Emergency codes you’re not supposed to know
In the cabin
On a lighter note, a few years ago, flight attendant Charlotte Southcott revealed to Telegraph Travel some of the curious jargon used by cabin crew at 35,000 feet.
Arm and cross-check: Before departure, the aircraft’s exits are put into emergency mode. If an “armed” door is opened, the rescue slide will inflate. The cabin crew will perform a “check” to ensure that the opposite doors have been armed. When you arrive, you will probably hear “manual doors”.
Debriefing: Every little detail of every flight is recorded on the “debriefing” – including medical situations, disruptive passengers or a catering issue.
Hat bin: Another term for hanging bins (“Why are they called hatbins? Surely they’re not used for hats? Well, back in the 1960s, when flying was extremely glamorous, they were in do.”)
Hot Bite: The heated portion of an in-flight meal.
Gash bag: The garbage bag. (“Another military term, apparently, if you were the slash man in the Navy, you had all the rotten jobs”).
Landing Lips: “That last coat of lipstick we apply to look fresh as a daisy before we land.”
Plonkey Kits: A bag of essentials carried by flight attendants. (“Apparently this comes from ships’ galleys. Ours tend to have ice tongs, oven mitts, small tongs, a sewing kit, and a clothes brush.”)
Starburst: “You will see this happen when a service is started in the middle of the cabin and the carts are heading towards the kitchens.”
In the cockpit
We’ve all heard of “Mayday”, which means an aircraft or ship is in imminent danger. Fewer will know “pan-pan” (from the French breakdowni.e. breakdown), which refers to a somewhat less serious danger.
7500 is a transponder code that means an aircraft has been or is threatened with hijacking.
7700 is a more general emergency code; 7600 indicates a radio failure.
As for general pilot jargon, Patrick Smith, pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential, a book on air travel, tells us all about it:
All-call: “A request that each flight attendant report via the intercom from their station – a sort of conference call with the flight attendants.”
Last minute paperwork: “The flight is ready for pushback – then comes the wait for ‘last minute paperwork’. Usually it’s something to do with the weight and balance file, a flight plan review, or waiting for the maintenance guys to do a write-up and get the logbook in order.
Flight level: “A fancy way of telling you how many thousand feet above sea level you are. Just add a few zeros. Flight level three-three zero is 33,000 feet.
Ground stop: “This is when departures to one or more destinations are restricted by air traffic control, usually due to a backlog of traffic.”
EFC Time: “The additional expected clearance time, sometimes referred to as release time, is the time at which a crew expects to be released from a holding pattern.”
Deadhead: “A pilot or flight attendant who heads is a repositioning while on duty assignment. It’s not the same as commuting to work or engaging in personal travels.
Gatehouse: “An idiosyncratic way of saying the gate area or gatehouse.”
Ramp: Aircraft parking areas.
Driveway: A lane of traffic.
Apron: “Any expanse of tarmac that is not a runway or taxiway – areas where aircraft park or are otherwise serviced.”
At this time: “Example: ‘At this time, we kindly ask you to put away all electronic devices.’ Meaning: now or currently. This is the characteristic euphemism of air transport.
The best known code is “Inspector Sands”, or simply “Mr Sands”, which refers to a potential emergency such as a fire or bomb threat. It is used on the Underground, as well as the wider UK rail network and in theaters (“Sands” as buckets of sand would be used to put out the fire).
The numbered codes are not alarming and simply refer to cleaning work.
Code 1: Blood
Code 2: Urine or worse
Code 3: Vomit
Code 4: Spill
Code 5: Broken Glass
Code 6: Waste
Code 7: Anything that does not fit into these categories