Air Force Life


By WO1 Ray Tracy

Flying a mahogany bomber has its own perils.

Failure to understand the Air Force vernacular is definitely not “tickety-boo” and might be a real case of “no joy”.” If you want to “fill your boots” you’ll have to know “the score”.

Although many military expressions — like boondocks and buckshee — are common across all three services, the Air Force speaks a language of its own. One of the reasons that Navy, Army and Air Force identities have rebounded so vigorously is that the history and traditions of each are just so different. The Air Force has a unique military culture that some might describe as relaxed and egalitarian at times. The Air Force has also developed its own set of expressions that truly reflect its jaunty approach to military life.


Expression Meaning
Ab initio. “From the beginning” — the first stage of flight training
Air Force gloves Pockets. A negative and completely unwarranted term!
Bags of Large quantities of
Bail out Jump from an aircraft or fail to show up at a meeting 
Barn Hangar
Bird Aircraft
Boonies or boondocks Somewhere isolated and out of the way
Bravo Zulu Well done! Shamelessly stolen from the Navy who use the B and Z flags to signal congratulations
Buckshee Something extra or free (as in “take the afternoon off – it’s buckshee”).  From the Hindi baksheesh, which can mean a gift, charity or a bribe
Bumf “Bum fodder” — useless paperwork
Clag Clouds. Said to originate from the RAF’s “Cloud Low, Aircraft Grounded”.  It may also refer to something that is useless or in the way
Coffin A case for an aircraft missile
Crabfat A good-natured, derogatory term for airmen, often used by “fishheads” (sailors)
Duff gen Incorrect information
Fill your boots Take your fill or do whatever you want
Fixed wing An aircraft that flies with straight or swept wings projecting from the body
Flak Anti-aircraft fire or hostile criticism. From the German Flugabwehrkanone, an aircraft defence cannon.
Flame-out Engine failure
FOD Foreign object debris or damage
Grunts or pongos Less than kind terms for Army personnel
Hangar queen An aircraft that is frequently under repair
Headshed Headquarters
Hero shot Picture of Air Force member in front of military hardware, usually a pilot  posing in front of aircraft
Jet jockey/Fighter jock Fighter pilot
Milk run A routine mission, often with many stops
Morning prayers Morning meeting of senior leaders, often with briefings and updates
No duff Real, not an exercise or practice
No joy No success   
Paul Bunyan Large metal crate for cargo
Pax Passenger(s) aboard an aircraft
Per ardua asbestos Fireproof; referring to someone who seems to avoid trouble
Pigeon An Air Force member
Prang Aircraft crash   
Punch out Eject from an aircraft
Rotary wing An aircraft that flies with rotors, that is, a helicopter
Score The truth, the real situation   
Scotch mist Drizzle
Sheriff The orderly officer
Sprog A student pilot or a novice at anything
SWAG Scientific wild-assed guess — as opposed to a mere WAG
Swan Easy course or duty assignment or a trip to a great location
Tickety-boo Easy course or duty assignment or a trip to a great location
WAG Wild-assed guess/Wireless air gunner