F/A-18 pilot

Pilots are a strange bunch. Whether they're flying fighters, bombers, refuellers, cargo planes or something else altogether, military pilots are unified by a common language that varies from obvious to utterly obscure. While we could write dozens and dozens of posts breaking down this sometimes strange, sometimes humorous language, today, we'll be covering basic flight communications slang, and we'll get on the combat stuff tomorrow.

Flight communications can include everything from angels and cherubs to zones, traps, balls and both wet and dry feet. No, that wasn't jibberish.

Pilots use angels and cherubs to refer to altitude, with angels designating thousands of feet and cherubs representing heights below 1,000 feet. So, for example, a pilot at Angels 22 would be flying at 22,000 feet, while a pilot at Cherubs 2 would be at just 200 hundred feet. Zones, meanwhile, represent settings for the afterburners – themselves known as blowers, burners or gates – with Zone 1 representing minimal afterburner and Zone 5 representing wide-open throttle.

When a pilot transits from flying over land to water or vice versa, they refer to it as going feet wet (or feet dry), while going home to mom refers to reporting back to the carrier, where they'll attempt to snag one of four arresting wires stretched across the deck, making what's called a trap. Before they can do that, though, they'll need to find the ball, the visual aid that informs a pilot of necessary adjustments to their approach glide slope.

These are but the most basic of basics. Tomorrow, we'll delve into some of the phrases that might pop up during combat.