David Ellefson is a Docent on the USS Midway and this is his story.
Navy Call Signs- An Observation:
“Top Gun’s” ‘Maverick’,’ Goose’, and ’Iceman’ etc. brought the Navy’s Fighter Pilot “Call Sign” into the common ‘hipster cool’ lexicon of the 1980s. In truth aviation call signs go back to WW I as radio ‘short-hand’, often used to hide an aviator’s identities or mission intent (balloons & airplanes). As these monikers evolved, pilots / aviators started to bequeath call signs upon their peers; most often based on stupid (or fantastic) things they did, personalities / physical characteristics or as ‘play’ on their names (e.g. ‘Taco’ with last name Bell).
With this tradition some unwritten rules emerged:
A call sign could not be ”too cool “/ “too good” or “something the aviator asked for”! Once bestowed they are likely to be the aviator’s “tag” for life; unless superseded by a ‘combat’ replacement or by a “hostile” renaming (reserved for when an ass-alcoholic aviator “falls off wagon” deserting ‘BURRO’ (regular –guy) aviation fraternity.
Over the years I have heard many but a few (beside my own – a.k.a. ‘Nobody’) have stood out as uniquely cleaver, appropriate or predictive. Examples of which are:
‘NAG’ – Not A Guy first female USMC Weapons Systems Officer ‘WSO’
Hurricane’ – female aviator named Katrina
‘FLUF’ –Fat Little Ugly – Friend
‘SALSA’ – Student Aviator Lacking Situational Awareness
‘Chocks’ – started taxying before chocks were removed
‘Pop Top’ – inadvertently jettisoning not one but two canopies
‘K rod ‘– Spell it backwards
‘Elvis” – always hard to find / have you seen ???
Now that bring us back to ‘Nobody’ and how I received my Call Sign, ‘Nobody’!
During my first student solo Carrier Landing Qualification (CQ), I was #4 in a formation flight bound for the “wooden deck” carrier Lexington (CV). I was the last to take-off (TO) from Whiting Field and upon raising my gear & flaps there was a massive hydraulic failure, completely covering the canopy! Emergency declared (two octaves higher than norm); with a port turn to downwind. Gear (gravity drop) extended with minor flap extension and hydro down to the stand pipe. Uneventful (very long roll out) landing using last of the stand pipe for brakes. Trucks, Tugs & Cars a plenty arrived to great me!
Here is where the “fun” begins!!!
I was NOT allowed to exit the aircraft!
They tugged me off the runway, opened the cowling, wiped off the canopy, replaced the burst hydro line, hot refueled me then; ordered me to takeoff ASAP and “BUSTER” (as fast as you can go) to catchup with my CQ Flight! Try that in the New Navy – NOT today CNATA !!!
Gulf Air Traffic Control (ATC) gave me vectors to my flight after I went “’feet wet’ (over the water). Unfortunately it was a flight of Air Force T28s out of Eaglin Field!!!! ATC’s second try pointed me at the correct flight of 3 Navy student solos.
Unfortunately they had already began their “push” (descent) to “platform” (CQ altitude) and Flight Lead had called in “state” (fuel/call signs) as well as went “Zip lip” (switching to the carrier’ s (CV’s) landing radio frequencies allowing no to minimum radio chatter.
Meanwhile I have the Flight and the Boat insight, while maintaining “BUSTER” T28’s VNE (Fixed Wing Never Exceed) speed, closing on my Flight’s # 4 position.
As I switch to CV CQ radio frequency I hear the AIR BOSS (Head Aviation CV Guy – What Is!!!) say,
“Flight Lead, call your Slot man.”
Flight Lead answers,
“Nobody is in the Slot” (He did not know I was rejoining at the speed of heat).
Air Boss responds,
“Wellllllll —- Tell ‘NOBODY’ to tighten it up or get the Hell away from my Boat!!!”
That was about the time I became “all asshole and elbows”; hitting the “speed-brake “while arriving at “platform” with the hope of decelerating enough to get my gear and flaps down (while avoiding over speeds) without overrunning #3 on the “downwind” (port side pattern before turn to “final”) .
Big Sigh!!! I was now safely in #4 echelon position!
I completed my required 5 “touch-and-go’s” and 3 “stop-go (full-stops/takeoffs)”; gaining my initial “CQ” qualification!!! One step closer to the Golden Wings!
By the time our now flight of 4 had “RTB”ed (returned to base), everyone at Whiting Field had heard about ‘NOBODY’ almost getting kicked off the Carrier CQ by the Air Boss.
The next day; ‘NOBODY’ was on VT5’s flight schedule to fly with ‘Nobody’s’ friend joined by ‘Somebody’ and ‘Nobody’ knows, etc. etc. etc.
Overnight the name tags on my “Zoom Bag” (Flight Suite) and “Brain Bucket” (Helmet) along with the rest of my flight gear was now boldly marked with the call sign ‘NOBODY’!
While over the years I have on occasion tried to shed this ‘NOBODY ‘ call-sign for a hipper hotshot “handle”; ‘NOBODY’ always makes its way back to the top of the flight roster via the aviation & the Navy ‘Nobody’s friends networks.
So, as funny as it sound, you can always just call ‘NOBODY ‘when you want to get my attention or reach me!
Capt. David Ellefson USNR-R
Aka. “NOBODY” AOC Class 39-70
For more information about the formation:
A normal formation flight of 4 aircraft is a diamond ♦️ formation. The trailing aircraft (behind the Lead and the 2 aircraft on each of his wings is said to be in the slot (often just called the slot man). This is also is the # 4 position, as when a diamond formation shifts positions to enter a landing pattern all the aircraft shift to the starboard (right side) of the flight lead following each other. Lead remains #1. Right side of diamond remains in position following the lead in the #2 position. Left diamond drops back and slides over behind #2‘s right side assuming the #3 position. The slot man drops back and slides over behind and to the right is #3 assuming the #4 (slot-man’s) position. This is what is called an echelon formation; allowing each aircraft, starting with #1 flight lead, to safely execute a ‘break’ hard turn for a final landing. A formation in echelon can be aligned left or right. At the Boat it is normally a right echelon.
Tail end Charlie requires little skill as it implies your the end of the Tail Case. It was a training flight’s name where solos chase each other through the clouds 🏼🤪️to sharpen our airmanship. We tried to lose each other like in a dog fight