HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fighter Pilot Rule for Life: Lowkey Information

The first plane my guy flew was a T-34 propeller trainer, the T-2 was his first jet, then the T-2B, a twin engine T-2 jet, the TF-9 jet trainer, and finally in VMFA-333, he flew the Phantom F-4. All of the planes were double-seaters with an instructor or a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO) in the backseat ready to tell him when he was doing it wrong. It served a dual purpose to have dual seats. The backseaters kept the valuable plane from terminal damage and also kept the young, brash, and maybe-not-yet-up-to-snuff pilot from terminal damage. A lot of time and money had been invested in both aircraft and aviator.

If a pilot had figured out a way to auger into the ground or lost his S/A or departed from controlled flight, a RIO or instructor would verbally help him get his act together. The best RIOs and instructors kept cool in the lightning storm. The idea wasn't to destroy the young pilot's confidence but to train him up to be a calm, steely-eyed gunslinger with wings and sidewinder missiles. Even after leaving the training command there were many times an extra set of eyes or another brain proved valuable. When worse went to worst, the RIO also had a command-eject capability.

And then in 1983, the new latest fighter arrived at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station: the F/A-18 Hornet, a single-seat, high-tech aircraft that featured computerized instrument panels, nine on-board computers (more now!), and television screens to aid in bombing run accuracy. The training squadrons had two-seat planes, but once finished with the flight simulator training and the instructors, no RIO flew as a backseat driver or failsafe guy.

McDonnell Douglas had a solution. They asked a secretary to record some standard warning messages in a calm, female voice. (Millions of dollars went into research to determine that a female voice was easier to hear in a stressful situation) The F/A-18 Hornet voice warning system was called by the aviators Bitchin’ Betty. In the worst of circumstances, her voice is composed and measured: “Left engine fire. Left engine fire” or “Bingo Fuel. Bingo Fuel.”

Here's what I've been wondering: why does my beloved other ignore my voice in disasters? Could it be that jumping up and down screaming and using tons of !!!! does not make my point better?

So I've been practicing. I keep my voice low and slow. "Honey, you are about to turn left on a red light and I do not think that tractor-trailer sees you," and "You might want to bring your wallet that is on the bedside table before we leave with our luggage to catch a plane to Timbuktu," and "Darling, the ladder you are climbing to put lights on the second story of our house has not been latched properly and is about to collapse."

Not my fault if he does not hear my reasonable warnings. Not my fault, but in a marriage we both suffer the consequences.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Military Writer's Society of America's Book Discussion Forum March 23-25

Please join us for the Military Writer's Society of America's first book discussion forum running March 23-25 on the MWSA site. I am honored that the topic will be my memoir, WING WIFE: HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT. Joyce Faulkner, President of MWSA will be the moderator.

I encourage everyone to participate, even if you haven't read WING WIFE, especially if you have written, are in the process of writing, or are thinking about writing a memoir. We'd love the perspective of military types--Marines and other services--aviators and/or their spouses. Everyone's comments will be useful.

The idea is to talk about craft and to talk about the military experience.

Writing Techniques for Memoirs Link:

WING WIFE Content and Message Link: 

If you are not a member and want to comment on a thread, write Joyce at and ask to be added to the site.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lost Friends

Captain Carroll LeFon USN (retired) RIP
It's not a penny found on the street
Scuffed, darkened and pocketed.
It requires penny after penny after penny
Of time and thought and laughter
Accumulated in a Mason jar in the kitchen sunshine.

I carried the jar
Toward the maple table to count moments,
To plan a shared splurge when the phone rang.
I answered
And the jar fell to the tile shattering
Into pennies rolling, clattering, circling,
Glass shards everywhere.

I scooped them into piles.
Blood dripped from my hands
To stone squares, on clear glass running red,
On piled and scattered pennies.

There's not a good way found
To lose a friend.

I never met him in person, yet we were friends. The first blog I followed when I started blogging, the blogger I stayed loyal to through the years. Wise words are like pennies collected on the street, as change, in drawers. In the end, we are richer for them.

Smart, a poet, a fighter pilot who loved his wife and family. I will miss him but there's joy in the words and photos and thoughts and friendships he nurtured on his blog Neptunus Lex. In the end I am richer for knowing him. We are all richer.