Here's a Q for everyone in the brain trust:
I know the definition of "Bingo fuel", but what's the story behind the phrase?
I've used it for years, but the other night another player asked why it's called "Bingo fuel", and I couldn't explain it. So, what is it? Did the pilots cross out little squaresrepresenting the amount of fuel on their knee board as they went along, and then called out "Bingo!" when they'd crossed out five in a row? Or does it mean "Bad Idea, No Gas Onboard"?
Any help in solving this mystery will be appreciated.
I don't know the answer to your question, but on a related issue, the Brits used the phrase "Winchester" to indicate that they were out of ammo. I'd like to know how both of these phrases came to be, so maybe someone can tell us.?.?.?
As far as "Bingo" or "Joker" came from to indicate fuel states I have no idea. Maybe it's because someone hearing out-of-place terms like that got a pilot's attention easily. Like why they use a "*****in' Betty" voice in fighters nowadays.
As for "Winchester", actually it was the US pilots that used the term. The British just said they were empty. "Winchester" came from the main supplier of ammo and rifles to the US Army since the 1890's and when troopers were out of ammo in battle the call was "Winchester!" if you need more from the supply runners on the line. As opposed to if you were still using an older rifle like a 45-70.
It probably made it's way into USAAF slang because that was the US ARMY Air Force until after WW2.
I always wondered about that! Now, the reason that I thought that it was exclusively an English term (as in our Brit friends, not the language in general), was because I had learned the term from Jane's WWII Fighters, and only heard it when flying as a British pilot.
Now, if I had thought that this was only a Yank phrase, I might have connected the dots and came up with the correct answer.
I think the terms Joker and Bingo came into use after WWII, and have been anachronistically applied. I don't have the etymology of either term, but I can tell you that both are part of the U.S. Air Force's 3-1 standard terminology (the 3-1 series of manuals covers aircraft specific tactics, threat information and terminology, among other things.)
From time to time, the Air Force holds 3-1 conferences, in part to update the terminology. Being towards the bottom of the fighter pilot food chain, I never attended one, but in general they create terms to save time in flight, and pick words that are distinctive and easy to remember. One example of this not always working was when I ID'ed a CANDID transport over Northern Iraq. The call "ID CANDID" sounded a lot like "ID Bandit" when replaying my HUD tape (nobody in the air was confused at the time though.) "Pigeons" is a request for a vector to "Homeplate", "Winchester" refers to being out of ammo (Winchester making rifle ammo as previously mentioned). The dumbest I remember was "Saunter" (fly at max endurance airspeed). We never used that one, and just said "We're slowing down", or words to that effect. "Pigeons" was pretty stupid sounding, too. My favorite (aside from "Guns kill on the F-18") was "Thunder"... an advisory call to the FAC during CAS that we were one minute from bombs on target, and the good guys should get their heads down.
The best I can guess about Bingo, is that the winner shouts "Bingo" to end the game, and the term has worked it's way into American slang as an ending. It's distictive, two syllables, and has at least some connection with ending a contest. "Joker" is a more recent addition to 3-1, and perhaps derives from "Jokers" calling "Bingo" early to try to get in one last cheap shot during training.
"Bingo" fuel is the amount of fuel required to return to base plus some extra for manuvering. It is the final reserve. It varies depending on how far you are away from base. I guess during WWII they would have to manually update it. I know that near the end of the war the US used a basic IFF (identification friend or foe) system. IFF can be used to determine distance to different bases and a simple equation could give you amout of fuel required to reach that base. I am pretty sure that a basic counting computer could do that. So, I wouldn't be surprised if the US (and other contries) had an auto-update system for the bingo fuel. Hope that answers the question.
We never used that one, and just said "We're slowing down", or words to that effect. "Pigeons" was pretty stupid sounding, too. My favorite (aside from "Guns kill on the F-18") was "Thunder"... an advisory call to the FAC during CAS that we were one minute from bombs on target, and the good guys should get their heads down.