft, airplanes, jet fighters, spy planes, bombers, helicopters, nuclear bomb carrier thingamajigs, hot-air balloons and UFO’s is still undoubtedly Human Hall OF Fame’s own legendary Gail Halvorsen. Also known as The Berlin Candy Bomber, Uncle Wiggly Wings, and Chocolate Pilot. 

However I do believe Russell Casse deserves the highest praise for saving the planet from being annihilated by alien scum via last ditch effort by Leroy Jenkins-ing his F-16 into the aliens massive lazor beam death ray. A hero to us all, we’ll never forget him.


*Featured picture from Pixabay, gif from giphy.com*

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