Sometimes when you’re flying the crew can talk their own language – making you worry there’s something they don’t want you know.
For example: “FAs to all-call, we are approaching an air-pocket. Please prepare for holding pattern, ensure all pax are strapped-in while we handle a 7600.”
We’ve spoken to our airline contacts and done some research on the phrases aviation industry insiders use.
Sourcing some phrases from Patrick Smith’s Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel, airodyssey.net, airliners.net and rd.com, the list is broken into general terms, nicknames, and the all-important words you definitely don’t want to hear.
- A request that each flight attendant report to his or her station.
EFC time: The expect further clearance time is the point at which a crew expects to be set free from a holding pattern or exempted from a ground stop.
Deadhead: A deadheading pilot or flight attendant is one who is repositioning as part of an on-duty assignment. Essentially, they’re flying as passengers while on duty.
Final approach: An aeroplane is on final approach when it has reached the last, straight-in segment of the landing pattern – that is, aligned with the extended centre-line of the runway, requiring no additional turns or manoeuvring.
Air pocket: Colloquial for a transient jolt of turbulence.
Flight deck: The cockpit.
Holding pattern: A racetrack-shaped course flown during bad weather or traffic delays.
Callsign: Phrase used in radio transmissions to identify an aircraft, before proceeding to actual instructions. For example “Qantas 005”.
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival.
ETD: Estimated Time of Departure.
F/A: Flight Attendant.
Payload: Revenue passengers and/or cargo, or more specifically their combined weight.
PIREP: Pilot report. Weather observations reported by a pilot in flight.
POB: Number of Persons On Board.
Roger: Used to indicate that an instruction has been received and understood.
Touchdown: Synonym of landing.
UM: Unaccompanied Minor.
Zulu: Used worldwide for times of flight operations, formerly Greenwich Mean Time, now Co-ordinated Universal Time.
ATC: Air traffic control (some say God).
Ramp-rat: Ground crew.
Cowboys: Cargo Operators.
Pointy end: First Class.
Slam-Clicker: A flight attendant who either doesn’t socialise after a flight or is too tired to — they go straight to their hotel room, slam the door and click the lock.
Crop Dusting: When flight attendants walk down the aisle and fart.
Trolly Dolly: Used to describe a flight attendant pulling the cabin bag in the airport.
Bottle to Throttle: Curfew hours. It is the cut-off time that you are allowed to have a drink before the start of your duty.
Slinging hash: Serving the meals.
Screamer: A passenger who has lost his or her cool.
Steerage: Coach class.
Cockpit queen: A flight attendant more interested in the front end of the aircraft than the cabin.
Blue room: The bathroom.
Tuff cuff: Plastic handcuffs for disruptive passengers.
Crotch watch: The required check to make sure all passengers have their seat belts fastened.
Crumb crunchers: Kids.
Gate lice: The people who gather around the gate right before boarding so they can be first on the plane.
George: Autopilot. “I’ll let George take over.”
Landing lips: Female passengers put on their “landing lips” when they use their lipstick just before landing.
Last Minute Paperwork: A delay causing the flight to wait before paper work. For example a revision to the flight plan or maintenance getting the logbook in order.
Two-for-one special: The plane touches down on landing, bounces up, then touches down again.
What you don’t want to hear:
Ditch: An emergency landing into water.
Mayday: The ultimate international radio distress call, indicating imminent danger to the life of the occupants onboard and requiring immediate assistance.
Pan Pan: International radio urgency call. It usually indicates a threat to the safety of an aircraft or its passengers. Less urgent than Mayday.
Squawks: Problems or discrepancies with an aircraft transmitted by an assigned code. For example:
7700 – Mayday/ Emergency
7600 – Radio Failure/ Lost communication
7500 – Hijacking
5000 – Aircraft flying on Australian military operations
Stall: When airflow over the wing slows down too much and causes a loss of lift. This can be catastrophic in a jet.
Wake turbulence: Turbulence that forms behind an aircraft as it passes through the air. Behind a large heavy aircraft they can be powerful enough to roll or even break up a smaller aircraft.
Windshear: Change in wind speed and/or direction over a short distance, resulting in a tearing or shearing effect, that can cause a sudden loss of airspeed with occasionally disastrous results if encountered when taking-off or landing.
Easy Victor: Evacuate the aircraft.
Deadstick: Flying without the aid of engine power.