scorecardresearch

Bush’s family spread the word about his death using the phrase ‘CAVU.’ Here’s what it means

Former president George H.W. Bush gestures as he addresses guests after receiving the second annual Kissinger prize during an awards ceremony at the American Academy in Berlin in 2008.
Former president George H.W. Bush gestures as he addresses guests after receiving the second annual Kissinger prize during an awards ceremony at the American Academy in Berlin in 2008.(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images/FIle)

On Friday, former president George H.W. Bush died at the age of 94. His family and friends used code word “CAVU” to spread the news, according to CNN reporter Jamie Gangel.

“For anyone who has been a pilot, it is familiar...it stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited,” Gengel said in the broadcast.

Bush referenced the phrase in a letter he once sent to his five children, according to the book “My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush” his daughter Dorothy Bush Koch wrote in 2006.

“I had a little plaque made. It says CAVU. CAVU was the kind of weather we Navy pilots wanted when we were to fly off our carrier in the Pacific. We had little navigational instrumentation, so we wanted CAVU -- ‘Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited,’ ” Bush wrote in his letter.

Advertisement



According to the letter, Bush had the plaque made for his Kennebunkport home after seeing one at the funeral of Gar Hole, one of his executive officers from Bush’s time in the Navy.

The small, bronze plaque sits at the end of Bush’s house in Kennebunkport “where the seas pour into the rocks the most, the spray most likely to weather my plaque,” according to Bush’s letter.

“It will then blend nicely in and the guests will no longer say, ‘What does CAVU mean?’ When it has blended in, outsiders might not notice it. Fine by me. But I will not pass by it without realizing how lucky i am, for the plaque describes my own life as it has been over the years, as it is right now.”

The American flag was lowered honoring Barbara Bush at in Kennebunkport, Maine, on April 18, 2018.
The American flag was lowered honoring Barbara Bush at in Kennebunkport, Maine, on April 18, 2018. (Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/File)

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story had the wrong day of the week for Bush’s death. He died Friday.

Advertisement




Abbi Matheson can be reached at abbi.matheson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AbbiMatheson