Revealed: The weird, secret phrases used by pilots and what they mean

You're probably familiar with pilots using terms like 'take-off' or 'landing', but there's other phrases they use in every flight you don't hear - and they're far from straight-forward. 

Pilots often communicate by saying things like 'sausage sizzle' and 'I tawt I taw a puddy tat'.

It's not a joke - in fact, it's an important part of their job.

I'm pretty sure the answer is the All Blacks.
I'm pretty sure the answer is the All Blacks. Photo credit: CASA

Before I get to some of the amusing, even naughty words and phrases used by pilots and air traffic controllers, I should explain what these phrases are used for.

Imagine the sky is made up of a complex road system, just like roads on the ground. Your flight may turn onto the 'road' headed for Los Angeles and along the way there are equivalent of intersections, round-a-bouts, off-ramps and on-ramps.

These junctions in the sky are called 'waypoints'. They're navigational points dotted on maps all around the world and are used by pilots to stay on-track, when to change direction and begin their decent.

Every waypoint is made up of five letters, so things don't get too complicated when being communicated long distances via radio.

There's PRAWN off the coast of Sydney.
There's PRAWN off the coast of Sydney. Photo credit:

This is where the fun begins, and it started a while ago when these waypoints first started to be named.

Flying into Sydney, aircraft may navigate through a sausage sizzle - two waypoints, one after the other, named SOSIJ and SIZZL.

The Aussie aviation controllers have had some real fun when naming some of their naviation points.

There's GALAH, KIMMI, and in Western Australia there's a series poking fun at our rugby rivalry - "Who will win the William Webb Ellis trophy? (WHOOL WINDA WILAM WEBB ELLIS TROFE)."

"I tawt I saw a puddy tat"
"I tawt I saw a puddy tat" Photo credit: FAA

At Pease Air Force base in New Hampshire, descending pilots quote one of the most heard phrases in children's television, "I tawt I saw a puddy tat (ITAWT ITAWA PUDYE TTATT)."

Andrew's Air Force base in Maryland uses more presidential names - DUBYA, BUUSH, FORRD and RREGN. Oddly, that list doesn't feature any Democatic presdients...

More humourous sky waypoint names:

There's SPICY, BARBQ, RIBBS in Kansas.

In Vermont, there's HAMM, BURGR and FRYYS.

Whoever authorised the waypoint ARSOL (in Morocco) is probably in-line for an ASKIK (in Germany).

New Zealand has some too. There's JONAH in the Cook Strait and MULET near Nelson.

Do you know of any others? Comment in our Facebook Group.