In the aviation circle, pilots, regardless of their nationality, speak a unique and special language – which consists of over 500 words – derived from the combination of professional jargon and pure English.
But wait a minute… Have you ever peeped through or staggered at the cockpit, while boarding and possibly tried to pick up bits from your pilots’ conversation? You probably didn’t gather much from what they say. Few among their unique languages are ‘Squawk’ or ‘Pan-pan’… these are few examples of the language that they speak.
Little you may not know, the language was only created to avoid pilots and air controllers mishearing each other, and by broader extension, to avoid potentially fatal accidents. So if you’ve ever wondered what your flight crew is talking on board, you can save yourself years of training in aviation with the jargon created by the pilots.
We may be able to explore some of the signals that are uttered by the captains or pilots. Every time you hear them say: ‘Let’s kick the tires and light the fires’ it means that the plane is just about or ready for takeoff. And ‘Feet wet’ means alerting air traffic controllers that a military aircraft is flying over water.
Do not feel anything bad when your pilot says; ‘We’ve got a deadhead crew flying to Chicago.’ It isn’t an insult by all ramifications, but it professionally means; the off-duty pilots or flight crew board a commercial flight as passengers to fly back to the plane’s home base.
Also do not get confused whenever you hear your pilot says; ‘We’re flying through an air pocket,’ he literally means that there is a heavy wind that jostles a plane from different directions. They use ‘air pockets’ to calm passengers down.
In a situation turbulence occurs, pilots use the expression: ‘Pan-pan’ for communication with air traffic controllers, as a signal of urgency and attention. Whenever they use this signal, other aviators on the same radio frequency will typically ‘shut up’ and get into the business of calming the situation.
These expressions are vital as much as you travel by air. As you know, from the moment you stepped through the terminal doors, you may be hit with so many orders — stand here, take your shoes off there, put your seat belt on, do this, put away that — and bustle of information. The information may not come to you face-to-face, but over a husky voice through microphones in what seems to be complete tautologically twisted vernacular that binges on jargon, acronyms, and confusing euphemisms.
Above all, the most important thing to put into consideration is to ensure you rediscover yourself and put things together. We must always remember that whatever language you hear from your pilot or any member of the crew that you barely did not understand, is for your own safety, but not to drive you nuts.