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The Trope Codifier.


 Dying might be unavoidable, but losing your cool is inexcusable.


When a stereotypical airplane (or spaceship) pilot speaks over the radio, either to flight controllers on the ground or to his own passengers, he does so in a very soft, smooth register, just barely loud enough to pick up on the radio, probably with a faint American Southern accent (unless he's British, in which case it is an upper-class one). He uses radio jargon, even when he doesn't really need to. A true Danger Deadpan never loses his cool or changes his tone of voice under any circumstances whatsoever, a habit which is often played for laughs.

May often be found in the cockpit of a Cool Plane.

In Real Life, this makes some sense. Even if your plane's lost two engines and half a wing, the last thing you need is a bunch of scared people in the back of the plane panicking and raising hell; you can't be screaming "OH GOD WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE" over the radio. Not to mention the fact that if you stay calm and actually tell Mission Control what the problem is you won't throw away what may be your last chance for one of you to actually work out how to fix it. Especially for a test pilot Mission Control figuring out the problem is of utility even if you do die.

Examples of Danger Deadpan include:

Anime and Manga


  • The infamous, understated, oft-repeated line "Houston, we have a problem", as delivered in the film Apollo 13, owes at least a little to the Chuck Yeager spirit.
    • The urgency of the scene was actually played up for the film. The actual transcripts ("Houston, we've had a problem.") are further understated.
    • in The Movie, Jack Swigart (as played by Kevin Bacon) had this going on for most of the film.
    • Heck, after the potentially-fatal reentry, which took over a minute-and-a-half longer than anticipated, the real response was just "Okay, Joe".
  • Corporal Ferro, the Drop Ship pilot in Aliens.
    • It's also lampshaded in the novelization of the Aliens comic Genocide:

 Fitz was clearly from the Chuck Yeager school of pilots. Fly by the seat of your pants, but even if your wings had sheared off and your ejector was jammed, at no point abandon your laid-back Texas accent.

  • The totally deadpan "I'm hit, I'm going in." from the Helicopter attack scene in Apocalypse Now.
    • In a similar vein, Blackhawk pilot Wolcott in Black Hawk Down - "6-1 going down... 6-1 going down...", said in a very calm voice while the pilot's face displays quite a bit of concern. The radio guys relaying the info around sound more emotional than he does.
  • The Discovery's mission controller in 2001: A Space Odyssey, who was played by an actual U.S. Air Force radio operator stationed in England, whom Kubrick hired because he couldn't find any actors who could do this kind of voice.
  • Red Leader during the attack on the Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope. After losing both his wingmen and failing to hit the exhaust port and being tailed by Vader, and having lost his engines, he calmly orders Luke to set up for his attack run before getting shot down, although he does scream as he crashes.
    • Although it was more of an "If I'm gonna die, I'm takin' you bastards with me!" kind of a scream.
      • Worth noting that Red Leader was pretty much the only rebel pilot in that battle who wasn't freaking out on some level, which simultaneously illustrates both his professionalism and the ragtag-ness of the rebel forces.
        • Red Ten also qualifies; he even maintains his cool (mostly) just before "Mauler" Mithel blasts him.
        • Gold Five was similarly composed, even going so far as to calmly issue a sitrep on the destruction of his squadron as Darth Vader is firing at him to finish him off, apparently just so Red Squadron would know what they were dealing with. These two guys are of course responsible for coining the Star Wars in-jokes "Stay on Target..." and "Just a few more seconds..."
    • Maybe there's just something about flying as Red Leader that keeps you calm: when it's Wedge's turn with the callsign in Return of the Jedi this time he's the one staying professional as everyone else gets jumpy.
  • The opening scene of A Matter of Life and Death where Carter calmly and politely chats to a female radio operator about how utterly screwed he is, and that the best hope for survival is to bail out without a parachute and hope that he is wrong about the height he is flying at.
  • The former trope namer himself shows up in The Right Stuff, played by Sam Shepard. Not to mention a cameo by the real Yeager.
  • Murdock (sort of) does this in the film of The a Team. While he's quite excited to be flying in such a dangerous situation, when the plane is actually hit by a missile, he calmly says, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you look out the side of the aircraft, you'll see the right wing is on fire."
  • Parodied in the comedy Hot Shots!. On returning from the big mission, Topper is calmly narrating as his plane falls apart ("Lost my wing. There goes the other one.") And he is cheerily talked in by Washout, who give calm words of reassurance in response to each new glitch ("Looking good. Doing fine. Call the ball.")


  • In the Jack McKinney novelization of Robotech, the pilots are all described as discussing their life and death situations in combat "as if they were talking about the weather", and lampshades this with an explanation that combat pilots are traditionally superstitious that displaying any worry or fear of death invites its attention.
  • Invoked in Clear and Present Danger: as crew chief Buck Zimmer dies in Jack Ryan's arms, Jack is nearly enraged by the helo pilot's calm reply to the news. The narrative notes that the pilot's demeanor is a defense mechanism: if he hadn't learned how to compartmentalize his rage and grief, he could never have lasted as long as he has.

Live Action TV

  • Wash from Firefly, although he only takes on this persona while flying the ship, and is otherwise usually quite prone to panic.

 Wash: ...Kaylee better get us some extra power from the engine room to offset the burn-through, or this landing could get pretty interesting.

Mal: Define "interesting".

Wash: "Oh god, oh god, we're all gonna die"?

    • This could be why pilots talk like this now. "I don't mean to alarm anyone, but I think we're being followed..." really does get the message across without causing panic.
    • In one episode, he panicked while flying. In the commentary they cited Rule of Funny for these out of character moments, with the actor being said to wonder if his favorite character trait—that he was excitable and not very handy, except when he was flying—was being written out.
    • In one episode commentary, Nathan Fillion attributes Wash's newfound sense of panic to Alan Tudyk's purchase of an Xbox.
  • Ace Rimmer, who calmly reports that he's broken his arm, then apologizes in advance for fainting briefly.
  • The Twilight Zone episode The Odyssey of Flight 33 has a fair bit of this (paraphrasing rather loosely):

 Captain Farver: If you'll look out the right windows, you'll see the 1939 New York World's Fair in progress. While this is an improvement over the dinosaurs we saw earlier, we still can't land here, so we're going to try again. Please remain calm, and pray.

  • Captain Stapley of Concorde Golf Victor Charlie in the Doctor Who serial Time-Flight.

New Media

Stand Up Comedy

  • Referenced by Robin Williams on his "Live 2002" album (although not in the HBO Live On Broadway special) during a routine comparing pre- and post-9/11 flying:

 "Remember when you used to get on the planes before 9/11? Pilots would come on, give you that whole Chuck Yeager: (Chuck Yeager voice) 'Hey everybody. Had a couple of cocktails. Feelin' pretty good. Let's take this sucker down to the end of the runway and see what she'll do.'"

  • Phill Jupitus has a routine about this in his Quadrophobia show, in which he contrasts the Danger Deadpan approach seen in Apollo13 with the probable result if the astronauts had been British: not so much "Houston, we have a problem" as "THE F**KING ROCKET'S F**KING F**KED!!" Notable as an example of an inversion of British Stuffiness.
  • Adam Hills relates a story about flying into Hobart when the pilot aborted the landing at the last minute.

  Captain came on and made the single coolest announcement I've ever heard in my life. (Suave voice) 'Ladies and gentlemen, you can probably tell we didn't land then. This is because the wind conditions just changed a little bit and were pushing us slightly off course. We just decided to pull up and do another lap of the airport, we'll have you on the ground in about five minutes time.' I thought that is pretty damn cool - for a man who nearly killed us all. That wasn't wind, he fucked up.

    • Which is Just Plane Wrong. It is entirely possible to have variable winds or wind shear account for the need to go around.

Video Games

  • Kysouke Nanbu is portayed as such in the Super Robot Wars series, he has occasional bouts of shouting Hot-Blooded-ness but his overall character is the 'cool and levelheaded' archetype, slumbering volcano deal.
  • The Wraith pilot from Starcraft.
    • By extension, Tom Kazansky, a hero from the bonus campaign, who has the exact same voice and face, but being a Hero Unit is probably the original.
    • The Drop Ship pilot as well, being a fairly obvious reference to Corporal Ferro below.
    • As of Starcraft II, they've been replaced by the Viking and Medevac pilots, respectively.
      • The Wraith is still in Starcraft II's campaign with the same smooth voice and quotes. Infamously so, as while other units sound like they are in various states of duress and infestation from being infected by a neural parasite, the Wraith's voice is completely unaffected and just as calm as ever.
    • The Banshee, while somewhat more aggressive-sounding (and apparently relishing in the idea of bombing things) also keeps remarkably calm. In fact, the only Terran pilot (close to the only Terran soldier period) who doesn't is the Lovable Coward Battlecruiser captain.
  • Iceman, in the first Wing Commander game, is described in the manual as being the calm, cool, collected pilot, and the one on top of the scoreboard when you start the game. A fellow pilot notes that everyone else shouts in combat, but you sometimes have to strain to hear Iceman, because he's pretty much whispering in terse, two-or-three-word sentences.
  • Disconcertingly the Hell Talon pilot from Dawn of War: Soulstorm talks like this. It's odd because he's on the side of Chaos, aka the demonic insane madmen whose units talk via screaming loudly for the most part. But then again their faction's name is Chaos after all.
    • This is actually because, according to the fluff, Hell Talons are piloted by Servitors, who are basically partially organic robots created from clones or lobotomized convicts.
  • In Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 the Allied Harrier jets apparently have pilots that sound like your typical Chuck Yeager-type pilots when clicked on. The only time they sound panicky is when they get shot down. The Allied Rocketeers were more or less the same.
    • And then in Red Alert 3 you get this for pretty much anyone who flies a plane—including Japanese pilots and Soviet women pilots.
      • The Apollo pilots sometimes shout "Where's the eject?" when you shoot them down.
      • "Mig going down, Mig going dooowwwnnn!!!"
    • Earlier in the series in Tiberian Sun, GDI had the rather unshakeable Orca pilots and Nod had the even more unshakable Banshee pilots, who upon being shot down uttered a deadpan "Whoops".
      • Tiberian Sun's land armor pilots are particularly more Yeagerish than other C&C equivalents and are on par with aircraft ones.
  • One level of Halo 3 includes several crashed human aircraft. Standing near one reveals some interesting radio chatter regarding a space-battle above, including the calmly-stated line "I've lost avionics, I'm gonna try and hit their carrier. Goodbye guys."
    • The UNSC for some reason really likes to hire laidback Texan women to pilot their Pelicans. The version in the first game was even given a nickname, Foehammer, and survived until the last level.
      • Foehammer's calm demeanor and steadfast reliability through the entire game made her death in the last seconds of the game *heartbreaking*.
  • Every airman in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The best example is probably Outlaw 2-5, who responds to being told he's in danger of getting nuked with a deadpan "Copy, we know what we're getting into."
    • Deadly, the downed Cobra pilot Outlaw 2-5 landed to rescue, remains admirably collected whilst loosing her tail rotor and plowing into a building. The next you hear from her, she's a bit more shaken up. Considering she's also trapped in the cockpit with a broken leg or worse, her gunner is dead, and angry Quraqis with lots of guns and a grudge against American air power are pouring out of the woodwork, this is forgivable.
    • Taken to the logical extreme in the level "Death From Above", where you are the gunner of an AC-130 gunship. The plane crews respond to you disintegrating entire platoons with less emotion than a guy watching sports on TV; the only guy who speaks above a normal, conversational tone of voice is the one reloading the biggest gun on the plane.
    • Similarly with any of Glenn Morshower's characters: most of the pilots, as well as 'Overlord', 'Warlord' and the NORAD HQ controller in Modern Warfare 2. The latter gets a disturbingly subtle hint of malice if you kill more than ten people in a single Predator Missile strike, though.
  • You can customize your player model in Tribes 2, including your character's voice. One of the options for a Human Male player model is "Iceman." It sounds as you might expect.
  • Homeworld and Homeworld 2 radio chatter is filled with Chuck Yeagers: ship captains, fighter pilots, and even Fleet Command, herself. They barely break out in panic even in hopeless situations: the most that you will hear is a slight tone of urgency.

 We're going down. We're going-Hiigaran Battlecruiser captain, Homeworld 2

    • Although not a full 180 degree spin, Homeworld: Cataclysm radio chatter deviates from Chuck Yeager by a significant margin.

 Fire! Fire! Fire! — Somtaaw Multibeam Frigate captain

  • The ironclad units from Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds are a British, naval version of this trope, remaining much calmer than their land-based compatriots even when reporting that Martian units are firing at them. Come on Thunderchild indeed.
  • Played straight, averted, and subverted by Prototype. You hear all enemy radio chatter, so when you take out a helicopter you hear the pilot's reaction to what you do - and final words. Some pilots are calm and collected going in, some panic and wail immediately, and some lose control just before they hit. After a while, the panicked screams can become Tear Jerker material.
    • "(Calmly) Mayday, mayday, we're going in ha-AAAUUUGGGHHH"

Western Animation

  • When The Simpsons fly home from Japan, the Chuck Yeager pilot keeps his cool even when the plane is grabbed and shaken about by Godzilla.
    • In the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", two fighter jets are scrambled to intercept Sideshow Bob's escape in the Wright brothers' plane. It does not go well, as the pilot comments Yeagerly: "Bogey's air speed not sufficient for intercept. Suggest we get out and walk."
  • Quagmire from Family Guy, on the one occasion where we see him actually doing his job as an airline captain, uses this voice, a severe contrast to his catch-phrase-laden normal speech. He throws in one "giggity"[1] in the last sentence.
    • Of course, when things start going to hell a littler later, he starts freaking out.
  • Rocko's Modern Life - Rocko and Heffer are just about to start a plane trip when the Captain comes over the intercom and mentions in a deadpan voice that he'll do his best not to pass out at high altitude like he usually does.
  • Parodied in Monkey Dust - a pilot who got perfect scores in his pilot exam is rejected because his voice is goofy, while a terrible pilot gets through when he brushes off the fact he failed his exam with "a little spot of bother there, but we're through the worst of it" in a sauve, clipped voice.

Real Life

  • Truth in Television. In real life, Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, originated this voice and this trope. The phenomenon of how real-world pilots all started talking like him, for no other reason than that he was so cool, is described in the nonfiction novel The Right Stuff, and to a lesser extent in the movie version of same.
    • Curiously, though the voice in the movies and other audible media is often Texan, Yeager himself was from West Virginia.
    • His collected persona on the radio was demonstrated profoundly in an incident mentioned in his autobiography and (sort of) shown in the movie version of The Right Stuff. While testing the X-1A, the airplane broke into an abrupt spin at just over Mach 2 — in an airplane that was impossible to escape from. When he finally manages to break out of the spin, he's just barely got enough altitude to make it back to base (the X-1 series was designed to use up all of its fuel on the way out and come back unpowered). Next thing you know, he's making a wisecrack to the carrier aircraft about not needing a structural integrity demonstration. Probably a Real Life Crowning Moment of Awesome for a man whose life was full of them.

 "Now, folks, uh… this is the captain... ummmm... We've got a little ol' red light up here on the control panel that's tryin' to tell us that the landin' gears're not... uh... lockin' into position when we lower 'em... Now... I don't believe that little ol' red light knows what it's talkin' about—I believe it's that little ol' red light that iddn' workin' right. But... I guess to play it by the rules, we oughta humor that little ol' light… so we're gonna take her down to about, oh, two or three hundred feet over the runway at Kennedy, and the folks down there on the ground are gonna see if they caint give us a visual inspection of those ol' landin' gears and if I'm right... they're gonna tell us everything is copacetic all the way aroun' an' we'll jes take her on in.

"Well, folks, those folks down there on the ground—it must be too early for 'em or somethin'—I 'spect they still got the sleepers in their eyes... 'cause they say they caint tell if those ol' landin' gears are all the way down or not... But, you know, up here in the cockpit we're convinced they're all the way down, so we're jes gonna take her on in... And oh, while we take a little swing out over the ocean an' empty some of that surplus fuel we're not gonna be needin' anymore — that's what you might be seein' comin' out of the wings — our lovely little ladies... if they'll be so kind... they're gonna go up and down the aisles and show you how we do what we call 'assumin' the position'."

    • Though Chuck Yeager is most known example and the book "Right stuff" made a nice legend, he probably isn't the first who started to talk that way. For example, Mark Gallai (a Soviet test pilot who started his career in 1930's) recounts just this way of reporting over radio about as soon as radio was introduced on airplanes. Let's just repeat: when you need to report your condition to ground crew, you are going to speak calmly and clearly, no matter what's happening with your plane.
      • While "calm and clear" might predate Yeager, the "faint Southern accent" thing probably doesn't.
  • Black box recordings of pilots going down almost always show the captain maintaining a surprisingly calm and neutral voice, even moments before a fatal crash.
    • Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger. Accounts have his conduct during the ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 as almost preternaturally calm and methodical.
    • Captain Eric Moody of British Airways Flight 9 managed to take this to ridiculous levels (probably helped by the good old Stiff Upper Lip), announcing this to his passengers; "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get it under control. I trust you are not in too much distress." [2]
    • In Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers, he points out that sometimes this unerring calm actually helps to cause the accidents in question. The pilots are so muted that the Air Traffic Controllers and sometimes even the rest of the flight crew don't realize how severe the situation is. One Co-Pilot was apologizing to an ATC for interrupting him mere moments before running out of fuel.
    • This is part of their training. Pilots are explicitly told not to use the intercom unless they can sound completely calm, so as to prevent passengers panicking.
  • Well trained tank crews will sound like this. You'd have something like:

 Commander: "Target tank, 11 o'clock, Sabot."

Gunner: "Sabot. Loaded."

Commander: "Fire. Wait for impact. Hit. Traverse, target BMP with radio mount, 12 o'clock, HE." etc

  • Although not a pilot, Ferdinand Foch's "My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent, I am advancing" deserves mention here for capturing the spirit of this example so well.
  • The commander of the space shuttle Columbia seemed completely calm when told that he had lost several instruments on the left side of his ship within a few seconds of each other, and gave no indication of anything but calm at any point, even until the shuttle disintegrated.
    • Moreover, telemetry of the last 30 seconds or so of Columbia's flight and panel configurations of recovered debris reveal that the pilot was still attempting to troubleshoot and rectify the situation even as the craft was spinning out of control and rapidly breaking up.
    • Charles Hobaugh, although not the pilot during that mission, is the one calmly repeating "Columbia, Houston: UHF comm check" time and time again after they lost contact with the shuttle.
  • There is also the eerily calm demeanor and voice of NASA public affairs officer Steve Nesbitt, immediately following the Challenger disaster.

  "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation.....Obviously a major malfunction.....We have no downlink.....We have a report from the Flight Dynamics Officer that the vehicle has exploded."

  • The British military's commitment to the Stiff Upper Lip often works out this way. It has caused problems when the British operate with allies; in the Korean War there was a near-disaster when an American General had a British commander report his situation as "somewhat difficult" and didn't realize he meant "vastly outnumbered and virtually out of ammunition."
  • I was the Officer of the Deck in a nuclear submarine when the radio supervisor's voice came over the MC sounding absolutely bored and tired: "Fire in the radio room. Loss of all processors. Recommend failsafe maneuver." The complete lack of tension in his voice actually made the initial response a little slow.
  • Not only is this trope for pilots in real life, but traffic control, as well. Air traffic control are not supposed to make "assumptions" about a pilot's plane, for instance, and are supposed to phrase statements in a similar fashion. i.e. "Your aircraft appears to be on fire, sir."
  • Racing callers have their own unique take on this. For races which can have billions of dollars at the high end bet on them, they take an almost lackadaisical approach to the races along with their own unique accent speaking style.
  • The Black Hawk designated Super 6-1, piloted by CW 3 Clifton "Elvis" Wolcott was the first of the two Black Hawks to be shot down during the First Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. He was noted as always being extremely calm on the radio. He legendarily maintained his calm after Super 6-1 was hit, and remained almost casual on the radio up to the moment of his death during the impact.
  • The medical field actually requires a good amount of this. It doesn't help one bit if, when you have a guy bleeding out big time, you're freaking out.