EA-18G Growler Pilot Talks You Through His Aerial Refueling Frustrations

Fighter cockpit videos are great, but ones narrated by the pilot telling you everything going on and what they’re thinking are way better.

byTyler Rogoway|
EA-18G CC-150 tanker
Growler Jams screencap


There is a constant stream of high-quality cockpit videos coming out of military air arms from around the globe these days, but they aren't all created equal. While this usually has to do with the visuals they depict, in one case, it's what is being said during those visuals that sets them far apart from the pack.

Enter the Growler Jams YouTube channel, produced by a U.S. Navy EA-18G Growler pilot who goes by his callsign "Pail," which also happens to be written boldly on the back of his flight helmet.

Boeing EA-18G Growler. (USN)

Pail's channel is packed with incredibly clear, wide-angle footage of what life is like in the driver's seat of the mighty Growler electronic attack jet. More recently, Pail has also become an active host in his videos. This has come in the form of incredibly well-conveyed and detailed explanations of what it's like flying an EA-18G during various phases of its mission. Not the tactical parts, of course, but more of the pure flying moments.

The result is a remarkably intimate and very insightful look at some notoriously complex tasks for Naval Aviators flying carrier-based tactical jets. Case in point Pail's video showing refueling from a Canadian CC-150 Polaris tanker-transport with a particularly vexing aerial refueling basket.

While one would think a pilot would want to fill their channel with all their most Hollywood-like moments, Pail leveraged a particularly challenging day, paired with his clear and succinct narration, into a fascinating learning opportunity for all. Pail walks us through the whole process, including his own frustrations as the tension builds and the gas gauge drops.

While hose and drogue aerial refueling can be tricky, especially under certain conditions, we have never had the guy with his hands on the stick and throttle provide play-by-play walking us through it. It's like we are sitting right there in the cockpit with him as he explains the entire evolution, warts and all.

(Beware Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) virtual pilots, this video may cause troubling flashbacks!)

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Another great example of this awesome pairing of stunning visuals and thorough explanation of those visuals is Pail's Case I recovery aboard the carrier on a beautiful evening video:

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And of course, this little group would not be complete without a fully narrated catapult launch from 'mother' out over the ocean:

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We absolutely love this format and hope to get more like it from Growler Jams in the future. In the meantime, we thought we would get to know a bit more about the videographer and narrator and his not-so-boring job. Here is our exchange:

What brought you to Naval Aviation? And how did you end up in the front seat of a Growler?

"My father was an Air Force tanker pilot and a career American Airlines pilot. I grew up in an aviation family ad knew from an early age that I also wanted to make my living in the skies. As I got older, I enjoyed the competition and tackling hard problems. If I was going to be a pilot, I wanted to do the hardest thing in a jet that I could do, so I decided to be a Naval Aviator. After graduating from Advanced Flight Training in June 2010, I wanted to go to the Pacific Northwest [where the Growler community is based at NAS Whidbey Island in Washington State]. I grew up in the high desert and wanted to see a part of the country that I had only seen on TV, so I selected Growlers."

Your videos are so informative and really focus on the nuts and bolts of flying EA-18Gs. What prompted you to create these awesome explainer videos?

"I created these videos initially to share my experiences with my family and friends. Growing up in an Air Force family, my parents didn’t really understand what it was that I did, so I wanted to show them using the best medium possible. At some point, I shared these videos with my friends. They got a lot of traction, and eventually wound up on YouTube."

What do you think is the biggest misconception most people have about flying a Naval tactical jet, especially in an age of renewed interest from Top Gun: Maverick?

"Most people think that Naval Aviation is like they see in the movies — fighter pilots making
reckless decisions and not having any real ground job responsibilities. This is the furthest thing from the truth. We are professionals. We don’t fly like Maverick in the movies. And we are leaders in the air and on the ground with the Sailors in our commands."

What is the Growler community like? How does it differ from that of your F/A-18E/F Super Hornet counterparts?

"The Growler community is amazing. I think of ourselves as the firefighters, while the fighters are the police. We reduce the lethality of the bad guys and help the good guys get home — the best job in the world in my opinion."

What advice would you give someone young who has an interest in Naval Aviation and may want to pursue it as a career?

"In the words of John F. Kennedy: “I can imagine a no more rewarding career. And any man
who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: 'I served in the United States Navy.” If you also share this drive, talk to a recruiter.

A big thanks to Pail for answering our questions and for his awesome narrative videos. Please keep them coming!

Contact the editor: tyler@thedrive.com