These bush pilot and general aviator slang expressions were compiled from various on-line reference sources, and books on bush pilots and early aviation history in Canada's North, particularly the Northwest Territories. It includes both Canadian and American pilot slang and is a mix of Northern expressions, official acronyms and other interesting phrase usage.
ACA: Arctic Control Area.
Are You Red-Eye?: As in: "Are you ready for a late night flight?"
AWOS: Automated weather observation systems.
Bag: Flight suit or anti-exposure suit. Also, as in hunting: "He went down, but he bagged a moose so he was OK." Or, "He bagged his limit."
Bag Season: Cold weather requiring anti-exposure gear which is very restrictive, uncomfortable and unpopular.
Bambi: Deer, venison. As in: "Let's get us a bambi for dinner."
Bambi Bucket: Fabric container slung from a helicopter and used to carry water to fight forest fires.
Barnstormer: Early pilots who risked death by performing stunts in farmers' fields and airshows. Many went on to become bush pilots.
Beaded Up: Worried or excited. Nervous sweat. As in: "The engine started sputtering a bit and he got all beaded up."
Bearcat: All purpose expression used to describe extreme cold or a blizzard – or extremely hot weather – or a storm – or a woman. As in: "It's a bearcat out there!" or, "She's a bearcat."
Bear Insurance #1: Gun.
Bear Insurance #2: Slower runner than you.
Bent: Damaged or broken.
Big Empty: Alaska, Arctic Region.
Bootin'er: Also, Given'er: Full throttle. Go full speed.
Bought the Farm: Died. From the practice of reimbursing farmers for crops destroyed due to early aviation accidents on their fields, often by student or novice pilots.
Bounces: Touch-and-go landings.
Break Up: Spring break up. A time when travel in the North becomes difficult or impossible, because the ice is not safe to land or take off from, but the waterways and roads are not yet ready to use either.
Bug Juice, Mosquito Dope: Mosquito repellent.
Bunny Boots: Big, white, rubber boots that keep your feet warm up to -65 degrees. Also called Anoraks.
Bush Pilot: A pilot flying into remote areas.
Bush Plane: Aircraft outfitted with tires, skis or pontoons and flying into remote areas. "Float plane" is a more accurate term for planes equipped for landing on water.
Bush Repairs: Do it yourself job. Repairs in the bush, often without proper tools or supplies.
Bushwacky: Someone who has gone a little crazy, especially after a long winter. As in: "He's gone a little bushwacky."
C of A: Certificate of airworthiness.
Cabin Fever: Craziness that happens when spring takes too long a coming or if you are cooped up in an aircraft too long.
Carb Icing: Frozen water in the carburetor causing engine to stop working.
CARs: Canadian Aviation Regulations.
Cat Train: Caterpillar tractors hauling heavy loads on Great Slave Lake and other locations.
CAVOK: Pronounced CAV-okay (ceiling and visibility OK), visibility at least ten kilometres, with no cloud below 5,000 feet, with no rain, snow or fog etc.
CAVU: Ceiling and visibility unlimited. Visibility in excess of ten kilometres. Cloudless or scattered cloud conditions. Also used by pilots to describe anything that is highly desirable.
Ceiling: Height above ground or water of the base of the lowest layer of cloud below 20,000 feet which covers more than half of the sky.
Checking for Light Leaks: Taking a nap (refers to the eyelids).
Cherubs: Altitude under 1,000 feet, measured in hundreds of feet. "Cherubs two" means 200 feet.
Chop the Engines: Abruptly turn off engines.
Close the Barn Doors: Bring the wing flaps up.
Cold Nose: Radar turned off. Also known as "Lights out."
Colourful Actions: Showing off, or ignoring safety.
Combat Dump: A bowel movement before flying.
Commuter Puke: Regional airline pilot.
Corporate Guy: Pilot that flies for a large company.
Dangle the Dunlops: Extend the landing gear.
Dead Heading: Pilots flying as passengers.
Dead Reckoning: From "deduced reckoning." The process of estimating one's current position based upon a previously determined position, or fix, and advancing that position based upon known or estimated speeds over elapsed time and course.
Deadstick: Descent and landing with engine(s) shut down and propeller(s) stopped. Flying with no engine power.
Delta Sierra: "Dumb Shit" aka a stupid person or anyone other than yourself.
DEW Line: Distant Early Warning, an array of aircraft and missile tracking stations set up across the north by the US and Canada during the Cold War to guard against nuclear attack from Russia. Serviced by bush pilots as well as military personnel.
Dope: Glue-like varnish used by bush pilots for patching fabric aircraft. Also means any "quick fix," as in: "Just dope it up, we gotta get outta here before nightfall."
Down: Broken or not flying. A pilot is never sick, he's "down."
DR: Short for Dead (deduced) Reckoning. Plotting position by calculating the effect of speed, course, time and wind against last known position.
Drop In for Lunch: Crash.
Dry: Without fuel, as opposed to wet with fuel.
DZ: Drop zone, for parachuting, water bombing etc.
Egg Beater: Helicopter, or "Helo."
ELT:Emergency Locator Transmitter. Used to help locate downed aircraft.
Empty Weight: Weight of plane, including fixed equipment, unusable fuel, oil, hydraulic and other fluids.
Envelope: The maximum performance parameters of an aircraft. "Pushing the envelope" is taking something to the edge of disaster.
Feet Wet/Dry: Flying "over-water or "over-land."
FIFI: "F*ck it, Fly it." As in: "We're going anyway."
Fish and Worm Branch: Wildlife officers.
Flathatting: Unauthorized low-level flying and stunting. Can prove career altering, sometimes fatal.
Floor: The ground.
Flying Blind: Flying using instruments only.
Flying Side Saddle. Also, The Plumber, Mario: Flight engineer.
FM: As in: "It's f*cking magic." Used to describe high tech equipment, or anything you don't understand.
FOD: Foreign object damage from runway debris, Canada geese, etc.
Foot Slogger: Name for a pilot who has to walk out of the bush after crashing or mechanical breakdown.
Freeze Up: Time when lakes, rivers, roads or muskeg are frozen enough to land or travel on.
Freight Dog: Cargo pilot.
George: Auto-Pilot. As in: "Tell George where to go!"
Get the Roller Skates Up or Down: Extend or retract the landing gear.
Give'er: Work hard. As in: "Let's just give'er for another hour so we can get outta here."
Given'er: Full throttle. Go full speed. As in: "I was really given'er when I took off!"
Gizmo: Any technical gear. Also, doodad or thingamabob.
Glareshield: Airplane dashboard.
Go Juice: Fuel or coffee.
God: The big boss. Any ultimate authority.
Goo: Clouds or bad weather that make it impossible to see.
Goon Up: Screw up.
Gorby: Derogatory term for tourists.
Got a Rocket: To receive a dressing down (Max Ward).
Graveyard Spiral: Maneuver that goes badly wrong and the plane spirals out of control. Sometimes results in the pilot hitting the floor (ground) – not a good thing.
Greasing It: Smooth landing.
Great Day for Ducks: Heavy rain or fog.
Green Apple: The control knob for the cockpit's emergency oxygen supply.
Griz: Short for grizzly bear or grumpy old timer. Somebody that's been in the bush too long.
Gun‘er: Speed up. Give her more gas. As in: "Get the hell outta here. There's a (blizzard, grizzly) coming."
HAA: Historic Aircraft Association.
Had to Go Missed: Made a missed approach or go-around.
Hangar Queen: Any aircraft that suffers frequent or chronic "downs."
Hardly Out of Rompers (Diapers): New pilot, greenhorn.
Having My Head Up and Locked: As in: "I was all caught up in work and forgot my wife's birthday."
Hunting Wabbits: Off the runway – in the bush. Also see rabbit lights, flashing lead-in runway approach lights.
Ice Fog: Thick fog made of suspended ice particles, making visibility very difficult.
INCERFA: Uncertainty phase of search-and-rescue procedure.
Indian Night Noises: Any ominous or spooky creaks, groans, pops, and shudders of an aircraft during flight.
Jerry Can: Usually military surplus cans used for hauling extra fuel.
Jerry Rig: Makeshift repair job until pilot can get back to civilization. Similar to bush repairs. As in: "I just jerry rigged the broken wing strut with a spruce pole and some binder twine. Got back to camp in time for dinner."
Joe Job: Low-class, low-paying job. Also, any job other than flying.
Keep the Shiny Side Up -- Keep the Dirty Side Down: Fly straight at level (not inverted).
Kerfuffle: Flurry of agitation, confusion, activity. As in: "He caused quite a kerfuffle when he was overdue for his rendezvous by three days."
Kerosene. Also, Go Juice, Dinosaur Juice: Fuel.
Killer Bomber: Something good.
Light the Fires: Start the engines.
Lights Out: Radar off.
Lost an Engine: Engine was shut down, or engine quit.
Lost the Bubble: Got confused or forgot what was happening.
Lucky Factor: Luck. As in: "His lucky factor got him out of trouble again."
LZ: Landing zone.
MAP: Missed approach point.
Mayday: International radio distress call. From the French, "m'aidez" or "help me." Used to signify imminent danger to life requiring immediate assistance.
Mile High Club: Did IT in an airplane.
Muskeg: Northern swamps, notorious for mosquitos, hard slogging, and long detours – and for swallowing bulldozers and other equipment. Treacherous to land on, to say the least.
My Airporter, or My Commuter: Old, beat-up car that a pilot drives to and from the airport.
My Fun Meter is Pegged: As in: "I am not enjoying this at all." But also, as in: "Now we're having fun." Can be used in any life-threatening situation.
No Joy: I don't have air traffic in sight.
No-Load: An underachiever (think Bart Simpson flying a bush plane).
OAT: Outside air temperature.
OEM: Original equipment manufacturer.
Oh-Dark-Thirty: Middle of the night or very early morning.
On the Step: The engine has been gunned for take-off and the floats are just skimming the surface.
Opportunity to Excel: A disagreeable job without the time or resources to properly complete.
Pingos: Tall volcano-shaped ice domes – important landmarks when flying in NWT, especially near Tuktoyuktuk.
Plumber: Inept pilot.
Popeye: What you get when you're flying in the goo or a white-out.
Power Puke or Power Barf: Projectile vomiting. Airsickness.
Pranged. Also Pranger or Pranged It In: Good all-purpose word. To have a rough landing. To break something.
Prop Wash: The air behind a running propeller.
Proximity Event: Near mid-air collision. Close call. As in: "I had to get outta there, ‘cause I had a proximity event with a grizzly."
Pucker Factor: Depends on how scary something is.
Puke: Someone who flies a different kind of aircraft than you or who flies for a different airline.
Pull the Chocks: Ready depart the gate, pull the blocks of wood under the airplane's wheels. Alternate: Get ready to go.
Punky: Rotten ice on rivers or lakes that makes landing planes dangerous, particularly in late spring or with an early or unexpected thaw. Also used to describe someone who is a little "bushwacky" or soft in the head, especially after a long winter in the bush.
Purple Airspace: Special temporary airways reserved for flights by members of the royal family.
Put a Log on the Fire: Warm up the cockpit or cabin.
Put Out the Boards: Extend the speed brakes.
Rabbit Lights: Flashing lead-in runway approach lights.
RCC – Rescue Coordination Centres: Like 911 for aircraft and ships.
Rendezvous: Pre-scheduled meeting time for a bush pilot and his passengers, often at a remote location. As in: "There was a blizzard so he didn't make his rendezvous."
Riding Shotgun: Co-pilot or any assistant.
RON: Remain over night. Night-stop. Sleep-over.
SA: Situational awareness. An all-encompassing term for keeping track of what's happening when flying. Also, like "keeping your eye on the ball."
Sandwich Meat: Mountain goat or other hard-to-get game.
SAR: Search and Rescue.
SARTECH: Search and Rescue Technician. Often the first on the sight of a remote crash site or other accident.
Satcoms: Satellite communications.
Scud: Low clouds or rain.
Shoe: Short for "blackshoes," a derogatory term for non-flyers (apparently aviators wear brown shoes).
Shoot an Approach: To make an approach to a runway using radio guidance, instead of outside visual references.
Sierra Hotel: "Sh*t hot." High praise. Pilot's all-purpose expression of approval.
Skippy: Junior crewmember.
Smokejumpers: Firefighters who parachute into a location to fight fires.
Smoking Hole: An airplane crash site.
Snuggle Up: During formation flight, to close up under the wing of another aircraft. Also, flying in close proximity to other aircraft, trees, mountains etc.
SOB: Souls on board. The number of persons on board an aircraft.
Socked-in: Air traffic grounded by bad weather.
SOP: Standard operating procedure.
Soup or Pea Soup: Overcast weather or thick fog.
Squawk: Transponder code used to identify the aircraft on radar.
Sundog: A large, noticeable circle around the sun on very cold days.
Sweet: Up and working.
TAF: Terminal Area Forecast.
Tally Ho: Air traffic in sight.
Tango Uniform: Polite for "tits up." Broken, not working.
Tarp: Short for tarpaulin, heavy canvas used for covering plane engines to keep snow and ice out. Also used for makeshift or emergency shelters.
Three Dog Night: So cold that two dogs won't keep you warm. You'll need at least three!
Tiger: Aggressive pilot.
TO: Take-off (sometimes TKOF).
TODA: Take-off distance available. Also, TODR, take-off distance required. And, TORA, take-off run available.
Top Off: Fill up with gas.
Totalled: Complete wreck.
Track: Actual flight path of an aircraft over the ground.
TransPac/Lant: To cross the Pacific or Atlantic by ship or aircraft.
TSB: Transportation Safety Board of Canada.
Turn the Tuna: Give the passengers an announcement from the cockpit.
Tweak: To fine-tune or adjust.
Uncontrolled Landing: Crash.
Up to Speed, or Up to Snuff: To know what's going on. As in: "I'm ready to take off. The other pilot brought me up to snuff."
U/S: Unserviceable, or not working, when applied to an aircraft or its equipment.
Used the "Auger-in" Checklist: Crashed.
VFR: Visual Flight Rules.
Volmet: Continuous recorded broadcasts of weather conditions at selected airfields.
Warm n' Fuzzy: Things feel right. Feeling of confidence or security.
Wash Out: To not make the grade at flight school (or on the new job, or on a date etc).
Wearing Your Cargo: What happens to a pilot and his passengers if there is a hard landing and cargo is not properly secured.
Wheels in the Well: The landing gear is up.
Whiskey Charlie: "Who cares."
Whiz Wheel: Circular flight computer (Pilot's version of a slide rule, but who knows what a slide rule is anymore).
WIP: Work in progress.
WOXOF: Indefinite ceiling zero, sky obscured, visibility zero, fog. In other words, bad flying weather.
Yellow Side Up: Flying upright.
Zero-fuel Weight: Maximum permissible weight of an aircraft beyond which any additional load must be in the form of fuel.
Zero-timed: Overhauling an aircraft engine to "service limits." Not the same as "good as new" or factory remanufactured.
Zoombag: Flight suit.
Zulu or Z: Worldwide for times of flight operations. Formerly Greenwich Mean Time, now Co-ordinated Universal Time.
Ice Pilots Dispatch
Loading Ice Pilots NWT Twitter Feed...