Fun with Starfighter Pilot Call Signs

Susan Grant is a fellow author in Embrace the Romance:  Pets in Space 2, and here she tells us something about writing that story and something about herself.  Welcome, Susan!


I had a blast writing about Trysh, Rornn, Puppy, and the crew of Bezos Station, a city in space above the planet of Barésh. (You may recognize these places—and even some of the secondary characters (including Puppy)—from Star Champion (previously titled The Champion of Barésh) or Star Hero (expanded from my short story Stray from Pets in Space 1).) Even though my books are “make believe” in a fantasy/science fiction setting, my background as an Air Force jet pilot helps me add touches of realism to the military characters.

In The Prince, the Pilot, and the Puppy (Star Puppy), I needed to come up with more than just first and last names for the starfighter pilots. Think: “Maverick” and “Goose” from Top Gun, or “Starbuck” from Battlestar Galactica. A call sign is an integral part of my characters, so I really wanted the ones I chose to fit. In the Air Force, call signs are handed out at naming ceremonies. They can be a play on your name (a pilot with a last name of Gordon is likely to be named “Flash”), or you can get a call sign based on an incident that made you infamous. On my flight last week, I flew with a former Navy Tomcat fighter pilot. I noticed he had “Disco” embroidered on his flight bag. He explained it came from the night he got drunk and danced on the bar—on TOP of the bar. Likewise, if you really screw something up, expect a call sign to come out of it. It can also be based off your personality, or on the whim of the drunken mob of fighter pilots at your “naming”.

On Bezos Station, namings are likely to take place in the all-ranks club Nimbus.

Here are a few of the starfighter pilots from the Mighty Titans squadron and their call signs:

Trysh Milton is “Firefly”—Her naming was mostly due to her being a big fan of the TV show, but it’s also fitting because she can appear bright and cheery one minute and dark and serious the next, blinking on and off like a lightning bug, or firefly.

Rornn B’lenne is “Charming” —He’s a Vash royal prince who oozes charisma. Need I say more?

Declan Fisher is “Danger”—He started off as “Fish” but during flight school he was the cause of a series of fender benders, making him the butt of jokes that he was a Danger—to himself

Carlynn Riga is “Mooch”—she loves to cook gourmet meals on small appliances in her quarters, but being on a space station limits her ability to get ingredients. She’s famous for her power to beg, borrow, and barter with the mess hall staff for the items she needs.

Then there’s me—Susan Grant. In the Air Force my call sign was Sue Bob. My name was Sue and I was considered one of the squadron “good ol boys”, and since “good ol boys” always had names like Jim Bob and Billy Bob, I was named Sue Bob. Silly but as with all fighter pilot call signs, it could have been worse.

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Prince, the Pilot, and the Puppy. (Star Puppy):

“Titan Squad, this is Station Control—we have multiple bogeys out of G quadrant!”

The frantic voice filled Lieutenant Trysh Milton’s headset. A distress call. It came from the station, a giant, rotating city in space. It housed thousands of people inside—military personnel like her and their families. Children. She and her squadron had just cleared the area of enemy fighters. Giddy with victory after destroying a wave of alien invaders, they were exhausted, sweaty, pumped with adrenaline. But just when they had thought it was over, it wasn’t.

“Titan Squad—we’ve got multiple bogeys! I repeat—multiple targets. They’re coming from… My God—Encke Gap!”

From an opening in Saturn’s rings? How? Plowing through the rings would get you killed in an instant. Trysh gripped the joystick of her starfighter, craning her neck to see if she could get a visual on the threat. Saturn was a creamy-yellow and orange globe surrounded by an ethereal halo. Those rings were nothing like they looked when viewed from a telescope on Earth. Up close, they were snowstorms of ice particles with eddies and whorls caused by tiny embedded moons, some moons as small as hailstones. Imagine—a moon you could hold in the palm of your hand! It was breathtaking, a scene she never grew tired of admiring…until the sight of enemy alien craft pouring out from a gap in the rings pulled the last of the air from her lungs.

The Dragaar! They had but one goal—destroy the space station and then Earth. In moments, the alien fighters were upon them, firing vivid streams of plasma at the defending starfighters.

Flying at her side, the Vash alien exchange officer, Prince Rornn B’lenne, call sign “Charming”, sounded unfazed as they joined the dogfight. “Firefly,” he said, using her call sign. “Go private.” The starfighter-to-starfighter channel allowed them to speak to only each other. “They must have precision-jumped through the gap.”

“It’s some sort of pop-up wormhole,” she answered. It left her with a sick feeling. If the Dragaar had the technology to punch holes in the fabric of space at will, it was game-over. Burst after bright burst caught her eye as friendlies were destroyed. Friends…squadron-mates, killed. “We’ve got to do something. We’re getting our asses kicked.”

“We must deny them their jump gate. Close it off.”

“Wormholes can’t be opened and closed like that.”

“Do not forget—I can make the impossible possible.”

She almost laughed. He used that same dumb line the last time he tried to get her to go out with him. His propositions were hilarious, and she shot every one of them down. It was a game—their game. They were friends with no benefits. But even she couldn’t deny that Rornn had a brilliant tactical mind. He was scary smart with a fresh way of looking at things that she admired. If he had figured out a way to turn this battle around, she was all ears. “Talk to me, Charming!” She strafed a crippled Dragaar fighter. It blew up, followed by the enemy knocking off two more friendlies.

“I read a research paper on the intentional disruption of small wormholes.” He targeted another Dragaar. The enemy fighter exploded in brilliant fireworks. They barely escaped the debris. “It concluded that it is scientifically possible.”

“On paper. By scientists sitting at nice safe desks stringing together a daisy chain of equations. Even if we lobbed all our R-bombs through the gate, the best we can hope for is transient instability.”

“Yes. The R-bombs. See? Your mind is perfection. One relativistic bomblet salvo coming up. Cover me, Firefly.” He wheeled away from her and accelerated into the invasion.

“Wait—Charming!” She used to think that “Charming” was a fitting call sign for the alien prince. Now she was convinced “lunatic” was a better fit. He was the constant instigator, the devil-may-care hotshot; she was his goal-driven, play-by-the-rules best friend who couldn’t help getting swept off her feet by the riptide of his charisma. But if he had figured out a way to turn the tide of this battle, she wanted in on it.


Find out what happens next in Embrace the Romance, Pets in Space 2!

6 thoughts on “Fun with Starfighter Pilot Call Signs”

  1. Very fun post and exciting excerpt. I loved learning about their call signs and the reasons behind them. Loved this line: “They were friends with no benefits.” That’s classic!

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