From Matronics

Some things are just funny enough to save.

Queer Eye for the Pilot Guy

(I originally wrote this in response to some very heated discussions in the Yak-list over parachute and engine oil selection. Later, during a heated debate over the wearing of flight suits I reposted it. I got enough positive feedback that I thought it might have broader appeal. --Brian)

You know, we have been approaching the decision-making process all wrong. When it comes to selecting parachutes, flight wear, oil, etc., we have been talking like these are technical decisions. The problem is, they aren't! These are psychological decisions based on the macho coolness factor (MCF) which has become totally ignored in the decision making process. I propose we move it to the forefront where it belongs.

First let's talk about parachutes. If we leave out the Russian and Chinese 'chutes because of their questionable acceptance of the FAA we are left with really four major 'chute manufacturers here in the US:

  • Manley Butler
  • Paraphernalia "Softie"
  • Strong
  • National

The National is the cheapest and most compact of the 'chutes. It is packed to the density of degenerate matter (what one would find in the core of a collapsed neutron star) so it sucks in your butt muscles and pulverizes them. You can sit on this 'chute for about 15 minutes before requiring medical care. This works for 25 year old acro competitors flying 10-minute hops but for old cross-country butts like ours, no way. That leaves the National out of the running.

So how do you pick your 'chute from the remaining group? Well we can talk about features but it really comes down to something simpler and more straight-forward. You see, this is really a psychological choice and the hint is in the name. One is made by "Manl[e]y" Butler, one is "Strong" and one is "Softie". You will find that most Real Men with Fighter Pilot icewater in their veins opt for the "Manly" 'chute. The staid, solid pilot opts for the "strong" 'chute. Guys with callsigns like "Pinkie" opt for the "softie" 'chute. No worries. Once you understand this, the selection of a 'chute takes mere milliseconds since you no longer feel a need to justify your choice.

Flight wear is another issue. When you are flying the last of the daytime gunfighters, e.g. F-86, F-11, etc.; there is absolutely no question about your manliness or fitness as a pilot. Every combat is a knife fight and the best *man* wins. (Sorry, ladies and girlie men need not apply.) Period, end of report. Flight wear is not an issue because one's manliness has already been decided.

But consider the current state of the world. If you are a fighter pilot in today's military forces you go up and when combat is imminent you turn on the weapons system. Nowadays the funky 'P' shows up on the weapons display and your headset utters the computer-generated and distorted word "Playstation". Head down you manipulate the "joystick" and all those buttons on the electronic throttle control. If you do it right the display reads "Extra Game" and your headset plays the Star Wars march. Do it wrong and the last thing you hear is the mournful rising tone and see the words "Game Over." Not too manly that.

Or worse yet, you are a shit-hot ... uh, sorry ... "Sierra Hotel" pilot and after UPT you get transferred to C-141s or CODs. Boooooring. No testosterone there. These poor bus drivers (who don't know that the weapons system in the F-22 was made by Sony) walk into the O-club and there are the F-22 drivers talking about "tactics" and "angles" and "vertical penetration". They don't realize that the discussion is really about how to get into the pants of that babe unit at the end of the bar, the one that has them so intimidated that they won't go anywhere near her. So what are the bus drivers going to do? Start talking up how well they nailed the localizer in their last hand-flown approach? Can you THINK of a faster way to be labeled a girlie man? (Let's not even TALK about these poor guys who get out and are now shagging the right seat of a 737 for Noservice Airlines.) So we need a way to keep the machismo on display. Enter Flight Wear!

Flight Wear allows a pilot to retain his manliness when his flying won't. Nothing screams "I've got big brass ones" like a Nomex suit covered with patches. If you doubt me, just look at what the guys around you are wearing. The newbies whose last airplane before their Yak-52 or CJ6A was a C-172 have crisply-starched Nomex suits literally covered with patches that say things like "Safeway Grocery Airplane Day". Next consider the bus drivers with C-141 and COD experience. Their flight suits are a little older and a little plainer. They even have a squadron patch.

And on the subject of patches, trashhauler/MAC squadron patches are bigger, gaudier, and have more grotesque deaths-head symbols than fighter squadrons. The little fighter pilot squadron patches say "triple nickel" or "hat in the ring" while the transport command guys have patches that say "raw flesh eating, fire and vomit spewing, King Air drivers."

Now lets consider the guys that flew F6Fs, F4Us, P-80s, F-86s, F9Fs, and F11Fs in combat. Not to pick on anyone but Randall Webb is a perfect example. He shows up in a CJ6A painted powder BLUE! He is wearing blue jeans and a button-down cotton shirt! No helmet adorns his head! What IS this! Well, he is completely secure in his self-image and knows that, deep down, there is a lot more similarity than difference between a CJ6A and a Beechcraft Bonanza.

And if you recall, I mentioned oil. This one is easy. Consider two people: one is sitting at a computer terminal in a laboratory wearing a clean white lab coat and glasses and muttering about viscosity coefficients, lubricity factors, and statistical samples while the other is up in the cowl of an R-2800 wearing an oil stained coverall with the name "Joe" (no one knows any of his other names anyway) stitched on the front and chomping on a stogie. Which one are you going to listen to when it comes to picking your oil? Damn straight! Joe wins by a country mile because he has seen and fixed it all and doesn't need no stinkin' lab report to know what oil works.

So where am I going with all of this (besides being an equal-opportunity offender)? Well, I have a proposal to make! Something that the Red Star Pilots Association could really get into! Let's take a page from wildly successful televison and offer proper training in the form of "Queer Eye for the Pilot Guy!" We get a team of wildly studly pilots (perhaps dressed in tight black leather flight suits) to help the newcomer become properly attired so that when he gets his CJ6A or Yak-52 marshalled into the back forty of the warbird parking at OSH, back behind the Cessna Skymasters, Aeronca Champs, and Stinson Voyagers painted in military schemes, everyone will know he is a PILOT's PILOT as he gets out of that cockpit.

We will have the guy who teaches you about and helps you pick out a flight suit. ("No, no silly, Nomex is the ONLY way. And you need to put that patch riiiight there. It is more slimming and besides, it doesn't clash quite so much with that patch.")

Then there is the guy who nods thoughfully while chewing on an unlighted cigar as he instructs you on the finer points of selecting a fine mineral oil for your airplane. ("Well, if you are having 100LL I recommend a full-bodied, straight-weight Aeroshell 120W but if you are sipping auto fuel in the winter a multi-vis Phillips 25W60 is a better choice.") Additional experts will help you with decorating ... I mean paint schemes and nose art, avionics, and cockpit (oooh, I just LOVE that word) instrumentation. Never underestimate the machismo of vacuum-tube avionics and the ability to say, "I have a fire in the avionics bay so I am shutting down the electrical system and popping the bottle. I'll just follow your hand signals from now on," uttered in a bored drawl. Ernie Gann and Chuck Yaeger would be so proud!

You know, if our Red Star Marketing Agent and Registered TV Personallity is on-the-ball, he can probably turn this into a prime-time reality TV show and really get the RPA on the map! The FAA and TSA will really pay attention when this hits #1 on the Nielson ratings. Congress critters won't be able to wait to throw their weight our way especially if we offer to come out and campaign for them.

But don't forget, you heard it from me first. I expect that from now on, when the flying is done for the day and we retire to the bar to "debrief" (as I unzip my mauve Kermel flightsuit about three inches to properly display my ascot), that I will never have to buy my own fruity boat drinks with the little parasols again.


Brian "Pinkie/Sparky/turned-his-CJ-into-a-Mooney" Lloyd