Flight lingo: find out what these terms mean

Final approach, ferry flight, or ground stop… You’ve likely heard some of these terms before. You hardly register them and when they’re uttered, their familiarity gives you comfort and you know you are on track to reach your destination. Still, I’m sure that deep down you actually wonder what they mean… so let’s dissect a few.

#1 Doors to arrival and crosscheck

Crosscheck is a general term used by pilots and flight attendants to say that one person has double-checked another person’s task. 

Doors to arrival (sometimes called disarm your doors) is usually announced by the lead flight attendant as the plane approaches the gate. The procedure serves to verify that the emergency escape slides have been disarmed before the doors are open, otherwise, they’d deploy automatically upon opening.

#2 Nautical miles

Distance in aviation is measured in nautical miles (NM) — Shutterstock
Distance in aviation is measured in nautical miles (NM) — Shutterstock
 

A lot of aviation lingo actually comes from maritime and using nautical miles as a unit of length is one of them. A nautical mile measures the same as an air mile (6,076 feet) and relates directly to latitude. The nautical mile is 1.15 times greater than the statute mile we use when, for example, driving a car.

#3 Ferry flight

A ferry flight is a broad term for flights without any paying passengers. Usually, these include the transport of airworthy planes flying to their maintenance base for repairs, manufacturer or customer deliveries.

#4 Positioning flight

A positioning flight, sometimes also called repositioning flight, is a specific type of ferry flight. As the name might suggest, it is conducted when an aircraft needs to be ready at another airport than where it is at the moment. This often happens when a plane finishes its route in one location but is needed elsewhere the next day, perhaps as a backup for another aircraft.

#5 Final approach

For pilots, the final approach refers to the very last segment of the journey just before the actual landing. The aircraft is lined up with the runway and does not require any more manoeuvering or repositioning. It’s often shortened to final in aviation radio terminology.

For flight attendants, the final approach might have a slightly broader meaning, including a larger portion of the plane’s descent.

#6 Direct flight

Nowadays most of us regard a direct flight as one that doesn’t require a layover or a stop while actually it means the flight doesn’t change its flight number. It used to be more common in the past that a flight between two major cities would make one or more stops either to say goodbye to or welcome new passengers. These intermediate stops would also be used for refuelling or light maintenance work.

This term is opposed to a nonstop flight, which is the one that doesn’t make any stops on the way.

#7 Last-minute paperwork

Last-minute paperwork usually involves revising the flight plan — Shutterstock
Last-minute paperwork usually involves revising the flight plan — Shutterstock
 

The captain might casually drop this term during his pre-flight announcement and it turns out it takes another half an hour before this last-minute paperwork is done. Usually, it involves checking the weight-and-balance record, revising the flight plan, or waiting for the maintenance to finish updating the logbook.

#8 An area of weather

Usually refers to a thunderstorm or an area of heavy precipitation. Sometimes an aircraft avoids this area altogether by taking another route.

#9 Air pocket

A colloquial term for turbulence.

#10 Ground stop

A ground stop is an air traffic control measure which might result in your flight departing with a delay. It means that inbound traffic to a certain airport is either slowed or halted and an inbound plane departing from another airport might have to wait until they get the green light to take off.