A lot of people have asked me about the term “Whuffos”, with which I generously pepper many of my articles. There’s even a little section on it in “Brian’s Flying Book” (available at the Tailwheeler’s Mercantile). Just for a little background, it’s a word borrowed from our Skydiving brethren. Evidently, back in the old days, sport skydivers in the south would sometimes encounter unbelieving locals, who would ask, “Whuffo you jump outta dem airplanes?”. That’s where the term came from.
But recently I’ve discovered what I believe is a very appropriate meaning for the word. Many of us always assumed that it referred to non-fliers, people who don’t fly and don’t know a thing about it. But I think there is another type of Whuffo. I think there are many who fly and still don’t understand much of the pursuit about which they think they are knowledgeable.
If they see someone like Steve Henry, performing his somewhat famous “Dead Stick Takeoff”, they will remark that “he’s crazy”. That statement alone proves they are Whuffos. They watch the landing in a turn and, because it transcends their own fumbling attempt to land their airplane, they immediately condemn it as “nuts”! That, too, brands them as a Whuffo.
And you know something which I’ve lately figured out? Most of these folks don’t fly little, lightly wing-loaded taildraggers. No, they mostly fly heavier, more complex airplanes and they are far more concerned with the operation of those airplanes’ nav systems and powerplants than with the fundamentals which those airplanes share with all others.
I’ve figured something else out, too. Many of the rest of us are Whuffos. Huh? Yup! I hold an instrument rating, but my instrument flying skills are largely atrophied because I specialize in the proximity flying and landing precision which is promoted at Tailwheel Town. If I were truly a well-rounded aviator, I’d be proficient at virtually all aviation pursuits. So I guess it’s the “pot calling the kettle black”! I guess I’m a Whuffo, too.
Does that mean that I’m going to stop using the term? Absolutely not!
I once knew a young woman who was fond of declaring, “We’re all bozos on this bus!”. Maybe she was right. And maybe, when it comes to flying airplanes, we’re all Whuffos, to one degree or another.