Fishing with Aviation Objects, Redux

AVweb's NewsWire for October 25, 1999 included the news item below about a Russian serviceman nabbed by local police with a curious collection of aviation-related items, including a flight data recorder tape and an "aviation cannon." We offered an AVweb mug to the reader with the best guess as to how these items fit into the soldier's plans to "stun fish" and many readers responded. In fact, many of you outdid yourselves. Here's the best of the entries we received and, at the bottom, the entry that won the AVweb coffee mug.


Fishing With Finesse Using Aviation Objects

A Russian serviceman detained at a southern Russian train station gives new meaning to the phrase "fishing with finesse." Transport police in Krasnodar conducting an anti-terrorism operation must have thought they stumbled onto the mother lode when the 20-year-old soldier unzipped his baggage. Inside were five powerful explosive charges, five powder charges for combat missiles, a tape for a flight recorder (you knew this had to have a tenuous connection to aviation, right?) and a charge for an aviation cannon. The man, who said he had "obtained" the items at military depots, clamed they were all intended to "stun fish." An AVweb coffee mug to the person with the best guess on how the flight-recorder tape fit into his plans — and tells us what an "aviation cannon" is.

Enjoy, and a special thanks to all those who took the time to respond.

Hello, Bob!

Great job on the AVweb newsletter….I look forward to it every Monday morning!

Regarding the news article about the Russian fellow who was arrested, and found to have an "aviation cannon" and flight recorder tape … My best guess about an "aviation cannon" is it’s basically a standard cannon except you need to take out a huge loan to buy it, then an even bigger loan to maintain it, and another one to modify it per FAA Airworthiness Directives.

I can only guess the flight recorder tape was to be used in aerodynamic studies of flying fish.

Hey, I gave it a shot!

Again, great job on the newsletter!

Dave Buck

Having watch the movie the "Flight of the Phoenix" many times, isn’t an aviation cannon the starter system that uses a shotgun shell type charge that started the rotation of the engine. The F-4 Phantom had some sort of "cannon charge" system to start the rotation of the turbines for a ground start without an APU. When the Thunderbirds used the F-4, I saw a ground start at an airshow at Scott AFB in Illinois. The ramp was obscured in smoke from 6 F-4’s all using this system to start at once. One of the aircraft did not get started and the ground crew had to hustle an APU start cart out to get him going.

Rick Humphrey

Any old fisherman could figure this one out. An "aviation cannon" is a device used by the Russians in place of an airport beacon. They call it a "Visually Obtained Reference" ("VOR"). In lieu of a traditional beacon which would require a constant source of electricity (a scarce and unreliable commodity in the FSU), the cannon fires shielded flares which spin at the rate of 20 revolutions per minute, alternately displaying green, then white light. It works well as long as someone is there to fire off a new round every minute.

Of course, every fisherman knows that fish are attracted to bright lights. Obviously this guy was going to fire off the VOR, wait for trout to home in on the signal (looking for that $100 hamburger at the airport cafe), then use the explosives (the "DuPont Lure") to stun them. The CVR tape was to be used on any trout which were too large to be stunned by the explosives. The fisherman just turns on the tape player and places one speaker in the water. As we all are aware, cockpit conversation is highly soporific. The trout fall asleep almost immediately. As long as the fisherman took the precaution of wearing ear plugs, he will still be awake to net the fish while they dream of precision approaches.

Mike Boren

The guy uses the FDR to record the AOA, heading, airspeed and fin angle of the fish as they come flying out of the water under the explosive forces. <g>

As for the "aviation cannon", isn’t that what they use at some airports to create noise to scare away birds?

Ann Azevedo


I’ll enter my guess for the AVweb mug… I think it’s one of those bird control things… that operate automatically, swing around and blast off a loud boom to frighten away flocks of birds. I don’t know what types of charges they use, I know many are compressed air here in the US, but in a foreign country… who knows. My other guess would be his referring to Robert Crandall formerly of American Airlines… but he would have been considered a carry-on and would never have accepted anything but first-class… 🙂

So … how’d I do?

Richard Barlow 

You know…! An aviation "Canon"… Uh … for instance, "Thou shall maintain thy airspeed lest the earth shall arise to smite thee!" or howzabout, "Forgetteth not to lower thy gear when the good earth approacheth near!" There are many others! 🙂 

Can I please have my mug now????

Thanks anyway!

Rick Barlow

Obviously we was angling for FLYING fish. The tape … to get the flying fish excited with the sounds of Wagner. The cannon was to strap to the wing while dog fighting the fish. You should have seen the one that got away.

David A. Kleinman

Answer to your question as to how the Russian soldier was going to use the flight recorder to catch fish is elementary. Attach tape player to an underwater mike and play the recorded tape. Before long the fish would be bored out of their minds and would chase lures to kill the monotony. The explosives were to wake up the fish so that they could listen to the tape.

An aviation cannon is used to shoot flying fish. Why else would you take a aviation cannon charge fishing?

Jack Whitney

Well obviously, he was going to use the flight recorder tape to play back high frequency sounds which automatically fire the aviation cannon which contains the explosive charges. That way he can "stun fish" from a safe distance. Oh, and an aviation cannon is a rocket like device which is used to help GA aircraft takeoff on those days when the density altitude would preclude a "normal" takeoff – sort of like a JATO.

Tom McGehee

Okay, here’s my attempt at a coffee mug…

The charges, obviously, are used to stun fish. The problem lies on how to detonate the charges, underwater. Since FDR tape is magnetic, you could use an aviation cannon to align the magnetic particles on the tape. This FDR tape is wound around the charges, thereby setting off an electromagnetic pulse which sets off the explosives. The aviation cannon charge is simply a percussive device which is used to align the magnetic particles in the magnetic tape, similar to magnetizing a metal rod by whacking it with a hammer.

Another possibility is that he was selling those objects to a terrorist group that happens to own a fishing dacha near the Black Sea, you know, Black Sea Boris’ Fishing Adventure and Chechen Arms Sales … where 1 kilo of C4 will get you 10 kilos of sturgeon caviar.

Illo A. Neri

The connection asked for in the below article is clear: flying fish. The data recording is for a CFR (code of fishing regulations) Part 135 operation, and is purely for research use. The cannon is to hunt the little suckers. Glad I could help.

Kelly Bakst

An aviation cannon is Russiaspeak for a small handheld "Stinger" missle launcher. The aviation recorder tape is used to attract a certain bread of fish called avfish. Avfish are attracted to the voices clear and slow speaking pilots and controllers. Our dear solider was planning on playing the tape while at the seashore. Avfish are similar to flying fish and have a propensity to jump out of the water during feeding, thus the need for the aviation cannon. The other explosives are, however, only needed should the aviation cannon fail its preflight inspection.

Byron Blake

Coming from Central Europe, and if my fading memory is correct, "aviation cannon" may be interpreted as a large bore handgun, kinda starter pistol with different colour charges to signal aircraft at night from the ground. The charge, after activation, will burn a very nasty hole into just about everything, including the unfortunate pilot’s back … if hit.

As for the CVR tape, I can only speculate that it may be used to string up small fish thru their gills … then again, it was in sight, it was available, it was taken from "a" desk, since Russian soldiers will "obtain" anything that may remotely be useful or sellable – (this information is was acquired during WWII, and was called "zabra" in Russian. 😉

Csaba Gaal

Makes sense to me the tape with predetermined locations of his favorite fishing spots is downloaded from his computer. Which are uploaded to one of his kamikaze model airplane’s computers. Once the programming is complete this soldier places the explosives in the airplane for delivery to one of his favorite fishing holes. Then he prepares the aviation cannon for launch, the payload is too much for a normal takeoff, by placing the aircraft on the aviation cannon and subsequent delivery of the payload to the fishing hole. The aviation cannon is much like the early catapults.

Note: This leaves time for much needed vodka to numb the arctic cold and get the dipping net ready for the days catch.

Bart Vosseller

My guess is that he is planning to bore the fish to death – have you listened to some flight recordings?

R. McDowall

Ladies and gentlemen,

The (disgruntled) man obviously tried to hijack the aircraft and possibly attempt suicide by forcing a CFIT; imagine the confusion when the local accident investigators found out that they had TWO flight recorder tapes to deal with…

Oh, and the aviation cannon? A devilish device used to scare birds off the airport premises… You wouldn’t want to have 12-gauge slugs joining the other aircraft on short final, would you?

Best regards,

Perttu Aho


The recording tape is made from high tensile strength Mylar or Polyester, and being only 1 mil thick, affords a very lengthy, compact ‘rope’ for tying the booty together into one long string. A simple knot around the tail of the fish, then the next.

The "Aviation Cannon" is a flare gun, due to its large caliber. Anything with that large of bore is considered a "Cannon".



Hans Neubert

Guys, et al:

The flight recorder tape is metallic, and when you connect that to a field phone, and then run the generator for the phone (which makes the other end ring), you electrify the fish, which stuns them. They float, you scoop, you eat. Very important in third world countries!

An aviation cannon is what is used now a days instead of machine guns. So many Soviet aircraft have 23mm cannons on up for air to air engagements, and they are also pretty awesome for the air to ground missions!

Thanks for the good news reporting and the humor!

Chris Fairchild

It seems obvious to me that the soldier had intended to catch a fish in advance of the stunning so that he could release it fully rigged up with the flight recorder. This way, he would be able to analyze the post stunning data and adjust the charge for his next explosion accordingly, based upon the flight of the rigged up fish. This is one smart fisherman.

An aviation cannon is a bird scare devise used routinely at airports across the country.

Jon Oesterreich

It’s so obvious!! The guy was going to use the tape to reel in his fish after he stunned them. Everyone knows that the tape is virtually indestructible, so he could easily land any and all comatose whoppers.

As for the aviation cannon – I believe it was a mispelling. It should have read Aviation Dannon, as in Yogurt. Yogurt is very good for hunger while one waits for the "depth charges" to go off. And of course, aviation yogurt is different than the supermarket variety. Aviation brands are: very small portions, that barely fit in their container, usually have been on the shelf for longer than 3 years (waiting to be transported), very expensive, frequently have peanuts mixed in, and are almost always produced in Atlanta, Chicago or New York.

Dave Bloomquist

To AVweb,

As we all know, the information stored on a flight recorder is incredibly fascinating. Everyone knows this, including the fish. This Russian guy was going to play the flight recorder tape through an underwater speaker. Fish within miles would not be able to resist the uncontrollable draw toward the flight recordings. Once a large group of fish gathered around the speaker, he would light the fuse and toss the missile charge overboard. Fishing with explosives is not only efficient, it’s great fun!

For the second part: an "aviation cannon" would include weapons similar to what the USAF carries aboard AC-130 ground attack models. A 105 or 120 mm howitzer can be fired from the aircraft. Talk about shooting from the "high ground."


Greg Yamamoto

Our Russian soldier friend was really looking to stun fish, he may have tried to get them any way he could. I believe aviation cannons are used airports and other places where there is a lot of interaction between aircraft and birds, to frighten them from the area. He also may have been looking to convince birds who had just scooped up fish into dropping them. The aviation cannon could have been used to do this, as could a tape recording of the cannon going off.

The more ominous side of me says that if he was planning a hijacking, the flight recorder tape could be switched with that already in the CVR to mask his deed.

Kristopher Rich

Clearly the flight recorder tape was to serve as a navigation aid to the fishing spot that was pointed out to him by a member of air-crew that he was riding with at the time!

As for what an "aviation cannon" is, clearly this person had access to a depot which services the TU-95 "Bear" aircraft, which is listed by numerous sources as having 2 NR-23 23mm cannon in the tail.

Robyn Rissell

1 — flight recorder tape: It’s an endless-loop tape (like the kind used in older answering machines) on which the would-be fisherman could have recorded sounds designed to attract fish (clickings, whistles, repeated tappings, etc) and then attached to a waterproof speaker and lowered into the water. He then could have had his "fish call" going non-stop without having to rewind or flip a tape.

2 — aviation cannon: which is a review of Russian Aviation Gunnery, lists several different hand-carried or portable cannon used for anti-aircraft purposes. I also seem to remember something about a gun-like signaling device used at airfields which fired a single shot before having to be reloaded, but I can neither drag it out of my memory nor find a reference to it anywhere.

All in all, I’m guessing the fellow was NOT fishing for the sport of it. 😉

Derek Wade


Maybe when you fire an aviation cannon into the water, everything becomes a flying fish and you then need a flight data recorder to track where they land. (As an experienced sportsman, he probably already had the recorder mounted on his boat and just needed a fresh tape for this outing.)

On a recent trip outside of Hong Kong, I did see a sign near the waterfront noting that fishing with dynamite was prohibited. Maybe all this isn’t that implausible.

Hey, it’s only a guess.

Clif Hotvedt

Obviously, he had recorded the sound of mosquitoes flying. He planned to insert the tape into the VCR, cross wire it to external speakers attached to an AN-2, and have it fly low over the lake on which he planned to fish.

The fish, hearing the sound, would believe that it was lunch time and would gather so that he could more easily stun them with an explosive charge.

(The aviation canon was included in case he decided to fish from the plane while it flew low over the lake.)

Walt Panko

I don’t know anything about an aviation cannon, but it is easy to use a flight recorder tape to stun fish. Just *play* it!

The droning on of any captain’s exploits would bore just about any fish to death.

David Robinson

You guys at AVweb,

Everyone knows that if you place a CVR tape into a tape recorder and play it backwards while fishing the fish will jump into your boat! However this will only work in Russia, because English backwards sounds like Russian.

p.s.- If that is not it then maybe he was just trying to scare the fish out of the water by playing the CVR tape and then the fish would think that an airplane was crashing and try to clear out of the way thereby landing in his boat.

Scott Boette

And the winner of an AVweb coffee mug:

Y’all must’a growed up at one of them big-city airports, the kind with ce-ment runways and Scottish restaurants like that MacDonalds place.

Y’all light the powder and throw it inna water to *stun* the fish, but they’s still livin’. That’s where the flight-recorder tape comes in. Y’all strip off a’bit of that flight-recorder tape to strangle ’em dead. Comes in a nice bright-orange dispenser, too.

The tape also comes in right handy after supper, fer a’cleanin’ your teeth. It’s a lot cheaper than that hoity-toity dental floss they sell at the sevem-eleben. Works better for most of my kinfolk, too … that store-bought stuff is awful skinny when it tries to fit ‘tween our teefh. Fortunately, most of us only have dozen or so to take a’care of.

I’ll admit the "aviation cannon" had me stumped for a minute or so, so you young ‘uns with your book-learnin’ shouldn’t feel bad. But then I ‘membered them courses I took at the armed forces language institute at Lowry Ayah Foace Base about twenty, twenty-five years ago. Yew just got the translation wrong, like when them Frenchies at Airbus translated "Hydraulic Ram" into "Water Goat." It’s pretty common to translate "Acudyyd" (‘scuse my lack of Cryllic font) into "Aviation" instead of the actual meaning, "Fish." And it is easy to reckon how someone could translate the Russian word for "barrel" into "cannon."

So if your powder charges are too small, you can make ’em more effective by packing some bass into a "Fish Barrel" first. Light the powder, drop it in the barrel, scoop up the stunned fish, garrote them with the flight-recorder tape, fry, garnish, and serve.

Them’s good eatin’!

Ron Wanttaja

[Congrats, Ron, and nicely done. The mug is on its way!]

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