Yes, military pilots really do talk this way! This is not an all-inclusive list of military acronyms, just the type of lingo you're apt to hear in the Ready-Room, on the flightline, or in the aircraft.
To learn even more about aviation don't miss:

SkiBum5' Jane's Military History Nodes
The_Custodian's Jane's pages


AAA~ Anti-aircraft Artillery. Rapid-firing cannon or machine guns, often aimed by computers and radar.

ACM ~ Air Combat Maneuvering, or dogfighting.

Admin ~ The rented room that is the party headquarters ashore, usually at a foreign port of call.

AGL ~ Above Ground Level. An airplane's altimeter reads height above Mean Sea Level (MSL); the more realistic measurement over land is height Above Ground Level. Most military aircraft have a radaraltimeter, which reads aircraft height above ground level.

Air Boss ~ Head of the Air Department onboard a carrier; he rules 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.

Alert 5 ~ A manned aircraft that can launch within five minutes. The Navy has time restrictions as to how long a crew can stand an Alert-5 watch. Similarly, Alert 15, Alert 30, Alert 60.

Aluminum Cloud ~ The F-14 is so large that it is sometimes referred to by this term.

Alpha Mike Foxtrot ~ Sometimes simply AMF. Phonetics for "Adios Mother F****r.

Angels ~ Altitude, measured in thousands of feet ("angels fifteen" means 15,000 feet above sea level). Also, a term lovingly ascribed to the rescue helicopter by any aviator who has experienced an ejection and subsequent helicopter rescue.

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 stop flying (stall), as airflow across the upper surface is disrupted.

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.

ASW ~ Anti-submarine warfare.

Atoll, Apex, Acrid ~ NATO code names for Soviet-manufactured air-to-air missiles.


B/N ~ Bombardier-navigator; the specific term for the NFO in the A-6 aircraft.

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

Bag ~ Flight suit or anti-exposure suit ("Put on a bag"); as a verb--to collect or acquire: as in, "bag some traps".

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.

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

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.

Big Chicken Dinner ~ AKA Bad Conduct Discharge.

Bingo ~ Minimum fuel for a comfortable and 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 divert if necessary.

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 tailhook fails to engage any of the arresting wires, requiring a "go-around", and in which the aircraft landing gear contacts the deck. Otherwise it is a "low pass".

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

Booming ~ Loud, raucous partying ("we were booming last night"); or, fast, exciting flying ("we went booming through the Grand Canyon").

Boresight ~ Technically, 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 (a busy. tense one might be a SWEATEX).

Bought the Farm ~ Died. Originated from the practice of the government reimbursing farmers for crops destroyed due to aviation accidents on their fields. The farmer's, knowing a good thing when they see it, would inflate the value of lost crops to the point that, in effect, the mishap pilot "bought the farm". Student pilots regularly practice emergency landings to farmer's fields. Another definition for the term : If a pilot was killed, either in combat or due to aircraft accident, the beneficiaries of his insurance would be payed off. Since pilots tended to be young, the beneficiaries would often be their parents. So, when the pilot died, he "bought the farm" by the insurance money paying off the mortgage.

Bounce, Tap ~ Unexpected attack on another aircraft.

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

Bravo Zulu ~ Praise for a good job.

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 when it is built.

Burner ~ Afterburner; a system that feeds raw fuel into a jet's hot exhaust, thus greatly increasing both thrust and fuel consumption.

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, can place the hapless aircraft in the water. A 'hot cat" -- too much pressure - is less perilous, but can rip out the nose wheel assembly or the launching bridle. Once a pair of common problems, but practically unheard-of today.

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

Centurion ~ An aviator who has made 100 shipboard landings, typically a centurion patch is then issued and proudly worn on the flight jacket.

Charlie ~ The planned landing time aboard a carrier.

Charlie Foxtrot ~ Phonetics for "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. Also a common salutation and greeting among tactical pilots. Keep an eye on your behind, be careful.

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).

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, used to transfer personnel and cargo to and from the carrier.

Colorful Actions ~ Flathatting, showing off, or otherwise ignoring safe procedures while flying.

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

Cones ~ Students, short for coneheads: also called nurkin heads, or studs.

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.

Cumulo-granite ~ also known as CFIT (see-fit) which stands for Controlled Flight Into Terrain. Word Spy says, ” Mountain ranges are fairly common granite formations and once struck by an aircraft you have had "an encounter with cumulo-granite". “ Not a Good Thing.


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

Dead Heading ~ pilots flying as passengers.

Deck Spotter ~ Derogatory term for a pilot who looks away from the ball 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 ~ Phonetics for "dumb s**t": describes a stupid action, and erases all previous Bravo Zulus and Sierra Hotels.

Departure ~ Literally departure from controlled flight, usually brought on in high-performance jets by excessive angle of attack coupled with partial power loss in one engine. All aircraft depart differently, but some anxious moments and some loss of altitude will result before control can be regained. Some jets, most notably the F-4 Phantom, are unrecoverable from certain departures.

Dirty ~ Aircraft configured for landing with gear and flaps down.

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

Double Ugly ~ Fond nickname for the enormously capable but less than beautiful F-4 Phantom. See also Rhino.

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

Down ~ Broken, not flying. A sick pilot 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 are flown over Echo Range.

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

EFATO ~ a pilots' acronym standing for Engine Failure After Take Off.

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 can be both exciting and dangerous.


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 presented in the context 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, or episodes which might 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 ~ The former means "over-water," the latter "over-land."

Fishbed, Flogger ~ Also Fitter, Flanker, Fresco Fulcrum, etc. NATO code names for Russian fighter aircraft.

Flathatting ~ Unauthorized low-level flying and stunting--thrilling, sometimes fatal, usually career- ending if caught.

Flare ~ The nose-up landing posture normal for most land-based aircraft. Carrier jets eliminate flare in favor of a slamming contact with the deck. Also the terminal portion of a helicopter autorotation in which rotor speed can be accelerated while reducing rate-of-descent and forward groundspeed.

Fly-by-wire ~ Electronic, computer-controlled operation of aircraft control surfaces. Supplants mechanical/hydraulic actuation common in earlier jets. The F-16 Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, and the French Mirage 2000 use these systems.

FM ~ Abbreviation for "f**king magic": very high-tech; used to describe how something you don't understand actually works. The ASQ-81 Magnetic Anomaly System works by "FM".

FOD ~ Foreign Object Damage. A constant concern on airfields and carrier decks where jet engines operate. Jet intakes can ingest loose objects, and even the smallest item--a rock, a bolt--can seriously damage jet turbine blades.

Fox One, Two, Three ~ Radio calls indicating the firing of a Sparrow, Sidewinder, or Phoenix air-to- air missile, respectively. locke baron says, "Fox three indicates the launch of an active-radar AAM, which includes not only the AIM-54 Phoenix but also the AIM-120 AMRAAM."

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

G - "GOLF"

G, G-loading, G-rating ~ High-performance aircraft subject airframes and occupants to centrifugal forces far beyond simple gravity. One-G equals normal gravity; a pilot and plane pulling 4-Gs in a turn 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. see also Zone

Gigahertz and Nanoseconds ~ Highly technical, detailed, and hard to understand ("It's getting down to gigahertz and nanoseconds.")

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

Glove ~ The huge wing root of the F-14 Tomcat, housing the mechanism for moving the variable- geometry wings. Also, Tom Cruise notwithstanding, fireproof gloves are always worn by military pilots regardless of the outside temperature.

Go Juice ~ Jet fuel.

god ~ The authority, boss, or person with full responsibility; also descriptive of a pilot's prowess ("He's an ACM god").

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

Golden Leg Spreaders ~ Pilot wings...or rather what pilots can get with their wings.

Gomer ~ Slang for a dogfight adversary, the usage stemming from the old Gomer Pyle TV show.

Goo ~ Bad weather that makes it impossible to see; in the clouds.

Goon Up ~ Screw up.

Gouge ~ The latest inside information. Also the poop, the skinny. A summary of important information.

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 (any color other than green is bad ): also called the "weenie board."

Gripe ~ A mechanical problem on an aircraft. An "up" gripe means you can still fly: a "down" gripe means you can't.


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

Hangar Queen ~ An aircraft that suffers chronic "downs"; hangar queens are often pirated for spares for the squadron's other aircraft, so when the aircraft leave the carrier at the end of the cruise, the maintenance officer normally flies the hangar queen because he knows which parts have been taken (the "queen's" ejection seats are especially well preflighted).

Hard Deck ~ An established minimum altitude for training engagements. Early Top Gun hops honor 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.

Helo ~ Universal Navy/Marine term for helicopter. Don't say "chopper" unless you're hanging out with the Army.

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. Modern fighters have every imaginable control function mounted on either the stick (right hand) or the throttle quadrant (left hand), so that the pilot need not fumble around in the cockpit.

HUD ~ Heads Up Display. A transparent screen mounted on the dashboard on which pertinent data from flight instruments and weapons systems are projected. The HUD eliminates the need to look down into the cockpit to read instruments.

Hummer ~ Any ingenious machine--plane, car, or weapon--whose actual name can't be recalled. Also "puppy," "bad boy." The E-2 Hawkeye early-warning aircraft is also nicknamed "Hummer", in reference to the sound of its turboprop engines.


IFR ~ Instrument Flight Rules, permitting safe flight in conditions of limited visibility

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.

INS ~ Inertial Navigation System. A device that, when properly loaded and aligned, permits the pilot to determine his location anywhere on earth within a few hundred feet.


Jesus bolt ~ the one bolt on an airplane or helicopter which mythically holds the whole contraption together.

Jink ~ To maneuver violently to avoid a threat.

JO ~ Junior officer, usually with all the answers.

JO Junk Room ~ The JO state room, where all the good parties are aboard the boat.

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 intercept.

K - "KILO"

Kick the Tires and Light the Fires ~ Formerly, to bypass or severely shorten the required routine of physically inspecting the aircraft prior to flight. Currently meaning "let's get this aircraft preflighted and outta here, pronto"

Knife Fight in a Phone Booth ~ Close-in, slow-speed aerial dogfight with a nimble adversary. Often just called a "knife-fight".

L - "LIMA"

LEAPEX ~ A jump-through-your-a** project, exercise, or 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.

Level bust ~ A departure of 300 feet or more from the assigned level. There are a few ways a pilots can achieve a level bust. When an aircraft in level flight ascends or drops without the go-ahead from control tower. When an aircraft climbs or descends and falls short of leveling off correctly. Sometimes they pass through and continuing to climb or descend, or pass through and then come back to the correct level. Or an aircraft will level off at the right altitude only to have the wrong altimeter setting.

Lights Out ~ Radar off.

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). An official list of members is maintained.

Meatball ~ The glideslope indication light that pilots watch when they're trapping.

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

MiGCAP ~ 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, or Mom ~ The boat on which you are deployed, and where you launched from.

Mud-mover, Ground-pounder ~ Low-level attack aircraft such as the A-6 Intruder. The F/A-18 doubles as a fighter and a mud-mover.

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, responsible for rules and regulations governing the safe and correct operation of all naval aircraft.

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

NFWS ~ The Navy Fighter Weapons School, a graduate school for fighter pilots. Its universal nickname is "Top Gun".

Nice Vapes ~ Comment on an exciting fly-by when 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.

Nylon Letdown ~ Ejection and subsequent parachute ride.


OAST ~ Overland Air Superiority Training. A periodic training exercise conducted over land 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 complete.

Oversweep ~ When the F-14, on the ground, sweeps its wings to seventy-two degrees aft making it easier to store.

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. Also, an attempt at landing.

Penalty Box ~ If you get a wave off or a bolter, that's where you go.

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 to; critical scrutinization

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 of the F-14 Tomcat or F-4 Phantom.

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

Popeye ~ What you are when you're flying in the goo.

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

Pole ~ Control stick.

Prang ~ To bump, crunch, or break an aircraft.

Pucker Factor ~ How scary something is.

Puke ~ Someone 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, sometimes resulting in a crash.

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 ~ A large mock air war, held quarterly by the Air Force at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Many non- Air Force assets -- Navy/Marines, Army, foreign--are invited to participate.

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

RIO ~ Radar Intercept Officer. Back-seat crewman in the -14 Tomcatand -4 Phantom A specialized NFO

Rocket One ~ The skipper.

Roll 'Em ~ A movie. ("What time's the roll 'em?")--a nightly social event in the ready-room.

Roof ~ The flight deck on the carrier.


SA ~ Situational Awareness. An all-encompassing term for keeping track of what's happening when flying. SA involves knowing what your airplane is doing relative to its envelope, where your adversary is and what he's up to, where the ground is, the status of enemy threats on the ground, and hundreds of other variables. Loss of situational awareness is often cited as a contributing factor to many military-aviation mishaps.

SAM ~ Surface-to-air missile.

SAR ~ Search and Rescue.

Scooter ~ Nickname for the A-4 Skyhawk, used as a MiG simulator at Top Gun.

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.

Shooter ~ The catapult officer.

Sierra Hotel ~ Phonetic abbreviation for "s** hot," high praise; the pilot's favorite and all-purpose expression of approval.

Smoking Hole ~ An airplane crash site.

Sniffer ~ A device on the flight deck that checks that an aircraft is broadcasting IFF transmissions.

Snuggle Up ~ During formation flight, to close up under the wing of another aircraft.

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 (at least one Navy pilot earned the nickname "Spud" for doing just that).

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 fall out of the sky ("splash"). You respond "State two plus two zero to splash" = 2 hours and 20 minutes of flying time remaining.

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

Sweat Bead Condition One ~ This is a condition often enjoyed during a SWEATEX or when one is beaded up as far as one might go. 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. TACTS is an integral element of Top Gun training.

Tank ~ Refuel

Tango Uniform ~ Polite phonetics for "tits up"; broken, not functioning.

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

Three Down and Locked ~ Landing gear down and ready for landing. A required confirmation call prior to landing at Air Force bases. Pilots who fly fixed-gear aircraft are known to modify this call as "three down and welded".

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, take it easy.

Tickets ~ The jobs, billets, and accomplishments you need to climb the totem pole (the tickets get "punched").

Tiger ~ An aggressive pilot.

Tits Machine ~ A good, righteous airplane. Current airplanes need not apply, this is a nostalgic term referring to birds gone by. By all accounts the F-8 Crusader was a tits machine.

Top Off ~ Fill up with gas.

TransPac/Lant ~ To cross the Pacific or Atlantic by ship or aircraft.

Trap ~ An arrested landing on a carrier, a helo landing into an RSD (rapid securing device)

Trick-or-Treat ~ If you don't make this pass. you have to tank.

Turkey ~ Nickname for the F-14 Tomcat (when landing, the movement of its control surfaces makes it look like a turkey).

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 (term comes from the device that keeps the engine from overspeeding).

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


Varsity Play for the Deck ~ A skillful landing attempt.

VSTOL ~ Very Short Takeoff and Landing. Also VTOL (Vertical Takeoff and Landing) The AV-8B Harrier is a VSTOL (VTOL) aircraft. Capable of vectoring its jet thrust to shorten its take-off roll or even to rise and descend vertically.

Vulture's Row ~ A viewing gallery on an aircraft carrier's island where you can watch flight operations.


Warm Fuzzy ~ Feeling of confidence or security. When things feel right.

Warthog ~ Universal nickname for the A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support aircraft.

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

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

Whiskey Charlie ~ Phonetics for "Who cares"

Whiskey Delta ~ Phonetics for "weak dick", a pilot who can't cut it. Such a scurrilous term that it's almost never used.

Winder ~ A sidewinder missile.

Wingman ~ Second pilot in a two-ship pair. responsible for ensuring that his leader's six o'clock remains clear.

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

X - "X-RAY"


Z - "ZULU"

Zero-Dark-Thirty ~ Late into the night or pre-dawn; early. Technically a half-hour after midnight, but commonly used to describe any event that is scheduled to take place after midnight and before sunrise. Military slang for having to get up early; meaning any time of night that most people consider an unearthly hour. Also termed Oh Dark Thirty

Zone 1 ~ Minimum afterburner in the Tomcat.

Zone 5 ~ Maximum afterburner in the Tomcat.

Zoombag ~ Flight suit.

Sources: The only information about this glossary was that it was originally written by a navy skipper whose page is no longer published. There are so many copies of this online it's difficult to cite the original author.

Word Spy:
Accessed July 18, 2006.

An extreme example of pilot jargon

This is from an actual FAA transcript of a fighter pilot talking to a local tower, presumed to be from somewhere in the Southern United States.

Pilot: This is chrome-plated stove-pipe triple-nickle eight ball, angels eight, five in the slot, boots on and laced, I wanna bounce and blow.

Tower: Roger, you've got the nod to hit the sod.

The translation goes something like this:

Pilot: This is silver jet, 5558 (callsign), height 8000ft, 5 miles inbound (to the runway), gear down and locked, request permission for a touch and go.

Tower: Roger, cleared for touch and go.

The transcript has appeared in many aviation magazines and probably quite a few websites.

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