Do You Speak the Aircraft Language?

Aircraft personnel like pilots, ground staff, and cabin crew have their own way of communicating. Their codes, protocols, and rules may sound funny, scary, or intimidating to us but these systems keep everything in motion. So, for you to not get lost in the translation of these codes and jargons flying around during your 16-hour long haul flight, allow us to give you a bit of a glossary to understand the situation. Here are the most common words spoken, feared, and mentioned during your flights:

Let’s begin with the funny ones.


When someone offers you this drink, by all means decline the offer; because, blue juice is actually toilet water on the plane.


No, they are not being perverts or sly. They are not even checking if you pulled your zippers up. A crotch watch means it is time for the flight attendants to start walking down the aisle and check if everybody has fastened their seat belts properly.


No, this is not the famous boxing coach. A roach coach is a person who prefers to work in the coach area of the aircraft than the business class.


This is your version of a party poop. This flight attendant would rather stay in her hotel bed than party in the evening. She would practically wait it out until her next flight rings her.

Now we go to the technical ones. Hey newbie pilots, you better pay attention here:


This is basically a height measurement. This unit tells you how high the plane will be cruising. It is usually announced accompanied by the information about flight duration and weather expectations.


No, these are not the tall big pilots you are thinking. The heavy pilots are back-up or reserve pilots usually on board a flight that is more than 12 hours straight cruising. They are commissioned to sit on the cockpit so that the main pilot of the aircraft can rest his eyes before continuing the journey.


This is a place where airplanes are parked closest to the terminal. This is the most convenient place for airplanes to park because it is easier for them to load and unload both luggage and passengers.


This code is called when the plane is ready for take-off after being put on hold for whatever reason. It can be an inspection, an incoming plane, or air traffic.


This is the area where planes who cannot take off yet start their waiting game. This area is mostly used when an incoming plane has to use the same runway that the one taking off is scheduled to use.

Now, let’s talk about the most important ones, the dangerous and scary:


Code bravo has been used a lot in various coding systems like when determining the size of the fire or when sounding an alarm. In this case, Code Bravo is intended to raise panic among the crowd so it is easier for the authorities to catch a criminal in the area. More often, they intentionally shout this code where there is a crowd.


An airport is a busy place even for adults; imagine how the world looks like in the eyes of children in this buzzing place? Code Adam is used to signal that a child is missing. This code is in memory of  little boy who was abducted inside a department store.


Now, this is a code nobody wants to use, nobody wants to hear, and people can’t joke about it. This code is used to send a message to nearby airport control towers that a passing plane is in imminent threat of hijacking or is currently being hijacked. Just four numbers, but very important.


If 7500 is specific to hijacking, code 7700 might just trigger your anxiety. This is the code for general emergency. Usually, when an emergency is called, the pilots have to verify first the nature of the emergency. But, to alert the nearby command centers, the pilot can easily call a code 7700 to send message that there is a problem in their aircraft but the nature is yet unknown.



While the communication units of the aircraft are mostly digital now, pilots are still trained to use the radio. And when this communication device fails to work, pilots are obliged to report its failure to the nearest command center. A failure in radio communication can be the tip of an even bigger problem brewing in the communication system of the aircraft.


The Whizzer

This is another code that is not fun to hear. If you hear your pilot calling that they have utilized the whizzers, it means one of the many engines of the aircraft is in trouble. An engine problem while cruising on air is never good news. Whizzers are back up engines, usually located near the tail of the aircraft. When not used for flight, this machine’s abilities are used to run the air conditioning and lighting features of the aircraft.


You might hear many more of these codes when you travel. While some of them sound alarming, it is best to always stay calm in any given situation. Always follow the instructions given by your flight attendants and properly handle aircraft amenities.


If you are flying your own aircrafts, be sure to get staff and mechanics who also understand the grounds and flight codes. We at Knisley Exhaust trains our mechanics to be knowledgeable about these codes, to understand them as part of their everyday work language especially in conversing with our long time clients getting their plan exhausts fixed. Next time you find yourself riding on your classic Mooney aircraft and you hear some of these codes, wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear them and understand what it means?