Rules of Engagement for Marine aviators established the ground rules, but the main requirement for being a good stick involved knowing when to push to the edge and when the rules didn’t apply. Marines were told what they couldn’t do; Air Force pilots were told what they could. Air Force pilots flew by the book and had itemized checklists for all contingencies. True, they lost fewer planes on the average, but in a 1v.1 with a good Marine pilot, they were beat like a rug.
The rules also required verbatim memorization of spin procedures, so they could be accomplished automatically, without thought, while in extremis. Out of control? Neutralize everything or just let go and grab two nonessentials in the cockpit. Upright spin? Have to know which way the plane is spinning, then where to put the stick to reduce the angle. Inverted spin? Different G- forces, but a pilot still needed to know where to put the stick. Can’t remember the spin procedures? Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.
After briefing the Rules of Engagement, the brief always covered a NATOPS--Naval Aviation Training Operation Procedures--question of the day. Every aviator was expected to know the answers found in the big blue NATOPS book. One question might be, “What is the hydraulic pressure supposed to be?” Know your plane, save your life.
The Emergency Question of the Day followed, such as, “What is the procedure in the event of the landing gear not extending? Know the procedures: save your life and your plane.
Time to man-up.