The Fighter Pilot Podcast

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The Harrier is unique in that it is capable of taking off and landing in extremely short distances—or even vertically—thanks to swiveling exhaust nozzles and augmented flight controls. This feature, originally adapted for a cold war scenario, is particularly useful for shipboard amphibious operations.On this episode, retired US Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Jeff “Magwa” Scott explains how the Harrier came to be, what it’s like to fly (and hover), and how it is in some ways preferable to the F-35B currently replacing it. DCS players will be thrilled to know Razbam is giving away three Harrier modules for our listeners. Click here to enter.During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine discuss aircrew interactions with other aircraft carrier personnel, mental exercises prior to flight, whether aircraft float, and how speedbrake placement is decided during aircraft design.Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode production by The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Everyone recognizes the F-14 as the star of the 1986 hit movie Top Gun, but few can readily identify the Western fighter that acted as the Tomcat’s nemesis—a role it was perfectly suited for and still performs for the US Navy and Marine Corps daily. On this episode, retired US Navy Reserve Commander Paco Chierici joins us to describe how the Northrop F-5 began life in the 1950’s as the ‘Freedom Fighter’ but became and is now known as the Tiger ll, still flying 60 years later as a capable adversary aircraft.  Paco—the mastermind behind the naval aviation documentary Speed & Angels and author of the upcoming novel, Lions of the Sky—not only answers our standard ‘aircraft series’ questions but goes on to tell us about the time he was involved in a mishap in the F-5 that nearly cost him his life. During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine opine on why a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to be a military pilot and who would have prevailed had the two of them dueled it out in the skies.  Negative G limits, reasons for the Blue Angels’ flight control modifications, and entry-level pay and benefits for military pilots are also covered. Click here to read the Flying with the Aggressors article mentioned in the interview and check out our Patreon page for bonus content with Paco. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.  Episode artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Landing a high-performance jet aircraft on an aircraft carrier is arguably the most difficult and challenging task any pilot will ever face, and it is what distinguishes US Naval aviators from all other military aircrew.  In what effectively amounts to a “controlled crash” onto the flight deck, a 44,000-pound aircraft traveling 140 mph engages a 1.5-inch steel cable and is brought to a halt in less than 200 feet.  The feat requires the combined efforts of hundreds of sailors above and below decks, and the assistance of fellow pilots to ensure the pilot landing does so safely. The fact that they do—hundreds of times a day somewhere around the world—is a testament to their skill and professionalism. On this episode, US Navy Commander Jack “Farva” Curtis, EA-18G pilot and former air wing landing signal officer, joins us to begin a discussion on the procedures and equipment involved in daytime carrier landings.  We discuss the “Case 1 stack” and aircraft arrival procedures, as well as the arresting gear cables and equipment involved in bringing an aircraft to a (relatively) uneventful stop.  Check out our YouTube playlist for a compilation of videos showing some of the people and equipment involved. The listener question segment this week is a replay of a recent Facebook Live session with episode 1 guest Brian “Sunshine” Sinclair, who returns to help explain what a ‘VX’ squadron is, why the US Air Force is dealing with pilot shortages, and whether “compartmentalization” is a trained skill.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Some suggest the most difficult job in the military is not the force recon Marine, nuclear reactor officer, fighter pilot, or even Navy SEAL … but rather the military spouse.  Independent, resilient, and resourceful, military spouses face challenges beyond that of other professions—except without the formal training.  Part nurse, part mechanic, occasional therapist, and frequent single parent, military spouses are indeed a unique breed.  And despite repeated relocations and extended separations from loved ones, incredibly many spouses manage these and innumerable other challenges while pursuing professional careers of their own. On this episode, Beth Aiello and Kristen Sinclair join their show host husbands Vincent and Brian for an intimate look at life as a Navy spouse.  Fielding listener questions such as how they handle the risks associated with their husbands’ careers, how they cope with deployments lasting up to eight months—especially when children enter the picture, and what it’s like to have to move every couple years, Beth and Kristen offer a sobering look at not only the most difficult job in the military, but arguably the most under-appreciated also. Opening bumper music “Letters From Home” (Warner Bros. Nashville, performed by John Michael Montgomery) used without permission.  Closing bumper music by Jaime Lopez.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
The Battle of Midway was a decisive US naval victory that turned the tide of World War ll.  As a result, the name ‘Midway’ has been assigned to everything from a high school in Texas to an airport in Chicago. It is also the name of the longest serving American aircraft carrier of the 20th century. Today, the USS Midway continues to serve as a museum on the San Diego waterfront.  Hosting thousands of visitors daily, the ship proudly features dozens of static aircraft displays and offers a glimpse of what daily life was like for its crew.  The museum president and CEO, retired US Navy Rear Admiral John “Mac” McLaughlin joins us on this episode to explain not only the ship’s namesake battle and storied half-century of service, but of the deeper meaning of service and sacrifice in our modern, ever-changing society.  During the listener question segment, we discuss whether squadrons undergo specific tactical training based on where they expect to deploy, if shutting down an engine is a viable tactic to save fuel in flight, and whether weight and balance is a constant concern for fighters. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.  Episode artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Troop transport, MEDEVAC, CSAR, ASW, VERTREP, special operations, ground attack… these are but a few of the many missions rotary-wing aircraft perform for militaries the world over, day in and day out. But how do helicopters even fly?  How difficult is it to fly them?  Why do most have two pilots?  In the event of total power loss can they glide to an emergency landing like some airplanes?  How and why can some helicopters perform aerobatics but not others? All this and more is discussed on this episode with US Navy Commander and H-60 Seahawk pilot Ron “Chadwick” Martin who schools the podcast host on all things helicopters.  And, yes, there are confirmed cases of helicopters shooting down fixed-wing aircraft. During the listener question segment we discuss military flight operations while transiting allied territory, carrier hopping for airwings and squadrons, and more on drones. Bumper music and audio clips borrowed from Apocalypse Now (1979, Francis Ford Coppola) and Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick).  Episode art by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
On this episode, US Navy Captain Brian “Ferg” Fergusson and I talk callsigns–those whimsical, often juvenile nicknames many military aviators go by instead of their real names when flying and on the ground. Only in the movies do fighter pilots end up with cool callsigns like “Viper”, “Iceman”, or “Maverick”. In the real world, callsigns are generally plays on names (e.g. “Notso” Sharp), reflective of a pilot’s physical resemblance to some well-known character (“Shrek” Olsen), or the result of a mistake the pilot made at some point in his or her career (“Skids” Pennington). Callsigns are at times derogatory, and frequently not politically correct, but they are almost always funny. Ferg and I discuss how callsigns are assigned, whether they ever change, and why it’s actually a good thing when a new fighter pilot despises a newly-assigned callsign.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Ever notice that a B-52 Stratofortress is a bomber, an F-14 Tomcat is a fighter, and a T-45 Goshawk is a trainer?  What a coincidence! ...well, not really.  And it's also no coincidence either that we call the Chinese J-8 fighter and Russian Tu-160 bomber the FINBACK and BLACKJACK, respectively. On this episode, retired US Navy lieutenant commander Josh Larson helps explain the alphanumeric naming conventions used to describe US, European, Russian, and Chinese warplanes.  Be sure to stick around until the very end of the episode, after the flyby, to learn the designation of the airplane we all know as Air Force 1. In the announcements we mention the Wings Over South Texas airshow featuring the US Navy Blue Angels at NAS Kingsville, March 24-25, 2018.  During the Q&A segment, listener Wolfgang from Germany asks whether anyone has ever stolen a military jet for a short trip.  Click here to read about the time a young US Marine decided to take an A-4 Skyhawk out for a joyride--at night!Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
When aircraft designers and military planners sought a simple way to extend the range, increase the payload, and lengthen the endurance of combat aircraft, they may have been inclined to consider a host of various technological solutions. In fact, the best way to accomplish these endeavors is through aerial refueling with big wing tankers like the KC-135 Stratotanker, KC-10 Extender, and forthcoming KC-46 Pegasus.On this episode, retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Mark “Sluggo” Hasara joins us to discuss the history, practical applications, and strategic implications of big wing tankers. As a 25-year veteran with over 5,000 flight hours in the KC-135, Sluggo literally “wrote the book” on big wing tanking and was instrumental in the creation of the U.S. Air Force tanker Weapons School. Be sure to check out his Wall Pilot Facebook page and the bonus content where Sluggo spends another 52 minutes answering listener questions.Episode music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell / artwork by Janek Krause. This episode was produced by our friends at The Muscle Car Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fly a high-performance military jet fighter but now anyone can enjoy the incredibly realistic air combat simulation platforms available on the market today.  From the astonishingly accurate aircraft recreation to the flawless graphics and imagery, air combat simulation is the next best thing for military aircraft aficionados, and without the long deployments! On this episode, Mr. Matt Wagner of Eagle Dynamics joins us to discuss one of the most popular and most realistic platforms available today: Digital Combat Simulator.  We cover how DCS came to be and what’s coming in the future.  We also watch as our host Jell-O tries the Lot 20 F/A-18C simulation for the very first time and describes just how close it compares to the real thing (hint: it’s pretty darn close and his two years out of the cockpit really show!). During the abbreviated listener question segment we address why some squadrons refer to themselves as “World Famous” and how fighters deal with contrails in tactical situations.  …and speaking of gaming, if you want something a little more casual, check out Sky Knights created by one of our Swedish listeners. Episode music by Jaime Lopez.Advertising Inquiries:
We're taking a pause this week and replaying a recent Patreon 'Happy Hour' discussion with Mr. Paul Wood, founder of the Warbird Heritage Foundation. Paul owns (and flies!) an impressive array of notable aircraft from the P-51 Mustang to the A-1 Skyraider to the A-4 Skyhawk.Advertising Inquiries:
Few pilots ever have an opportunity to meet an enemy aircraft in aerial battle.  Fewer yet come out victorious.  And even fewer still—in fact, only one—then go on to be involved in arguably the most influential pop culture aviation film of all time. That man is retired US Navy Rear Admiral Pete “Viper” Pettigrew. Climb aboard this week’s episode and hear the harrowing tale of Viper’s shootdown of a North Vietnamese MiG-21 with an untrained RIO in the backseat of his F-4 Phantom.  Then learn how he took the call to assist Hollywood as the military adviser to everyone’s favorite flying movie, Top Gun.  Think it’s a coincidence that Tom Skerritt’s character—the CO of TOPGUN—was callsign ‘Viper’?! After the interview we had a little extra time and so answer listener questions such as how likely it would have been in the real world for Maverick’s engine flameout to have occurred by flying through another plane’s jet wash, which cockpit arrangement I liked better between the F/A-18 and F-16, more on aircraft paint schemes, how Approach magazine was regarded, and the defining moment in my career I look back on with the most pride. Episode art by Gary Meyer.  Bumper music by Jaime Lopez.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Today’s combat aviator enjoys a wide variety of munitions from which to choose when attacking surface targets.  From free fall general purpose bombs, to laser- and GPS-guided weapons, to glide and forward firing rockets, missiles, and guns—the extensive arsenal is full of complex, yet highly effective ordnance. Join US Navy Commander Colin “Farva” Price as we discuss how pilots choose which weapons to use against which targets and how ‘collateral damage’ concerns are addressed in recent conflicts.  We step through the various weapons employed by the F/A-18 series of aircraft such as Mk 80 and BLU-series warheads, LGBs, JDAM, JSOW, SLAM ER, HARM, Maverick, rockets, and more.  We also describe practice munitions used in training before wrapping up with a peek at future weapons coming down the pipeline.  And check out the Super Hornet with 10 JDAM! During the listener question segment, find out what happens when a navy pilot gets fired, what we know about the Top Gun sequel filming, and how military aircraft paint schemes have changed since Vietnam and the tactical significance of aircraft finishes. Episode bumper music by Jaime Lopez.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
In this episode, retired US Navy Captain Fitz "Dud" Lee explains how and why military aircraft refuel in flight, and which aircraft are capable of doing so. Why also share a few "sea stories" of how managing aerial tankers is vital to aircraft carrier flight operations.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
On this episode, US Navy aerospace operational physiologist Commander Susan Jay explains how flying high-performance jet aircraft takes a toll on the human body. We discuss pulling Gs, air sickness, decompression sickness, trapped gas, and spatial disorientation. Check out the FPP006 - Pulling Gs playlist on our YouTube channel for footage of pilots struggling to control G forces in a centrifuge.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Few Western aerospace design and manufacturing firms can boast an aircraft so successful that it is flown by every branch of the US military, plus the Coast Guard and dozens of countries, with over 4,000 aircraft being built in dozens of configurations.  No, it’s not the Lockheed C-130 Hercules or Bell UH-1 Huey.  We’re talking the Sikorsky H-60 helicopter. Joining us this episode to discuss the numerous H-60 variants (Blackhawk and Seahawk primarily, but also the Jayhawk and Pavehawk) is US Navy Commander Jeremiah Ragadio.  “FRANK,” a career Seahawk pilot currently in training to assume a leadership position in a sea-going MH-60R squadron, offers a fascinating look at not only all the H-60 variants, but its armament and performance as well. During the listener question segment we discuss land-based Navy squadrons, S-3 radio limitations, and aircraft carrier landing F/A-18E/F weight limits and ordnance considerations.  Click here to read the latest ‘Musing’ on our website and here to view our inaugural ‘Deep Dive’ video. Bumper announcements by Jim Hendershot; bumper music by Jaime Lopez.  Episode artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
If aviation itself is an inherently unforgiving activity, then how much more so naval aviation—which routinely involves formation flying, ship landings, night vision goggle usage and… of course, the enemy?  When tragedy strikes—as it frequently does—the US Government cares for family members of the fallen, as well as the parent unit but, inevitably, response times can sometimes be lengthy and expenses can exceed those payable by the government, per law.  Oftentimes, the family and squadron need someone to come alongside to provide a little extra help.  That’s where The Wingman Foundation comes in. Founded by three US Marine Corps aviators in 2014, the non-profit foundation strives to “honor the sacrifices of our fallen air warriors and support the families they've left behind.”  Retired CWO3 Ricky “Leroy” Savage, USMC, joins us on this episode to describe how the foundation does so, particularly in response to recent high-profile mishaps worldwide.  The Fighter Pilot Podcast is proud to announce a partnership with the foundation—helping promote their mission and offering podcast listeners a convenient way to shoulder some of the grief when tragedy strikes. This episode also features a brief overview of the Wings Over America Scholarship Foundation, a non-profit foundation founded in 1987 that provides “college scholarships to dependent children and spouses of all US Navy personnel—officer and enlisted.” During the listener question segment, we again address simulators, discuss whether specific dogfighting maneuvers are decided formulaically, and cover how prevalent smoking is among the fighter pilot ranks.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
They say fighter pilots make movies while attack pilots make history. So, what happens when a former attack pilot writes a book—his first ever—that so accurately and engagingly captures Vietnam combat operations that it ends up on President Reagan’s desk before soaring up New York Times’ best seller charts? That’s right, they make a movie out of it. On this episode, the Fighter Pilot Podcast is honored to host world renowned author and retired US Navy Reserve Commander Stephen “Cooter” Coonts. With nearly 50 aviation-themed books to his credit—including his out-of-the-gate runaway success, Flight of the Intruder—Mr. Coonts not only regales us with how he came to be such a prolific writer but, oh yeah, continues us along our aircraft series with a detailed explanation of the Grumman A-6 Intruder. At the end of the discussion Mr. Coonts offers a sneak peek into what projects he is working on next, including a diversion from his typical fictional accounts for his latest work, Dragon’s Jaw, due out May 14, 2019 and available here. Due to having a distinguished visitor on the show, there is no listener question segment on this episode. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
The Sopwith Camel, P-51 Mustang, F-86 Sabre, and F-4 Phantom II may all be the quintessential fighters of their era, from World War I through the Vietnam conflict.  And from Desert Storm to today, few would dispute the aircraft that most deserves to join such an esteemed group is none other than the General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon—better known as simply, the Viper. On this episode, retired US Air Force Reserve Colonel Mike “T-DAY” Torrealday, who amassed over 4,000 flight hours in nearly every block and variant of the Viper over a 29-year career, joins us to discuss this amazing fighter as a continuation of our ‘aircraft series.’  T-DAY describes the many variants, flight envelope, ordnance inventory, and so much more.  Read about the F-16N here. During the listener question segment, we discuss wristwatches, multi-mission aircraft versus specialized aircraft, and dogfighting the F/A-18 versus other ‘teen’ fighters. Bumper announcements by Clint Bell / music by Jaime Lopez.  Artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
BRRRRRRTTTTTT!!! The sound of an aircraft cannon firing is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, depending on which side of the barrels a person finds themselves.  And while most combat aircraft have featured guns and cannons since the dawn of aerial battle, no aircraft is more known for—or respected for—its gun than the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt ll and it’s tank-busting 30mm GAU-8 Avenger cannon. On this episode, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Luke “Supa” Fricke joins the Fighter Pilot Podcast to discuss the purpose-built Warthog—as the pilots affectionately refer to it—and answers all our usual questions featured in the ongoing ‘aircraft series.’  As an added bonus to this discussion for DCS players in the audience five copies of the Enemy Within 3.0 campaign created by team member Baltic Dragon will be given away.  Click here to enter. During the listener questions segment, we discuss aircraft carrier alert postures, officer-enlisted relationships, and the rudder’s importance in ACM. New episode bumper announcements provided by Clint Bell.  Music by Jaime Lopez.  Artwork by Janek Krause.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Virtually everything requires periodic maintenance and upkeep.  Think about it: our cars, our homes, our health, relationships… you name it—if it operates, functions, or has value, odds are precious resources are required to keep it so.  And yet, very little attention is paid by the public or Hollywood to this irrefutable fact. But since this show tells the story of military aviation, on this episode we take a break from the glamorous planes and amazing weapons to explore what it takes to keep a 1,000-foot long, 10-story tall, $8B, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier protecting the nation’s interests on the world’s seas.  Joining us to help describe this massive undertaking is US Navy Captain Matthew “Pappy” Paradise, commanding officer of the USS Carl Vinson, and Mr. Mike Irby, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard project lead for the Vinson’s current ‘availability’ period—as a carrier in drydock is known. During the listener question segment, Jell-O and Sunshine address Navy VFA squadron organization, loneliness in flight, the effect of dihedral on pulling Gs, the differences between the Naval Academy and ROTC when it comes to flight school performance, and more. Episode artwork by Janek Krause.  Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell.  Our thanks to the public affairs offices of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Carl Vinson for making this episode possible.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
The MiG-21 Fishbed. There may be no more recognizable, mass produced, widely proliferated, iconic, enduring fighter jet in existence or throughout history. With more than 11,500 produced and at one time operational in 60 countries on four continents, incredibly this 65-year-old fighter is still in widespread use today.On this episode, retired Indian Air Force Air Commodore Suren “Bundal” Tyagi joins us to discuss legendary aircraft—not just the numbers but how effective it was, what it was like and how the pilots who flew it enjoyed the MiG-21. And he would know, having amassed over 4,000 flight hours and several combat missions in the Fishbed.Returning as guest co-host to help explain the MiG-21 is episode 60 hero and former squadron mate with Bundal, Harsih Masand, who helps answer listener questions about the stinger on the back of Flanker aircraft, whether the future of air warfare will be ultra-long range or within visual range, and whether an AC-130s operate from unprepared airfields.Episode announcements by Clint Bell / music by Jaime Lopez. This episode was produced by our friends at The Muscle Car Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Bomber Month was a blast but it’s back to our namesake this week with a look at the Saab JAS 39 Gripen. Mikael “Duke” Grev, former lieutenant in the Swedish Air Force, joins us to discuss this delta-wing, canard-equipped, single engine fighter including it’s armament, performance, and many variants. Read more on Duke’s Gripen experiences in his Hushkit article, and check out his company Avioniq here.During the listener question segment, guest co-host Tra “Fish” Calisch returns to help address sporting event flyovers, wingmen training and responsibilities, and the future of manned naval aviation.Episode artwork adapted from Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. This episode was produced by our friends at The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains a robust aviation capability comprised of numerous fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft stationed all over the country and deploying all over the world. This "fifth branch" of the U.S. military enforces laws, conducts search and rescue, maintains navigational equipment, and performs a host of other important tasks. And in a time of war, they can even help fight our nation's adversaries.This week, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Dan "Rainman" Warren joins us to help us understand everything we ever wanted to know about the Coast Guard but were afraid to ask. Listener questions include the use of gloves when flying and how to confirm a "kill" in long distance air-to-air engagements.Episode artwork by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. This episode was produced by our friends at The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
Bomber Month continues with the mighty Boeing B-52 Stratofortress!This week, Mr. Ken Katz, a former U.S. Air Force flight test engineer who literally wrote the book on the B-52, joins us to talk all about the mighty "BUFF" including the several variants, its many weapons, and most impressively--how it may end up being the first aircraft in history to fly operationally for 100 years.Episode artwork adapted by Janek Krause. Bumper music by Jaime Lopez / announcements by Clint Bell. This episode was produced by our friends at The MuscleCar Place Podcast Network.Want to advertise on this podcast? Go to and sign up.
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Podcast Details

Jan 2nd, 2018
Latest Episode
Jun 23rd, 2020
Release Period
No. of Episodes
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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