Created By: Tallens on April 11, 2014 Last Edited By: Tallens on August 3, 2014
Troped

Buzzing The Deck

Technical Term: High-speed, low altitude pass.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Tropes on a Plane, Military and Warfare Tropes
Maverick: Mustang, this is Ghost Rider, requesting flyby.
Air Controller: Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.
Goose: No, no, Mav, this is not a good idea.
Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower.
Top Gun


Also known as a "buzz job," this is when a pilot, or someone who can fly somehow, makes a fast pass very low to the ground or close to a target with the intent to startle or frighten. This is generally very dangerous; planes are meant to be in the sky, where pilots have room to take action of something should go wrong. Low altitude means there is less time to do something in the event of emergency, and in this case the ground is at times less than a second away. Also, the lower you are, the more likely there are to be obstacles sticking up from the ground.

There are usually two reasons why someone would do this:

The effects on the ground are dramatic. Planes are loud, and one flying right over head is enough to make most people jump, and perhaps duck. Add to that, when traveling at speed they can be on top of you before you hear them coming.

This can also be done in flight to another aircraft by flying very close past them.

Compare Wronski Feint, which is an even riskier move to get an enemy to fly into the ground or other obstacle, and Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure for when a low pass is to attack a target on the ground.

Not to be confused with a Traumatic Haircut, which is sometimes called a "buzz cut" (or "buzz job").

Examples

Comic Books
  • Buck Danny: In one episode set during the Korean War, a South Korean pilot does this upside down in full view of senior officers before landing safely but walking drunkenly, to the concern of his friends in the American squadron. It turns out the North Koreans are holding his family hostage, and have threatened to kill them if he doesn't obey their orders. He pulled the stunt so as to be barred from flying , but the spies figure out his plan and force him to betray the Americans. As usual for the series, it ends with Redemption Equals Death.

Film
  • Top Gun: Maverick has a history of doing these over control towers, and one admiral's daughter. In the course of the film he does it twice more, both time causing the control Sargent to spill coffee on himself.
  • Thirteen Days: A pair of fighter jets are seen buzzing a Soviet freighter that made it past the Naval Blockade around Cuba.
  • Dumbo ends with him showing off his new abilities by flying low over the heads of everyone who harassed and made fun of him.
  • The Final Countdown: After the USS Nimitz gets thrown back to 1941, a pair of Tomcats start "playing with" a pair of Zeros, starting with speeding by them so close the Japanese planes are thrown around by their wakes.
  • Aladdin: While the Sultan is flying the magic carpet around, he at one point flies quickly over Aladdin and Jafar, causing both of them to duck as he does.
  • The John Wayne film The Wings of Eagles has Wayne, as "Spig" Wead, buzzing a boat with his ground crew who are trying to tell him to land, and then doing it to a train, causing a couple of railroad workers to fall off.
  • In the opening scene of The Rocketeer Cliff buzzes a road which happens to have a shooting chase between mobsters and the police. One of the mobsters sees the plane and shoots at it, damaging its engine and controls.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: After finding that the Millenium Falcon's hyperdrive is still inoperable, Han Solo turns around and flies right at the Star Destroyer chasing them, buzzing the ship's bridge, making the captain and first officer duck, and then disappearing (actually clamping onto the back of the ship's command tower).
  • The Great Waldo Pepper: The German ace Ernst Kessler starts his air performance with an upside down low pass that causes the announcer to fall over. Later after Ezra crashes, Waldo, furious at the crowds who came to gawk but did nothing to help, gets in a plane and starts buzzing them to drive them away from the wreckage.
  • The Great Raid: Used as a way of distracting the guards while Allied forces got into position.
  • The Red Baron begins with Richtofen and his wing buzzing the funeral of a British pilot so he could drop a memorial wreath.
  • At the end of *batteries not included, Harry has Little Guy and won't let him go, and the parents keep zipping over their heads until he does.

Literature
  • In Star Carrier: Earth Strike a group of Starhawks make a low-altitude, high-speed pass over the airstrip at the Marine base on Haris, using the noise from their sonic booms and from firing their particle beams at a far-off hilltop to quell a riot.
  • Tom Clancy:
    • The Hunt for Red October
      • At one point a Yak-38 Forger intends to do this to an American E-3, buzzing by with his missiles plainly visible, but the AWACS sees him coming and sends a flight of F-15s as an "escort". He's still worked up over it when a pair of F-14s buzz his flight, and he actually fires at them, severely damaging the flight controls of one, while the other settles in behind ready to shoot the lot of them down, but American commanders call him off.
      • Later in the book a flight of A-10s buzz a Russian cruiser and shoot off flares to send a message.
    • In Debt Of Honor, US B-1 bombers buzz an Indian aircraft carrier at near-supersonic speeds as a warning.
  • Happens frequently in Derek Robinson's Battle of Britain air novel, A Piece of Cake.
    • One pilot buzzes ships on a French canal, forcing a barge to crash and a smaller boat to capsize. this is so that he can perform the feat of flying underneath a bridge, with feet to spare on all sides. He boasts about this and browbeats another pilot into doing the same. Unfortunately it has rained a lot since the successful feat and the river level has risen. so when the second pilot attempts to fly under the bridge...
    • Later in the book, an officious Desk Jockey has his car repeatedly buzzed by the same pilot, overturns it, and is killed in the crash.

Live-Action TV
  • The Mythbusters attempts to shatter glass with a sonic boom culminated with Adam going up with one of the Blue Angels and, after being taken on a wild thrill ride, making a series of supersonic passes over a shed they'd set up in the desert with a glass window, each one lower than the last. After a number of passes at a reasonable altitude, Adam was dropped off and the pilot went back up to make another series at a dangerously low level. They did finally get the glass to break, but the plane was practically flying on the deck at that point.

Tabletop Games
  • Warhammer 40K. Orks are well known for this, it's how they land (landing gear is for sissies). Deff Skwadron takes this a little further than most: when their entire skwadron is undergoing maintenance when they're needed in a fight, they simply turn the planes into impromptu jetbikes.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • TaleSpin.
    • Baloo is known to do this literally, using his propeller to trim hedges at times, as seen in the show's opening, upside-down, no less.
    • Baloo got buzzed himself once in flight and was not happy about it, especially when he found out who he'd just been buzzed by, Ace London.
  • While Tom Cat is joyriding on the witch's broom in the Tom and Jerry cartoon "The Flying Sorceress", he flies past the window of the house where Jerry is contentedly eating a hunk of cheese. Tom's first buzz causes Jerry to blink, but dismiss the sight as an aberration. Tom's second buzz causes Jerry to discard his cheese as "bad."

Real Life
  • Buzz numbers were large, easily legible markings put on aircraft to identify aircraft, and pilots, guilty of buzzing populated areas.
  • At one point during Blue Angels shows the audience will be focused on the main group, while the two solo jets each make a low pass right over them, demonstrating how the F-18 Hornet can be on top of a target before they hear them.
  • A story is told of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper doing this and terrifying the flight director so badly when arriving at Cape Kennedy prior to his Faith 7 launch that he only narrowly avoided getting bumped off the flight altogether.
  • Alexander Bonnyman was a marine who initially joined the Army Air Corps, but washed out after buzzing too many towers.
  • If you want to know who was buzzing the tower in Top Gun, it was this guy, Scott Altman, Navy Captain and astronaut. He noted in an interview once that buzzing a control tower would usually cost a pilot his wings, but since the director wanted nine different takes of that scene, he got to buzz the tower nine times!
  • Used as a diversion in World War II. At the start of the raid on the Cabanatuan prison camp, an allied plane repeatedly buzzed the guard towers to distract the sentries while the raiding force crawled across an open field to the front gate. This was recreated in the film, The Great Raid.
  • A British RAF pilot did this to a highway in Scotland with a Hercules transport plane in June 2012.
Community Feedback Replies: 37
  • April 11, 2014
    StarSword
    Re: Maverick and the admiral's daughter, it's more likely he made a pass at her than over her, if you get my drift.

    Literature:
    • In Star Carrier: Earth Strike a group of Starhawks make a low-altitude, high-speed pass over the airstrip at the Marine base on Haris, using the noise from their sonic booms and from firing their particle beams at a far-off hilltop to quell a riot.
  • April 12, 2014
    Arivne
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
    • Added blank line(s) between Examples media sections for readability.
    • Capitalized "soviet".
  • April 12, 2014
    Chabal2
    • Buck Danny: In one episode set during the Korean War, a South Korean pilot does this upside down in full view of senior officers before landing safely but walking drunkenly, to the concern of his friends in the American squadron. It turns out the North Koreans are holding his family hostage, and have threatened to kill them if he doesn't obey their orders. He pulled the stunt so as to be barred from flying , but the spies figure out his plan and force him to betray the Americans. As usual for the series, it ends with Redemption Equals Death.
    • Warhammer 40 K: Orks are well known for this, it's how they land (landing gear is for sissies). Deff Skwadron takes this a little further than most: when their entire skwadron is undergoing maintenance when they're needed in a fight, they simply turn the planes into impromptu jetbikes.
  • April 12, 2014
    JonnyB
    Title might need some work: "Buzz Job" might be confused with a "buzz cut", a short hairstyle made with electric clippers.
  • April 12, 2014
    Tallens
    I had a feeling that would be the case. I thought I'd see if it would fly anyway. No pun intended.

    Buzzing The Deck perhaps?
  • April 12, 2014
    DAN004
    Intimidating Low Flight is the closest I can get. But Buzz Job is good already.
  • April 12, 2014
    JonnyB
  • April 13, 2014
    Tallens
    ^That could very well be a general fly-by.
  • April 13, 2014
    StarSword
    Video Games:
  • April 13, 2014
    Chabal2
    Invoked in a Warcraft III Stop Poking Me, where the Dragonhawk Rider asks for permission to buzz the tower.
  • April 13, 2014
    KTera
    • The second and third Saints Row games have Barnstorming, which requires you to pilot an aerial vehicle over, through, or underneath specific landmarks. The achievement for completing all fifty Barnstorms in Saints Row 2 is called Maverick Goose.
  • April 13, 2014
    KZN02
    Any way related to Low Clearance?
  • April 14, 2014
    Tallens
    ^Ummm...a bit of a stretch.
  • April 14, 2014
    robbulldog
    Literature
    • In The Hunt For Red October, US Navy jets buzz a Russian naval vessel, and shoot off flares, to send a message.
    • Also by Tom Clancy, in Debt Of Honor, US B-1 bombers buzz an Indian aircraft carrier at near-supersonic speeds, as a warning.
  • April 14, 2014
    StarSword
    Page looks incomplete without this quote:
    Maverick: Mustang, this is Ghost Rider, requesting flyby.
    Air Controller: Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.
    Goose: No, no, Mav, this is not a good idea.
    Maverick: Sorry, Goose, but it's time to buzz the tower.
    Top Gun
  • April 16, 2014
    JonnyB
  • April 18, 2014
    Tallens
    ^The first one is a re-word of the one you already suggested. The second, maybe but there isn't always a tower involved.
  • April 20, 2014
    chicagomel
    Real Life: A story is told of Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper doing this and terrifying the flight director so badly when arriving at Cape Kennedy prior to his Faith 7 launch that he only narrowly avoided getting bumped off the flight altogether.
  • May 4, 2014
    Arivne
    • Added blank line(s) for readability.
    • Namespaced and italicized work name(s).
  • May 11, 2014
    DAN004
    Moar examples?
  • May 11, 2014
    arbiter099
    North By Northwest has assassins try to kill Roger Thornhill by strafing him in a cropduster, eventually dipping so low it crashes into a truck on the nearby highway.
  • May 12, 2014
    Tallens
    ^No, a low level attack run is a different trope, I think. In fact, that particular example is already on Standard Hollywood Strafing Procedure.
  • May 18, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Not to be confused with a Traumatic Haircut, which is sometimes called a "buzz cut" (or "buzz job").
  • May 18, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Of course there's such a thing as "buzz cut hairstyle".
  • May 21, 2014
    Tallens
    Examples, suggestions? Hats?
  • May 23, 2014
    StarSword
    Removed link to Star Trek Deep Space Nine from the Star Trek Online example, as the example has nothing to do with the TV series.
  • May 24, 2014
    Tallens
    ^That is Deep Space Nine station, why shouldn't there be a link to it's original source?
  • May 25, 2014
    Tallens
    OK, there were three hats up there, who keep taking them down without giving a reason?
  • May 28, 2014
    Tallens
    Hats, suggestions?
  • June 25, 2014
    GuyIncog
    Real Life
    • Used as a diversion in World War II. At the start of the raid on the Cabanatuan prison camp, an allied plane repeatedly buzzed the guard towers to distract the sentries while the raiding force crawled across an open field to the front gate. This was recreated in the film, The Great Raid.
  • July 12, 2014
    AgProv
    happens frequently in Derek Robinson's Battle of Britain air novel, A Piece Of Cake.
    • One pilot buzzes ships on a French canal, forcing a barge to crash and a smaller boat to capsize. this is so that he can perform the feat of flying underneath a bridge, with feet to spare on all sides. He boasts about this and browbeats another pilot into doing the same. Unfortunately it has rained a lot since the successful feat and the river level has risen. so when the second pilot attempts to fly under the bridge...
    • Later in the book, an officious Desk Jockey has his car repeatedly buzzed by the same pilot, overturns it, and is killed in the crash.
  • July 13, 2014
    CrypticMirror
    More real life. A British RAF pilot did this to a highway in Scotland with a Hercules transport plane in June 2012.
  • July 13, 2014
    oneuglybunny
    Western Animation
    • While Tom Cat is joyriding on the witch's broom in the Tom And Jerry cartoon "The Flying Sorceress", he flies past the window of the house where Jerry is contentedly eating a hunk of cheese. Tom's first buzz causes Jerry to blink, but dismiss the sight as an aberration. Tom's second buzz causes Jerry to discard his cheese as "bad."
  • July 13, 2014
    randomsurfer
    ^The discarding the cheese bit is a variation of No More For Me.
  • July 15, 2014
    Arivne
    • Capitalized the title.
  • August 2, 2014
    Tallens
    One more hat?
  • August 3, 2014
    Tallens
    Thank you! Are there any further suggestions? If not we'll be taking off tonight.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=jtfvzj8905dyy385u4bp1za6&trope=BuzzingTheDeck