Military Aviation Advice for Authors

Have you ever been reading a novel and the author begins describing something that you know all about, but it’s obvious they know nothing about the subject?

I have!

Nothing breaks the suspension of disbelief better than a character doing or saying something that’s just totally wrong.

I’ve been in aviation my entire adult life!

And associated with the military almost as long!

Here are just a few tips for authors when writing about the military, aviation, and military aviation.

Military Stuff

Military members do not salute inside buildings! Unless formally reporting to a commanding officer after being summoned (generally because they are in trouble), by coming to the position of attention in front of the officer’s desk, Saluting, and stating, “Rank, name, reports as ordered.” then waiting for a return salute before dropping theirs

Military members do not normally walk around armed. Under normal circumstances only security personal are armed.

Military members do wear hats inside buildings (unless they are armed), and even then not usually.

When armed, military members do not normally salute!

Aviation Stuff

Port and Starboard are nautical terms. No one who flies uses those AT ALL! 

Not even Naval Aviators use port and starboard. I worked in the same office with a naval aviator for years. Even Naval Aviators would have to think “OK port has four letters, left has four letters, so port means left.” or “starboard has more than four letters, right has more than four letters…” Having to take the time to do so is not safe! Port and starboard refer to boats not aircraft! 

Aircraft have left and right wings (when looking forward) as well as landing gear (left main gear, right main gear, nose gear). Components like engines, hydraulics, generators, brakes, tires, etc. are numbered 1 through whatever, left to right, as in number 2 engine (it depends how many total engines which wing that puts the #2 on). 

The big one all aviators hate, Tarmac. In my over 40 years of aviation experience with military and civil aviation, I have never heard anyone in the community use that word. It seems to have come into vogue, and I started hearing it sometime 5 to 10 years ago in the non-flying public, primarily with news people (and authors) trying to sound knowledgable. I never even heard of the word before then. If you use the word tarmac, anyone who flys will think you are an idiot!

Aircraft park on the parking ramp, commonly just as “the ramp” they taxi on a taxiway, and land and take off on the runway. These are all made out of concrete.

When  looked up, the definition of tarmac says it was the predecessor to asphalt. The only asphalt on an airport is on the edges of all the cement areas to keep the grass and any debris away. Asphalt cannot bear the weight of modern heavy aircraft, they sink right into the asphalt (I’ve seen it). 

Nothing on an airport is made with tarmac! Why would asphalt’s predecessor be used or referred to in aviation? Reenforced concrete is what’s used. 

I hope this helps in your writing endeavors!

Drop me a line using the contact form if you’d like more extensive help wit a project!



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