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Launch Traditions

Posted by aaron on May 22, 2008

We didn't write this. Got it from Atze.  We're not witty enough to come with something like this.

Naval Strike Pilot:
On a carrier, the Naval Aviator looks over at the Catapult Officer ("Shooter") who gives the run up engines signal by rotating his finger above his head.. The pilot pushes the throttle forward, verifies all flight controls are operational, checks all gauges, and gives the Cat officer a brisk salute, continuing the Navy / Marine tradition of asking permission to leave the ship. The Cat officer drops to one knee while swooping his arm forward and pointing down deck, granting that permission. The pilot is immediately catapulted and becomes airborne. 

USA F/A-18E Super Hornet
Photo by Anthony Osborne

Air Force Fighter Pilot :
We've all seen movies of an air force fighter pilot at his base look up into the sky just before taxiing for takeoff and the ground crew waits until the pilot's thumb is sticking straight up. The crew chief then confirms that he sees the thumb, salutes, and the Air Force pilot then takes off. This time-tested tradition is the last link in the Air Force safety net to confirm that the pilot does not have his thumb up his ass.

Norwegian F-16AM Fighting Falcon
Photo by Jan Jorgensen

Army Aviator:
If you've ever seen an army helicopter pilot preparing for takeoff, you will note that the pilot also gives the ground guy a thumbs up before he is given hover and takeoff signals. There are two theories about the origin of this gesture. One is that it is to show that the pilot has identified which of his fingers is the thumb so that he will be able to properly operate his controls. The most compelling theory says that this is to show the ground crewman that the pilot indeed knows which direction is up.

UK WAH-64D Apache Longbow
Photo by Nigel Chantrell


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