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The Real Meaning Behind Confusing Code Words Airline Pilots Use

According to statistics, there are about half a million traveling via airplanes at any given time. But only a small portion of them are knowledgeable enough to understand the inner workings of commercial air travels.

Luckily, airline pilot Patrick Smith is shedding some light on some of the often used and misunderstood code words that flyers should know.

Last-Minute Paperwork

When a pilot announces that they’re still finishing up some last-minute paperwork, Smith says that this usually means a delay to a flight’s schedule.

This so-called paperwork is typically some revisions on the flight plan, waiting for maintenance staff to finish up or something that pertains to the aircraft’s weight and balance record

First Officer

The first officer sits on the right side of the airplane’s cockpit

Commercial flights are operated by at least two and sometimes three pilots. The first officer, also called the co-pilot, acts as the second in command when it comes to the airplane’s operation.

He or she is distinguished by the three stripes they wear on their shoulder. Although not the main pilot, first officers are fully qualified to handle an airplane from takeoff to landing. They actually do these tasks in alternating turns with the captain.

Final Approach

The term final approach usually pops up when a flight is nearing its destination. It specifically entails that the aircraft has reached its last ‘straight-in segment of the landing pattern’.

This means that the remaining path won’t require any more maneuvering or additional turns. Flight attendants have a slightly different definition of the term though, as they use it to simply refer to the last part of the descent.

Area of Weather

Planes can fly through extreme weather conditions with discretion from its pilots

Hearing the phrase ‘area of weather’ used by a pilot may lead some flyers to become anxious in their seats. And for good reason, as it typically describes a zone of heavy rain or a thunderstorm. They can rest assured though that modern airplanes aren’t as vulnerable to lightning as they initially thought.

Direct Flight

To choose a flight without stops, choose a nonstop flight instead

It’s a common mistake to think that a ‘direct flight’ is one that doesn’t make stops on the way to its final destination. In reality, the term pertains to a routing where the flight number remains constant.

Smith says that the phrase is a carryover from the time when major city flights frequently made stops.

Ground Stop

A ground stop occurs when airport departures are reduced by air traffic control because of a traffic backlog. It could also happen in the event of dangerous weather conditions such as thunderstorms or hail.

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