F/A-18’s “Bitchin Betty” bids farewell

A U.S. Marine F/A-18 Super Hornet assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, takes off from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, July 14, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing/ Released)

Aboard a lurching aircraft carrier in the ocean, an F/A-18 pilot prepares his aircraft for a sortie.

“Flight Controls, Flight Controls”, a middle-aged female voice with a southern drawl sounds from the cockpit.

While pilots might not think much of their Hornet’s voice, they nonetheless rely on her to keep them from doing dangerous things- such as flying into the ground.

That being said, they might be interested to know that the voice- colloquially known throughout US military aviation as “Bitchin’ Betty”- is calling it quits.

While there are many Bitchin’ Betties, the F/A-18 has always been voiced solely by Leslie Shook, who has always been a big fan of the aircraft.

“It’s just a piece of me”, Shook said of the Hornet.

Shook provided the voice of the “oral alert” system, which is designed to get a pilot’s attention for an immediate action.

Shook recalls an instance where her voice saved an aircrew in a dire situation.

I got a phone call one day, from a friend who wanted me to come over”, Shook recalls. “She had an aircrew there. He (the pilot) got the call to roll right..and he did. He said if he hadn’t rolled right when it said to, he’d have gone in the drink. He’d have died.”

Shook choked up a little as she retold the account. “That’s pretty overwhelming’ she said, ‘to hear things like that.”

Though Shook is retiring, she will -in one way or another- be hard at work in the cockpits of F/A-18s around the globe.

“I suspect I’ll be in this airplane as long as this airplane is flying”, she said. “That’s a long time yet.”

The Air Force counterpart to the Hornet -the F-16 “Viper”- is voiced by Alabama native and pastor’s wife Erica Lane.

Coincidentally, Lane also provides the voice for the Army’s AH-64 Apache.

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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