02 September 2008

Airline & Airport Terminology Glossary 101

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2/09/2008 – Airline & Airport Terminology Glossary 101

Some of the most interesting questions I receive from the readers of Flying With Fish involve the simple question of "what are they saying?"

I received one such question last week that prompted me to start a 'short glossary' for 'PA jargon.' The e-mail that inspired this post reads the following:

"I fly a few times a month for work. On each flight I always hear the flight crew announcing '1L 1R, 2L 2R' on the overhead. This evening I heard all the way up to '5L 5R' overhead. How many Ls and Rs do planes have? - Lori"

First off, I have to assume that Lori was flying a Boeing 747-400 (744) that has 10 exit doors downstairs and 2 exit doors upstairs, or a Boeing 777-300 (773) that has 10 exit doors.

Why do I assume they were flying one of the Boeing 744 or 773 aircraft and not the Airbus A380-800 (A388) that has 10 downstairs and 6 upstairs? Because anyone who has ever e-mailed me after flying an Airbus A388 usually starts their e-mail with "While flying on the Airbus A380.....etc etc etc etc).

So Lori, in short, the most you will hear currently on any overhead PA system is 8Ls and 8Rs on the Airbus A380-800. The number of exit doors on an aircraft is dictated by the size of the aircraft.

........so what does "1L 1R" mean? Simple, this is the flight attendants responding an 'All-Call' to verify that they have checked the door emergency and they are set for arrival or departure. All the doors on a plane are 'armed' and need to be 'armed' to depart and 'disarmed' for arrival. So when you hear "1L 1R" you are hearing "Door #1 Left and Door #1 Right" are checked and ready.

Since airline gate agents and flights crews often use language passengers may not be familiar with as they address the flying public, I have decided to define a few of the most commonly asked terminology questions I am asked.

ATC: Air Traffic Control. Air Traffic Control can be a tower at the airport you are departing from, a tower at the airport you're headed to, or an air traffic control center in the middle of no-where watching a huge swatch of sky keeping aircraft safely traveling through air.

BoB: BoB is 'Buy-on-Board. BoB is a relatively new term to be used by flight attendants, it is rarely used directly to passengers directly, but it can be heard in the galley in reference to the meals and drinks passengers can purchase in-flight.

Captain: The person in the cockpit sitting in the Left Seat with 4-stripes on their shoulder epaulets. The Captain is in charge, in flight they have command of the aircraft and everything on board.

Control Tower: The Control Tower is often referred to as simply 'The Tower.' The Tower oversees an airport's aircraft movements. These movements are not only on the ground, but also include inbound aircraft and departing aircraft.

Cross Check: This is used by both the captain and first officer and the cabin crew. Cross checking is simply one person on the crew verifying another person on the crew's actions. When doors are armed/disarmed by one crewmember they are 'cross checked' by another crewmember.

Equipment: Equipment is a 'technical' term for 'the plane' (I will not be defining 'plane,' 'airplane' or 'aircraft'). When you hear 'There has been an equipment change,' it usually means 'your plane isn't available' or 'your intended plane is broken.'

First Officer: The person in the cockpit sitting in the Right Seat with 3-stripes on their shoulder epaulets. The First Officer, often referred to as the co-pilot (both the captain and first officer are both obviously pilots), is the second in command of the aircraft and everything on-board it.

Gatehouse: The Gatehouse is the boarding area. I have never seen a house (or a gate for that matter), at the Gatehouse, so I have no idea where the term comes from. I usually just refer to the boarding area as 'The Gate."

Ground Stop: A Ground Stop is simply a stoppage of all flights into a certain area. If you are traveling to an airport that has become so congested with air traffic that it needs to clear out some space before new aircraft can depart for that airport, they can issue a 'ground stop.' A ground stop is like your sink filling with water, even when your drain is open. You can watch the water going down the drain while simultaneously filling up. You need to slow the water, or turn it off before you can lower the water level in the sink.

Flight Closed: When you see your flight flashing "Closed" you have missed your flight. Once a flight has Closed, the door is shut, the gate agent is standing at the end of the Jetway steering it away from the aircraft so it can 'push back.'

Flight Crew: The Captain, First Officer and your flight attendants (Cabin Crew) are your Flight Crew.

Flight Deck: The Flight Deck is a fancy word for 'The Cockpit'

Final Boarding: Final Boarding means that if you have not handed your boarding pass to the gate agent, crossed through the door and made your way down the Jetway, you've missed your flight. When you see your flight flashing "Final" you need to RUN.

Holding Pattern: "We're being placed into a Holding Pattern" This is an announcement that everyone hates. A Holding Pattern is when aircraft are sent into loops circling their destination, or just outside their destination, until a landing slot is available for them to land at the airport.

Jetway: The Jetway is also referred to as an Aerobridge, Boarding Bridge or Jet Bridge. The Jetway is the 'tunnel' you walk down that connects the terminal to the aircraft.

Paperwork: Paperwork, as in "we're just waiting on some paperwork." This is when the Captain and First Officer are waiting on paperwork they need to close up the aircraft and 'push back.' Paperwork is usually out of the hands of the flight crew, so the flight crew is stuck waiting, just like the passengers, for the ground crew to deliver the 'Paperwork.'

Push: Push is also 'Push Back.' An aircraft 'pushing' is usually quite literally a 'tug' or 'tractor' pushing the aircraft back from the terminal. Aircraft can push back by reverse thrusting their engines, but that wastes a lot of fuel, it is extremely loud and it is easier to maneuver an aircraft by pushing it backwards as the crew in the cockpit cannot see backwards to steer themselves around other aircraft.

Ramp: Originally 'The Ramp' was an area outside of a water where aircraft parked. Since I don't see many seaplanes landing at major commercial airports these days, we'll go with the modern definition of 'ramp'..........the area surrounding the terminals and jetways, excluding the taxiway and runway, where aircraft and airport vehicles operate.

Wheels Up Time: An aircraft's 'Wheels Up' time is the time the aircraft is scheduled to be airborne. When there are delays it is common to hear he Captain announce a 'Wheels Up Time," this is when they expect to be on the runway with the aircraft traveling at a high rate of speed and the aircraft's wheels are no longer in contact with the ground.

Hopefully this simple glossary helps you further understand what is being announced around you as your fly the friendly skies.

Happy Flying!

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