Aviation Slang - Pilot Slang




AAA - Anti-aircraft Artillery.

ACM - Air Combat Maneuvering, or dogfighting.
Ack Ack guns – Anti aircraft guns
Abaft – Farther than aft
Abeam – Object located in your 3 or 9 O’clock position. Used in position reporting

AGL - Above Ground Level. An airplane's altimeter reads height above Mean Sea Level

Air Boss - Head of the Air Department onboard a carrier; ruler of the flight deck.

Air Wing - The entire complement of aircraft fielded by the carrier in battle: fighters, attack jets, early-warning planes, tankers, helicopters, antisubmarine patrol craft, etc.

Alert 5 - A manned aircraft that can launch within five minutes. Similarly, Alert 15, Alert 30, Alert 60.

Aluminum Cloud - The F-14 is so large that it is sometimes referred to by this term.
Aluminum overcast – Describing a large aircraft

Alpha Mike Foxtrot - "AMF". Phonetics for "Adios Mother F#cker”.
Angel - Carrier rescue helicopter

Angels - Altitude, measured in thousands of feet ("angels fourteen" means 14,000 feet ASL).

Anti-Smash - Aircraft strobe, or anti-collision, lights.

Angle of Attack (AOA) - Angle of the wing relative to the forward flight path of the airplane. On any aircraft, too great an angle of attack will cause the wing to stall, as airflow across the upper surface becomes separated and turbulent.

Angles - Gaining angles on a dogfight opponent involves maneuvering for a shot from astern The ultimate in an angles fight is an angle of zero. Straight up the enemy's tailpipe.
“Attaboy” – Highest praise from the Airboss





"Back to the Taxpayers" - Where you send a wrecked aircraft.

Bag - Flight suit or anti-exposure suit

Bag Season - Cold weather or water conditions which require the wearing of anti-exposure gear; which is very restrictive, uncomfortable and unpopular

Ball - An amber visual landing aid that the pilot uses to adjust aircaft relative position to  a desired final approach glideslope. The primary optical landing device on the carrier. The “Meatball” Similar to a PAPI or VASI

Bandit - Dogfight adversary positively identified as a bad guy. Hostile aircraft.

Barberpole – Gear unsafe warning or in transit indication – Not up or Down

Basement - Hangar deck of the aircraft carrier.

Bat Decoder - A sheet of paper carried on all fight operations that is the key to current airborne communication codes.

Bat-turn - A tight, high-G change of heading. A reference to the rapid 180-degree Batmobile maneuver in the old "Batman" television series.

Beaded Up - Worried or excited.

Behind the Power Curve - Not keeping up with expectations.

Bent - Damaged or broken.

Bingo ~ Minimum fuel for a safe return to base. Aircraft can fly and fight past bingo fuel  in combat situations, but at considerable peril.

Bingo Field - Land-based runway to which carrier aircraft can be used as an alternate.

Birds – Aircraft

Blower - Afterburner.

Blue-Water Ops - Carrier flight operations beyond the reach of land bases or bingo fields.

Boards Out - Speed brakes extended

Boat - Any Navy ship regardless of size. The aircraft carrier is "THE Boat".

Bogey - Unidentified and potentially hostile aircraft.

Bolt, Bolter - A carrier landing attempt in which the hook fails to engage any of the 4      arresting cables, requiring a "go-around"

Boola-Boola - Radio call made when a pilot shoots down a drone.

Boresight - To line up the axis of a gun with its sights, but pilots use the term to describe       concentrating on a small detail to the point of causing some detriment to the "big picture".

BOREX - A dull, repetitive exercise

Bought the Farm – Pilot killed. Originated from the practice of the government  reimbursing farmers for crops destroyed due to aviation accidents on their fields. Farmer's would inflate the value of lost crops to the point that, in effect, the pilot "bought the farm".

Bounce, Tap - Unexpected attack on another aircraft.

Bounce and Blow – Touch and Go

Brain Housing Group - Mock-technical term for the skull.

Bravo Zulu – A task well performed

Bugout – Egress a position or situation rapidly

Bubbas - Fellow squadron members; anyone who flies the same aircraft as you do.

Bumping - ACM (Air Combat Maneuvering),also called "bumping heads".

BuNo - Bureau number, permanent serial number that the Navy assigns to an aircraft.

Burner - Afterburner

Buster - Controller term for full military power: to hurry up, go as fast as possible.





CAG - Commander of the Air Group - the carrier's chief pilot.

Carqual, or CQ - Carrier qualification; a set number of carrier takeoffs and landings  
required in training and at periodic intervals of all carrier flight crews.

Catshot - A carrier takeoff assisted by a steam-powered catapult. A "cold cat," one in 
which insufficient launch pressure has been set into the device.  This may cause the launching aircraft to depart the deck below minimum controllable speed and may result in loss of control. A 'hot cat" too much pressure - is less perilous, but can rip out the nose wheel assembly or the launching bridle.

CAVU - Ceiling And Visibility Unlimited: the best possible flying weather.

Centurion - An aviator who has made 100 shipboard landings.

Charlie - The planned landing time aboard a carrier.

Charlie Foxtrot - "cluster-f#ck"

Check Six - Visual observation of the rear quadrant, from which most air-to-air attacks  
can be expected. Refers to the clock system of scanning the envelope around  the aircraft; 12 o'clock is straight ahead, 6 o'clock is directly astern.

Checking for Light Leaks - Taking a nap, referring to the eyelids

Cherubs - Altitude under 1,000 feet, measured in hundreds of feet ("cherubs two" means 
200 feet).

 Clean – Clean configuration – Gear up, flaps up

Cold Nose - Radar turned off , also known as "Lights out", (Navy pilots transmit "My  
nose is cold" before refueling from Air Force tankers).

COD - Carrier On-Board Delivery aircraft.

Colorful Actions - Flathatting, showing off, or otherwise ignoring safe procedures while 

Combat Dump - A bowel movement before flying; also called "sending an admiral to 

Cones - Students, short for coneheads: also called nurkin heads.

Conning - Making contrails.

Contract - Agreements and ground rules, some minor and some life-threatening, between  
two-man fighter crews or between wingmen.

Crossdeck Pendant - An arresting wire on an aircraft carrier; or the attaching cord  
between a VERTREP helicopter to its externally slung cargo.




Dash Two - The second plane in a two-or-more aircraft formation; the wingman.

Dead Heading - pilots flying as passengers.

Deadstick – Approach and landing without power

Deck Spotter - Derogatory term for a pilot who looks away from the meatball to peek at the deck.

Delta - When an aircraft arrives at a boat for recovery, this instruction tells the pilot to
stay clear and save gas; refers to a holding pattern at the boat.\
Delta Sierra - "dumb shit": describes a stupid action, negates previous Bravo Zulus and 
Sierra Hotels.

Departure - Literally departure from controlled flight, usually brought on in high-
performance jets by excessive angle of attack.

Ditch – Forced landing into water

Dirty - Aircraft configured for landing with gear, flaps and hook down.

Dot - Refers to how a distant aircraft looks on the horizon, ("I'm a dot" means "I'm out of 

Double Ugly - F-4 Phantom.

Double Nuts - The CAG's bird usually numbered 100 or 00.

Down - Broken, not flying. A sick pilot or snagged aircraft is "down".

Drift Factor - If you have a high one, you aren't reliable.

Driver - Pilot.




E - "ECHO"


Echo Range - A corner of the China Lake Naval Weapons Test Center outfitted with ground targets and electronic threat simulators. Many Top Gun training sessions occur over Echo Range.

ECM - Electronic Countermeasures; systems for jamming or misleading enemy weapons, 
communications, and radar.

Electric Jet - The F-16 Fighting Falcon, so nicknamed because of its fly-by-wire controls. 
or "Lawn Dart"

ELINT - Electronic Intelligence; the gathering of electronic emissions related to
communications, weapons control, or reconnaissance.

Envelope - The maximum performance parameters of an aircraft; flying at the edge of the
 envelope means to utilize max speed, Gs or altitude of an aircraft.



FAG - Fighter Attack Guy; derogatory term for F/A-18 Hornet drivers.

Fangs Out - When a pilot is really hot for a dogfight.

Fangs Sunk in Floorboard - When a fighter pilot boresights on a kill but ends up getting 
shot himself.

FARP - Fleet ACM Readiness Program; a periodic training program of the Fleet Air 
Wing; dogfighting practice with an adversary squadron.

FASO - Flight Physiology Training: recurrent safety training for aircrews directed at
emphasizing physiological stressors, conditions that may be encountered in flight

FAST - Fleet Air Superiority Training.

Father - Slang term for shipboard TACAN station. There is a Father on most Mothers.

Feet Wet/Dry - USN terms describing flight position "over-water" and "over-land."

Flathatting - Unauthorized low-level flying.

Flare - The nose-up landing attitude normal for most land-based aircraft. Carrier jets do 
not flare due to increased landing distance caused by float time. Also the terminal portion of a helicopter autorotation in which rotor speed can be accelerated while reducing rate-of-descent and forward groundspeed.

“Flare to land, squat to pee” – Navy pilots description of Air Force Pilots

Fly-by-wire ~ Electronic, computer-controlled operation of aircraft control surfaces.

FM - "f#cking magic": very high-tech; used to describe how something you don't  
understand actually works.

FOD - Foreign Object Damage.  Jet intakes can ingest loose objects, and even the  
smallest item, a rock or bolt can seriously damage jet  turbine or propeller blades.

Forced landing – Emergency landing without power or immediately following a critical failure/fire

Fox One, Two, Three - Radio calls indicating the firing of a Sparrow, Sidewinder, or  
Phoenix air-to- air missile.  AAM

Furball - A confused aerial engagement with many combatants. Several aircraft in tight 



G - "GOLF"


Gs, G-loading - High-performance aircraft subject airframes and occupants to centrifugal forces. One-G equals normal gravity(14.7psi); a pilot and plane pulling4-Gs will feel forces equal to four times the weight of gravity.

G-suit - Nylon trousers that wrap around the legs and abdomen. Filled automatically with
compressed air in high-G maneuvers, the G-suit helps prevent the pooling of blood in the lower extremities, thus retarding the tendency to lose consciousness. Also known as "speed-jeans"

Gaff Off - Ignore.

Gate - Afterburner.  

Gigahertz and Nanoseconds - Highly technical, detailed, and hard to understand.

Gizmo - A piece of technical gear (also doodad, thingamabob, or hoo-ha)

G-LOC – Gravity induced loss of consciousness. 

Glove - The huge wing root of the F-14 Tomcat, housing the mechanism for moving the 
variable- geometry wings.

Go Juice - Jet fuel.

god - The authority, boss, or person with full responsibility.

Goes Away - What something does when you hit it with a missile.

Golden Leg Spreaders - Pilot wings.

Gomer - Slang for a dogfight adversary, derived from the old Gomer Pyle 
TV show.

Goo - Bad weather that makes it impossible to see; in the clouds. “Soup” IMC

Goon Up - Screw up.

Gouge - The latest inside information. Also the poop, the skinny.

Green Apple - The control knob for the cockpit's emergency oxygen supply.

Greenie Board - Prominently displayed squadron scoreboard where the landing signal 
officers rate the pilots' carrier landings. "weenie board."

Gripe - A mechanical problem on an aircraft. An "up" gripe means you can still fly: a
"down" gripe means aircraft is grounded.

Groove – Perfect position on approach in relation to glide slope, AOA and the Meatball





Hamburger Helper - The bombardier-navigator (B/N) or radar intercept officer (RIO).

Hangar Queen - An aircraft that suffers chronic "downs"; hangar queens are often                      cannibalized for parts to be used on other aircraft

Hard Deck - Minimum altitude for training engagements. Early Top Gun  
hops limited to a 10,000-foot AGL hard deck.

Hawk Circle - The orbiting stack of aircraft waiting to land on the carrier.

Head on a Swivel - Keeping an eye peeled for an ACM adversary; also called "doing the  
Linda Blair," for the 360-degree head rotation in the movie "The Exorcist".

Heater - Sidewinder missile which homes in on heat sources.”Heatseeker”

Helo - Universal Navy/Marine term for helicopter.

High PRF - Extremely excitable (PRF is a radar term: pulse repetition frequency).

High Warble - Unduly agitated.

Hop - A Mission, or flight

HOTAS - Hands On Throttle And Stick.

HUD - Heads Up Display. A transparent screen mounted in front of the windscreen on 
which pertinent data from flight instruments and weapons systems are projected.

Huffer- Jet engine start cart

Hummer - The E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft, in reference to the sound of its  

                  turboprop engines.





IFR - Instrument Flight Rules

Indian Night Noises - The ominous creaks, pops, and shudders of an aircraft in flight

In-Flight Engagement - Snagging the arresting wire before the wheels touch the deck. 
This can result in damage to the aircraft.

In the Spaghetti - Where you catch the wires on the deck

INS - Inertial Navigation System A device using precise gyros that permits the pilot to
determine his location anywhere on earth within a few hundred feet.




JBD – Jet Blast Deflector

Jink – A quick maneuver to avoid a threat.

Jock, Driver - Pilot, as in "helo driver", or "fighter jock"

JP-4, JP-5 - Types of jet fuel: the aroma of which makes former aviators nostalgic for flight operations.

Judy - Radio call signaling that your quarry is in sight and you are taking control of the



K - "KILO"


Kick the Tires and Light the Fires - Shorten the pre-flight walk around.

Knife Fight in a Phone Booth - Close-in, slow-speed aerial dogfight. "knife-fight".



L - "LIMA"


LEAPEX ~ A jump-through-your ass drill. Something silly that needs to be done NOW!

Lethal Cone, Cone of Vulnerability - Area to the rear of the jet's tailpipe, into which most
 infra-red missile and gun attacks are ideally launched.

Lights Out - Radar off.

Lineup – lining up the aircraft with the runway or Fight Deck

Lost the Bubble - Got confused or forgot what was happening.

Loading/Unloading - Increasing or decreasing angle of attack and G's

Loud Handle - Lever or grip that fires ejection seat.

LSO - Landing Signals Officer. Squadron member with considerable experience in 
carrier landings, responsible for assisting others onto the deck and for grading their efforts. Also known as "paddles".


M - "MIKE"

Martin-Baker Fan Club - If you eject, you're a member (a reference to the Martin-Baker company, manufacturer of ejection seats).

Meatball - The glideslope indication light that pilots watch when they're trapping.
                  “Call the Ball”

Merge, Merged Plot - The point at which aircraft come into contact, after having been vectored toward each other by radar control.

CAP - Combat Air Patrol over ground-attack aircraft.

Military Power - Maximum jet engine power without engaging afterburner.

Mini-Boss - The Assistant Air Boss.

Mort - "Killed" in ACM practice.

Mother/Mom - The boat on which you are deployed, and where you launched from.

Mud-mover, Ground-pounder - Low-level attack aircraft.

Music - Electronic Jamming intended to deceive radar.

My Fun Meter is Pegged - Sarcastic comment for, "I am not enjoying this."




NATOPS - The Naval Air Training and Operating Procedures Standardization program,

NFO - An aviator who is an officer but not a pilot. "No Future  
Occupation"; also called the "walkin'-talkin' navbag."

NFWS - The Navy Fighter Weapons School, a graduate school for fighter pilots. "Top 

Nice Vapes - High speed at low altitude or high G causes dramatic vapor trails.

No-Load - An underachiever.

No Joy - Failure to make visual sighting; or inability to establish radio communications.

Nugget - A first-tour aviator. “FNG”

Nylon Letdown - Ejection and descent with parachute. “Hitting the silk”




OAST - Overland Air Superiority Training. A periodic training exercise conducted over bland and integrating all the elements of the carriers air wing.

On the Mouse - Talking on the flight-deck radio circuit that uses a headset resembling  
Mickey Mouse ears.

Opportunity to excel - A disagreeable job without the time or resources to properly 

Oversweep - When the F-14, on the ground, sweeps its wings to seventy-two degrees aft 
for storage on carrier.



P - "PAPA"


Padlocked - To have a bogey firmly in your sights.

Painted - Scanned by radar.

Passing Gas - What an aerial tanker does.

Pass - The point at which fighters, closing head-on, flash past each other. Or a landing 

Penalty Box - If you get a wave off or a bolter.

Pickle - A device held by the LSO that activates the "cut" light on the lens: as a verb, to  
drop a bomb or external fuel tank.

Pinging On - Paying close attention.

Pinkie - A landing made at twilight between the official time of sunset (or sunrise) and
"real" darkness; it officially counts as a night landing, but is cheating; preferred type of "night" landing by O-4's and above.

Pit - Rear seat position.

Pitch – Attitude of aircraft nose relative to the horizon

PLAT - Pilot landing aid television. a videotape camera that records all carrier launches 
and recoveries.

Playmates - The pilots of other aircraft on the same mission as you.

Plumber - An inept pilot.

Pointy End - The front of a boat

Poopy suit – Anti exposure suit worn over flight suit

Popeye - What you are when you're flying in the soup or goo. (IMC)

Power Puke or Power Barf - Projectile vomiting, a symptom of airsickness.

Pole - Control stick.

Prang - To bump, crunch, bend, or break an aircraft.

Pucker Factor – Scary incident

Puke - Pilot who flies a different kind of aircraft than you, as in fighter puke or
attack puke.

Punch Out - To eject.







R2D2 - A RIO (a reference to Luke Skywalker's robot backseater in the Star Wars movies).

Ramp Strike - Landing short in the ramp area.

Radome - Streamlined fiberglass enclosure covering a radar antenna.

RAG - Replacement Air Group. Squadron in which newly trained pilots are introduced
to, and trained in, a particular aircraft type. Formally known as the FRS (Fleet Replacement Squadron).

Red Flag - Advanced aerial combat training exercise, held by the Air Force at Nellis 
AFB, Nevada. 

Rhino - Nickname for the F-4 Phantom. Also Double Ugly.

RIO - Radar Intercept Officer. Back-seat crewman in the F-14 Tomcat and F-4 Phantom.  
A specialized NFO

Rocket One - The skipper.

Roof - The flight deck on the carrier.




SA - Situational Awareness. Knowing what your airplane is doing relative to its envelope, where your adversary is, where the ground is, the status of enemy threats  on the ground, and hundreds of other variables.

SAM - Surface-to-air missile.

SAR - Search and Rescue.

Scooter - Nickname for the A-4 Skyhawk

Scope - A RIO.

Section - Two aircraft operating together as a tactical unit.

Shoe - Short for "blackshoes," a derogatory term for nonflying personnel; aviators wear 
brown shoes. “Ground pounder”

Shooter - The catapult officer.

Sierra Hotel - "Shit Hot," high praise; the pilot's favorite and all-purpose expression of  

Smoking Hole ~ An airplane crash site.

SNAG – Mechanical malfunction of an aircraft part or component

Sniffer - A device on the flight deck that checks that an aircraft is broadcasting  
transmissions. IFF(Indent Friend or Foe) 

Snuggle Up - During formation flight, to close up under the wing of another aircraft. “Bring it in”

Sortie - A single mission by one aircraft.

Speed of Heat, Warp One - Very, very fast.

Speed Slacks, Speed Jeans - The G-suit. which applies pressure to the legs to aid in  
preventing blackout during high-G maneuvering.

Spooled Up - Excited.

Spud Locker - The part of a carrier where you don't want to land; it is well down on the
fantail, so if you hit it, you are way too low

State - How much fuel you've got. Mother requests, "Say your state". Responded to in 
the form of hours and minutes of fuel onboard til you "splash". You respond"State one plus two zero to splash" = 1 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

Stick - Throttle Interconnect ~ Mock-tech term for a pilot (also called just a "stick").

Sweet - Up and working.





TACAN - Tactical Aid to Navigation. Navigation aid which provides bearing and distance (slant range) between it and an airplane.

TACTS - Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System. A system of computers, sensors, 
data pods, and graphic displays that permits real-time depiction of an aerial dogfight.

Tank - Refuel

Tango Uniform -  "tits up"; broken, not functioning.

Texaco - An aerial tanker. e.g. KC-135's , KC-10

Three Down and Locked - Landing gear down and ready for landing. A required  
confirmation call prior to landing at Air Force bases.

Three-Nine Line - Imaginary line across your airplane's wingspan. A primary goal in  
ACM is to keep your adversary in front of your three-nine line.

Throttle Back - To slow down, Power back

Tiger - An aggressive pilot.

Tits Machine - A righteous airplane. A nostalgic term referring to birds gone by.  

Top Off - Fill up with gas.

Trap - An arrested landing on a carrier, a helo landing into an RSD (rapid securing   

Trick-or-Treat - If you don't make the trap. you have to tank.

Turkey - Nickname for the F-14 Tomcat

Tweak - To fine-tune or adjust.

Twirly - Anti-collision beacon on an aircraft.





Up - Working, not broken.

Up on the Governor - When someone is about to have a tantrum (Derived from the prop
 governor which keeps the propeller blades from overspeeding).

Up to Speed, or Up to Snuff - To understand or to know what's going on.




V-speeds – Operational speed limitations for any given aircraft. ex; VLR – Velocity for landing gear retraction

Varsity Play for the Deck - A skillful landing attempt.

VSTOL - Very Short Takeoff and Landing. Also VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing)

Vulture's Row - A viewing gallery on an aircraft carrier's island. Observation of flight
deck operations.





Warm Fuzzy - Feeling of confidence or security.

Warthog - Universal nickname for the A-10 Thunderbolt II

Wash Out - To not make the grade at flight school.

Waveoff - When the LSO orders a pilot not to trap.

Whiskey Charlie - "Who cares"

Whiskey Delta - "weak dick", a pilot who can't cut it.


Widomaker – F-104 Starfighter. Due to many accidents involving this aircraft.

Winder - A Sidewinder missile.

Wingman - Second aircraft/pilot in a two-ship formation.

Workups - Putting a ship through certain tests and exercises before going on cruise.



X - "X-RAY"





“Yank and Bank” – Successive Steep climbing/banking turns, high G loading and




Z - "ZULU"


Zero-Dark-Thirty - A half-hour after midnight. Operations after midnight/before sunrise.                                 

Zone 1 - Min afterburner in the F-14

Zone 5 - Max afterburner in the F-14

Zoombag - Flight suit.