Losses and Aviation Safety

The story of Leslie Shook, the voice behind Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet’s Bitchin’ Betty

Bitchin’ Betty

A voice warning system is a system designed to alert the crew of an aircraft to imminent safety hazards. It is often known as a Bitchin’ Betty, a slang term used by some pilots and aircrew and submariners (mainly North American).

The enunciating voice, in at least some aircraft systems, may be either male or female. In some cases, this may be selected according to pilot preference. According to Wikipedia, if the voice is female, it may be referred to as Bitching Betty; if the voice is male, it is often referred to as Barking Bob.

A female voice is heard on military aircraft such as the F/A-18 Super Hornet.

“I have loved these planes for a lot of years,” said Boeing employee Leslie Shook as she gazed up at the cockpit of an F/A-18 Super Hornet. According to a company news release, Leslie’s special connection with the jet spanned 20 years. She is the voice of the cockpit warning system. Every technician and every pilot who has trained on or flown in an F-18 has heard Leslie’s stern commands. Her voice is affectionately known in the fighter jet world as Bitchin’ Betty.

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Leslie Shook

“You hear this voice every day telling you things are okay or that you need to take action,” said Dana Perkins, Boeing Flight Operations, Weapons Systems Operator. “You start trusting this person’s voice. If she said ‘stand up straight,’ everyone would stand up straight!”

Leslie’s run as the voice behind the F-18 started as a happy accident. The F-15 contained the voice of the original Bitchin’ Betty. Crews imported that voice into the F-18; but, additional calls were needed. Leslie was a media producer filling in as a sound engineer on the recording sessions.

But, the talent couldn’t quite capture the sense of urgency needed for the job. “Betty’s got a cadence and a sharpness to it,” said Leslie. The program manager heard her directions and decided she was fit for the role—a role that has endured for two decades.

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Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet’s Bitchin’ Betty

As the expression goes, all good things must come to an end. In March 2016, Boeing employees and Navy pilots gathered in St. Louis, Mo. to meet the woman behind the voice on her last day.

“As soon as she started talking, we all grinned and said ‘oh yeah, that’s her!’” said Lt. Cmdr. Doug Crane, a DCMA Weapons Systems Officer on EA-18G and F/A-18F aircraft.

Leslie’s distinct voice cracked slightly as she said goodbye to ‘her plane.’ Watch the video to hear Leslie’s story in her own words and how her sharp command at the right moment saved one pilot’s life.

Photo credit: Boeing

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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