You might want to sit back, relax and zone out on your next flight. But if you’re eager to know if the pilot is expecting delays, if your plane has been hijacked or even if a member of cabin crew is being rude. Listen for these key phrases.
Pilotspeak is used by all airlines to avoid miscommunication at 30,000 feet. But many passengers have no idea what the sometimes bizarre words and phrases mean. And this is for a good reason.

Flight attendant Amanda Pleva, author of the Crewed Talk column on, says: “Codes are used by crew in order to maintain calm and order in the cabin.”
“We’re specially trained in emergency situations and panic can cause us to lose control of a situation and end up in injury or death.”

Patrick Smith, the author of “Cockpit Confidential,” has cut through the jargon on his website, Ask The Pilot. He said: “There are people who make dozens of air journeys annually and still have only a vague understanding of many terms.”
From the phrase that lets cabin crew know about delays to the code word for turbulence.

Here is a selection of some of the secret codes used by airlines, as provided by insiders.

Code Adam

This is used by airport staff to alert other staff of a missing child, in honor of Adam Walsh, a child who was abducted in a department store in 1981.


If a pilot “squawks 7500,” it means the plane has been hijacked, or a hijacking is a threat

Last-minute paperwork

You’re in for a delay.
According to Patrick Smith, this “paperwork” is usually a revision of the flight plan, something to do with the plane’s weight-and-balance record, or simply waiting for the maintenance staff to get the flight’s logbook in order.


This is a rude one, used by cabin crew. “Cropdusting is a disgusting, albeit very common, method of retribution,” says Pleva.
“If a passenger is being very rude and difficult, then it’s not unheard of for a flight attendant to break wind and ‘cropdust’ past the offender.”
“Childish? Yes. Satisfying? Also yes.”


If you hear this phrase, usually made by senior cabin crew, it means that the emergency slides attached to each door have been deactivated.
Otherwise the slide will deploy automatically as soon as the door is opened.


According to Smith, all-call is usually part of the door arming/disarming procedure. “This is a request that each flight attendant report via intercom from his or her station — a sort of flight attendant conference call,” Patrick explains on his website.

Ground stop

This is when departures to one or more destinations are curtailed by air traffic control; usually due to a traffic backlog.


The plane. Smith says: “Is there not something strange about the refusal to call the focal object of the entire industry by its real name?”

Flight deck

Pilotspeak for the cockpit.

Air pocket

Pilotspeak for turbulence.


“A deadheading pilot or flight attendant is one repositioning as part of an on-duty assignment.

“This is not the same as commuting to work or engaging in personal travel,” says Patrick.

Doors to arrival

An instruction often heard issued to the flight attendants as the plane is landing.

“The intent is to verify disarming of the emergency escape slides attached to the doors to prevent them from deploying at the gate,” explained Patrick.

“When armed, a slide will automatically deploy the instant its door is opened.”




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