Aviation Truisms

Aviation Truisms

“Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons.”

  • General MacArthur



“You, you, and you…panic. The rest of you, come with me.”

-U.S. Marine Corp Gunnery Sgt.



“Though I fly through the valley of death… I shall fear no evil. For I am at 80,000 feet and climbing.”

At the entrance to the old SR-71 operating base Kadena, Japan



“You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3”

  • Paul F. Crickmore (test pilot)



“The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.”



“Blue water Navy truism: There are more planes in the ocean than submarines in the sky.”

From an old carrier sailor



“If the wings are travelling faster than the fuselage, it’s probably a helicopter – and therefore unsafe.”



“When one engine fails on a twin-engine airplane you always have enough power left to get you to the scene of the crash.”


“Without ammunition, the USAF would be just another expensive flying club.”



“What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; If ATC screws up, the pilot dies.”



“Never trade luck for skill.”



The three most common expressions (or famous last words) in aviation are: “Why is it doing that?”, “Where are we?” and “Oh S…!”



“Weather forecasts are horoscopes with numbers.”



“Airspeed, altitude and brains. Two are always needed to successfully complete the flight.”



“A smooth landing is mostly luck; two in a row is all luck; three in a row is prevarication.”



“Mankind has a perfect record in aviation; we never left one up there!”



“Flashlights are tubular metal containers kept in a flight bag for the purpose of storing dead batteries.”


“Flying the airplane is more important than radioing your plight to a person on the ground incapable of understanding or doing anything about it.”



“When a flight is proceeding incredibly well, something was forgotten.”



“Just remember, if you crash because of weather, your funeral will be held on a sunny day.”



Advice given to RAF pilots during WWII: “When a prang (crash) seems inevitable, endeavour to strike the softest, cheapest object in the vicinity and do it as gently as possible.”



“The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world; it can just barely kill you.”

Attributed to Max Stanley (Northrop test pilot)



“A pilot who doesn’t have any fear probably isn’t flying his plane to its maximum.” – Jon McBride, astronaut



“If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.”

Bob Hoover (renowned aerobatic and test pilot)



“Never fly in the same cockpit with someone braver than you.”

“There is no reason to fly through a thunderstorm in peacetime.”

Sign over squadron ops desk at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ,1970



“If something hasn’t broken on your helicopter, it’s about to.”



Basic Flying Rules: “Try to stay in the middle of the air. Do not go near the edges of it. The edges of the air can be recognised by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.”



“You know that your landing gear is up and locked when it takes full power to taxi to the terminal.”



As the test pilot climbs out of the experimental aircraft, having torn off the wings and tail in the crash landing, the crash truck arrives, the rescuer sees a bloodied pilot and asks, “What happened?”. The pilot’s reply; “I don’t know, I just got here myself!”




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