In flying, ‘Bingo’ is the term we use that means we have just enough fuel remaining to return to the base, land and have our ‘minimum fuel’ by regulation. More often than not, in T-38 flying, that value is 600 pounds. At Randolph Field, TX we would use 400 pounds for recovery. So, in this case, our ‘Bingo’ would be 1,000 pounds. Many of the guys I flew with would kick this figure up a bit, to maybe 1,200 pounds or so, ‘just in case…’ Probably not a bad idea at the time we were flying ’38’s. Today, with so little flying due to ‘sequestration,’ I reckon you could get away with 1,000 pounds – no worries.
Anyway, this one afternoon Jim E., call sign “Rat,” was a check pilot in a 2-ship formation flight. Toward the end of the mission he was flying as the Number 2 guy. The formation was in ‘extended trail’ at the time. This is a formation wherein the number 2 guy flies 500 to 800 feet behind the lead aircraft, maneuvering in a 30-degree cone as needed to stay in position.
All of a sudden Lead calls, “Randy 10 is Bingo.” By convention we usually didn’t call ‘Bingo’ as Lead; we would just call (air traffic control) for recovery. As in this case, the leader would usually just rock his wings, to rejoin the formation, and call for recovery – often at the same time.
In this case however, Lead never stood a chance. We had talked about this situation numerous times, usually after a couple-3 beers, and Rat was primed for him. “Roger,” Rat, upon hearing Lead’s, ‘Bingo’ call replies, “Randy 10-2 copies, go Channel 4, descent check.” Now Lead is screwed!
(In our East operating areas we were under the control of Houston Center. For recovery we had to switch over to San Antonio Approach Control.) So now Jim goes over to San Antonio Approach, and Lead is still on Houston Center. He has lost complete control of the formation. (I don’t know if Jim briefed the other check pilot or not – I suspect he might have…). Anyway, it is not long before Lead breaks the code and switches over Channel 4, just in time to hear Jim say, “Randy 10 flight check.” Lead now replies, “Randy 10 Lead,” totally flustered…
I don’t know how far it went after this, I was laughing so hard as Jim told us the story later that evening – after a couple beers, of course. But I will guess that that kid never called ‘Bingo” ever again, as Lead!