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Fighter Pilots & Smoking

Posted by aaron on May 6, 2008

We heard recently that there was a bit of a spat in a fighter squadron about whether smoking should be allowed in the squadron bar. One side of the argument was that it is indeed against regulations to smoke within a government/military building and since that was where the bar was located it was going to be enforced. The other side of the dispute was that fighter bars have always allowed smoking, this is just another example of degraded fighter pilot traditions and if I can’t smoke here, I’m leaving.
So is smoking in The Bar a fighter pilot tradition and, if so, is it one that warrants confrontation and falling on your sword to preserve? As a life long non-smoker I say hell no to both. 
OK, I’ll smoke a cigar with the buds once in a while to be a part of the solidarity. I’ll smoke it in the squadron or where ever the moment dictates. And I’ll even do it if there’s a regulation that says we’re not supposed to do it there. But, I’m only doing it to enhance that moment of camaraderie, and that’s the point. Camaraderie is the tradition not the act of smoking. No more than drinking is a tradition. Drinking with your buds enhances camaraderie. However, again, camaraderie is the tradition, drinking, although popular, is not.
Sure smoking was once an acceptable practice just about anywhere. Seemed like just about everyone smoked. Sports stars, movies stars, clergy, teachers, mom and dad, fighter pilots, all the usual hero figures smoked. Even back then folks knew that smoking made them feel shitty, smell shitty and made food taste shitty. However, look at this old picture, an official RAF officer’s photo, to see just how acceptable smoking was in the fighter pilot community. See how smoking made him look so suave, happy and impressive. Think about it, you take the already kickass, coolness of a fighter pilot and add a cigarette. What could be more awe inspiring?
I once had a squadron commander say, “The cockpit is a very private place.” What he meant was that you do what you have do, there in your cockpit, to get the job done. I don’t need to know about it if it doesn’t affect me. That’s the way I feel about smoking. If you want to smoke, as long as it doesn’t affect me, go for it. But, now we know the same carcinogens that are corroding your lungs, shortening your life and making you smell like a walking ashtray are doing the same to me because I happen to share your little space in the world and get to inhale your toxic fumes.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not an anti-smoker crusader. If smoking is or isn’t allowed in a bar or restaurant, I’m not going to create a scene if someone chooses to smoke. I would prefer not to be around smokers but I'm not going to shun my friends because they choose to smoke. I pretty much don’t care what you do in private as long as it doesn’t affect anyone else, especially me. I don’t even care if you choose to smoke in the privacy of your cockpit as long as you don’t miss a radio call or the fireball doesn’t engulf me when a 100% oxygen leak causes you and your jet to super nova.
So, back to the original question. Is smoking in The Bar a fighter pilot tradition? No. Is it worth falling on your sword to dispute? Only if smoking is more important to you than the camaraderie of your buds. In that case, fall away.


Posted by NickScott on
`Twas nice in the days over The Wash from Blakeney Point to Lincolnshire - looking at a pair of A10`s below me over the sea on the way to Donna Nook. I used to smoke a nice Marlboro - ah, comfort in essence! Recently though got a cough every time I smoked - so I stopped, cough went away so I smoked again, back came the cough - enough said, obviously I stopped - cough 5 pilot 0 but it was nice while it lasted. Breathing is nice and fresh now - have replaced ciggies with Jam (jelly US.) doughnuts - now I have a jelly belly and a stone is gained.
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