• 10 Aviation pilot phrases you don’t expect

The world of aviation is full of slang and unique terminology. Expressions used by pilots can sound like a completely different language to people who are not familiarised with the field.

Have you ever thought about the real meaning of words such as “mayday”, “crabbing” or “go around”?

In today’s post we’ll inform you about some of the most popular aviation pilot phrases. Rest assured, they all have a logical explanation!


This expression refers to an unexpected upward rotation or increase in the pitch attitude of an aircraft which generally happens when flaps are lowered. The flaps cause an increase in lift, causing the aircraft a tendency to climb for a couple of seconds.

Ballooning is also formed when excessive pitch-up occurs while the aircraft is under the ground effect, that is, when the nose is raised too much during landing, causing an unintended climb.

Go around

Go around refers to the maneuver that a pilot must do after a failed landing.

During descent or even after landing, the pilot can decide to take off again due to different reasons: adverse weather conditions, deteriorated state of the runway, having another aircraft landing too close, etc.

During the descent of the aircraft, the engine power is reduced gradually, and if it’s necessary to do a go around, it is essential that we increase the engine power to climb rapidly.

In other words, the objective is to regain altitude as quickly as possible.


You might recognize this expression thanks to movies where aircraft’s accidents are portrayed. It is, indeed, used in emergency situations.

It originates from the French expression «m’aidez», meaning «help me», and it is also pronounced in a similar way in English. It is internationally recognized as an urgent request for assistance to the air traffic controllers.

Additionally, the expression «pan-pan» also refers to a dangerous situation that doesn’t require immediate assistance.


Don’t worry, we are not a fishing school yet. Crabbing is a technique that pilots use to deal with crosswinds during landing and take off.

While crabbing, the pilot moves the aircraft to partially confront the wind, letting the aircraft follow the preferred direction.

This is an advanced skill that pilot students must learn to control during their training.


This term refers to a member of the crew who is travelling on the aircraft, but it is not working in that flight.

This expression has to do with the idea that the member of the crew is not contributing to the “brain” or to the aircraft’s operation.

Taxi to the holding point

This expression is a common instruction that pilots can receive from the air traffic control tower.

In aviation, «taxi» means piloting the plane on ground using its own engines, either before departure or after landing.

Apart from that, «holding point» refers to a specific location near the runway. It is the place where the plane needs to wait before receiving clearance to enter the runway and take off.

Moreover, it is a safe place that can be used as a checkpoint for the pilot to finalize any last-minute details


To know when to initiate the turn to stay fully aligned with the runway or a specific point is a skill that is developed with experience.

Furthermore, it is necessary to take into account factors such as headwind or tailwind during turning maneuvers.

In some situations, if the pilot miscalculates and goes beyond the designated path, it is said that they have overshot.

To be abeam the threshold

In aviation, something is said to be «abeam» when it forms a 90-degree angle relative to our heading. The reference point for this is often the wings of the aircraft since they are perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle) to the longitudinal axis or fuselage. Therefore, when something is at the same level as the wings, it is said to be «abeam».

Touch and Go

Every student, in their pilot training, knows what a «touch and go» is.

This phrase is used to describe a specific type of training maneuver where an aircraft lands and then takes off again without making a complete landing.

This exercise is common during pilot training as it allows students to practice multiple takeoffs and landings in a short period of time.

If you want to learn more about landing, read our article on how a pilot learns to land.

To flare

The maneuver that the pilot performs just before landing on the runway is called a flare. Executing the flare at the right moment is crucial to achieve a smooth landing.

As mentioned before, to execute a careful flare, it is necessary to precisely raise the nose of the aircraft and be mindful of any «ballooning» that may occur as the aircraft experiences ground effect.

How do you find all these strange phrases used by pilots?

We hope you find this article as interesting as it was for us to write it. It is true that memorising and assimilating these unusual expressions might be difficult for someone who is not into the aviation world.

Nevertheless, do not worry! Here we are to help you learn the weirdest, unique and fascinating aspects of aviation.

So…, if this post has awakened your most aeronautical side and you want to know more about it, we recommend you read our article about the 10 facts about travelling by plane that you might not have known about.

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