Pilot Unveils Industry’s Secret Language

Posted on 04/13/2017

Those pilots once again hop on the microphone to interrupt your second viewing of that horrible movie you promised yourself you would never watch.

But there you are, succumbing to life on an airplane. But if only you could decipher the lingo spewing from the front of the plane.

Business Insider’s Benjamin Zhang helps us out in a tremendous way by highlighting Patrick Smith’s work — airline pilot, Ask The Pilot scribe and author of the book “Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need To Know About Air Travel.”

We couldn’t find any confirmation whether the title was a hat tip to another industry-revealing book, “Kitchen Confidential,” which saw chef and travel expert Anthony Bourdain rise to fame.

In any case, the book, available on Amazon, seems dedicated to pulling back the curtain on a section of the travel landscape we take for granted.

Zhang spotted a glossary from Smith’s website, highlighting some of the words we are familiar with but giving some vital industry context to them.

Here are just a few we enjoyed.

Last-Minute Paperwork: We’ve heard this one a million times. And it conjures the image of a bunch of pilots trying to finish up some homework before they get to fly the plane.

Well, it’s not entirely far removed from the truth.

Smith writes: “Usually it’s something to do with the weight-and-balance record, a revision to the flight plan, or waiting for the maintenance guys to deal with a write-up and get the logbook in order.”

Flight Deck: As you had previously assumed, this is just the cockpit.

EFC Time: Sadly, if you hear this jargon it usually means you are stuck on the ground or stuck in the air.

Smith states: “The expect further clearance (EFC) time, sometimes called a release time, is the point at which a crew expects to be set free from a holding pattern or exempted from a ground stop.”

The Full, Upright and Locked Position: Airlines like to get wordy, because as this pilot explains, all this simply means is “upright.”

Deadhead: This does not, in this case, mean you follow your favorite band on tour. It actually means the following: “A deadheading pilot or flight attendant is ... repositioning as part of an on-duty assignment. This is not the same as commuting to work or engaging in personal travel.”

Equipment: This proves that airlines are just messing with us now. Smith explains that this simply means, “an airplane. (Is there not something strange about the refusal to call the focal object of the entire industry by its real name?).”

Of course, some of the best ways to discover industry secrets is through Reddit AMAs. One that finally answered a question we had always had was why pilots give us the weather data, as if we could do anything about the landing.

One pilot explained: “Being a pilot myself, I always like to get that information as a passenger...

It gives me a bit of a sense of what kind of landing to expect. If the wind is calm, we're probably going to get a smooth approach. If it's 18 gusting to 29, I might tighten the seat belt a bit.

Plus, for the passengers, the wind is a big part of what the weather is like. Why do they bother telling you anything? It's not like you're going to change clothes before you get there. It's just nice to have an idea of what to expect when you walk outside.”

On the flip side of things, sometimes it all has to do with what you as a passenger have to say.

Recently, we uncovered the reason some flight attendants greet us so consistently as we board the plane (equipment?).

The simple answer is they are checking you out, looking for things that may give them a problem during the flight – such as your inebriation.

Smith’s website and book are just a couple of ways to immerse yourself in the airline industry. And gleaning some of the meaning behind the words and actions we experience at 35,000 feet has a nice soothing effect on the psyche.

Not even the roughest turbulence can get us down now.

Source: Travelpulse