12 Secret Code Words & Phrases Flight Crews Use

by SharonKurheg

If you’re on a plane, you may hear the pilot, flight attendants or other personnel use words or terms that you may or may not have heard before. Or at least not in the context they’re using them. Or maybe you’re watching a movie that includes such language.

Some of them may be self-explanatory, some maybe not so much. If you don’t know them, they’re definitely something of a secret…until someone tells you what they mean, anyway. So here are a bunch of things you may hear on a plane that you may or may not know:

Air Pocket – “It looks like we’re going to hit some air pockets so I’m going to put the Fasten Seat Belt sign back on.” An air pocket is the same as turbulence.

I dunno, maybe pilots think the word “turbulence” sounds too scary? ;-). Anyway, turbulence is when there are chaotic changes in the airflow outside, and it makes the plane ride bumpier. By the way, this what NOT to do if your plane encounters turbulence 😉

All Call“Flight attendants, doors to arrival, crosscheck and all-call.” We’ll get to the “doors to arrival” and “cross check” in a second. But pilots and/or flight attendants say “all call” when they want (the other) flight attendants to report in via intercom from his or her station – think of it as a flight attendant conference call.

Area of Weather – “Due to an area of weather over Orlando, we’re going to be in a holding pattern until it clears” (we explain “holding pattern” a little further down). Area of weather just means bad weather that’s going to stop the plane from landing. Thunderstorms, heavy rain or snow, etc. You won’t be able to land until it passes through.

Crosscheck“Flight attendants, doors to arrival, crosscheck and all-call.” Crosscheck means that one flight attendant has done whatever task needs to be done and another flight attendant has verified it.

It’s the same as double-checking, but the person who checks it is a person besides the one who originally did it.

Deplane – “Please deplane by the rear doors.” It means get off the plane 😉

Doors To Arrival“Flight attendants, doors to arrival, crosscheck and all-call.” You may also hear Disarm Your Doors instead of “Doors to arrival.” The lead flight attendant will say this as the plane approaches the gate. It’s to confirm that the emergency escape slides that are attached to the doors have been disarmed (turned off). When armed, a slide will automatically deploy the instant its door is opened. Annnnnd then this could happen:

an inflatable object inside of an airplane

Equipment“Unfortunately, our departure for Los Angeles will be delayed two hours, due to an equipment change.” The word “equipment” makes it sound like it’s just a small thing. Like they have to change a reading lamp over the pilot’s seat or something, right? No…it means “the plane.” They have to get a whole, different plane. Why can’t they just call it a plane???

Final Approach – “We’re making our final approach. Please make sure your tray tables are in the full, upright and locked position…” This means the flight is almost done! 😉 The runway is below and straight ahead, and the pilot has clearance to land.

First Officer – “I’m Captain Jane Blow and with me in the flight deck today is First Officer John Smith.” The captain (or head pilot) is the person in command. The first officer (or co-pilot) is second in command. He or she is fully qualified to operate the plane in all stages of flight, including takeoffs and landings, and does so in alternating turns with the captain.

Flight deck – It’s just a fancy word for the cockpit.

Holding Pattern – “The airport is in the middle of a lot of fog right now so we’re going to be in a holding pattern until Air Traffic Control gives us clearance to land.” A holding pattern means you have to fly in circles (well, usually ovals) until Air Traffic Control instructions the pilot to land.

Last Minute Paperwork – “…we’re just finishing up some last minute paperwork before we can go.” It means everything’s almost ready but they have to make some minor adjustments or revisions (yep, usually in paperwork) before takeoff.

Feature Photo: Jetstar.com / wikipedia

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Mike Thompson April 4, 2023 - 10:24 pm

The 1st officer can’t steer the aircraft
On the ground.

Bzv May 3, 2023 - 9:21 am

“Jane Blow”? Seriously?

SharonKurheg May 3, 2023 - 9:38 am

Absolutely. In 20/20 hindsight, I should have made it “Jamie Blow,” to help make it more gender bender and inclusive. But “Joe Blow” is so well-known in the U.S. that I just went for a female J name. That was wrong of me and I apologize.


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