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Pilots in Training

Uhhh... Say Again?! A Glossary of Airline Terms

By Tim Genc
July 23, 2021

At a recent pilot hiring event, I was sitting at a table with three other pilots and one non-pilot. As breakfast went on, us pilots did what we do best: we talked about piloty stuff. At one point, as we were discussing navigation aids, the acronyms were flowing freely. I looked over at the non-pilot individual with us and the look on their face was of complete bewilderment. Even though they were present for the conversation, they could not have been further from understanding it. We were "talking pilot".

Pilots have a language all of their own. Not just airplane terminology, but abbreviations and acronyms galore. As a future pilot or pilot-in-training attending pilot events and speaking with pilot recruiters, don’t be surprised if some of the words used leave you on back Earth while the pilots are up in linguistic orbit. It’s not that they are trying to impress you, (okay, maybe it is a little), it’s just such an ingrained part of their aviation makeup that it’s hard to remember what terms are commonplace and which are too specific for the average aspiring aviator.

As pilot recruiting is on the upswing, we’ve included some basic professional aviation terminology to assist you in making heads and tales of the conversation and benefits described during the standard pilot job discussion. This is, by no means, a complete or exhaustive list; it’s just a place to start.

121/Part 121: The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) that govern scheduled air carrier operations and certification, basically airlines.

135/Part 135: The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) that govern charter, or on-demand, unscheduled air service.

MMG: Minimum Monthly Guarantee. The minimum number of hours for which a pilot is paid per month, regardless of their flight hours.

Rigs: A minimum ratio of hours flown to hours paid to ensure that a pilot is paid and scheduled efficiently. Duty Rigs pay a ratio to hours on duty for a day; these can be either hours blocked/scheduled, or hours on duty. Trip Rigs pay a ratio to total hours on a trip.

Duty Time: The total time from a specified interval before your first scheduled departs to a specified time after your last trip concludes. The specified time varies with the airline.

Block Time: The total time you are scheduled to be flying. May or may not be equal to actual time flown.

ALPA: Air Line Pilots Association. The largest of the pilot unions that governs the airlines, representing 34 US and Canada-based air carriers, or approximately 56,000 pilots in North America.

APA: Allied Pilots Association. The pilot union representing American Airlines pilots.

IBT Local 357: Pilot union that represents Republic Airways pilots.

CTP Course: Career Training Program. Sometimes referred to as the ATP-CTP Course. Program created in 2013 to better prepare pilots for the airline certification world. Includes 32 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of full-motion simulator instruction. This course is a pre-requisite for the FAA ATP Knowledge Test.

Occupancy: The total number of people occupying a hotel room, whether during training or while on a trip. Single occupancy means you are the only one booked in that room by the company. Double occupancy means you would have one assigned roommate.

PFT: Pay For Training. An arrangement where, after a successful aptitude and/or technical interview, an airline will pay for the training needed for you to be qualified to work for them. Most PFT arrangements come with a contractual agreement that specifies a period of time for which the employee must work for the company in exchange for the paid training.

Training Contract: In exchange for the airline/aircraft-specific training, a pilot must work for that airline for a specified period of time, or be responsible for reimbursing the company for a percentage – if not all – of the associated training costs.

117/Part 117: Regulation dealing with flight and duty limitation and rest requirements. Intended to combat the ill-effects of fatigue and to ensure that pilots are not overscheduled.

CPT: Cockpit Procedures Training. Airline training that occurs somewhere between aircraft systems class and simulator training. Pilots sit in front of a static display or computer representation of the aircraft cockpit and learn the layout and procedures through “chair flying”.

Training Footprint: The budgeted amount of time that a training program is scheduled to take. Often does not account for training delays or additional time needed for a student to reach proficiency. Similar to a minimum estimated program.

LOFT: Line Oriented Flight Training. Simulator training toward the end of the training footprint that simulates a more standard “day in the life” of a pilot flying for the airline. This is in contrast to much of the simulator training that heavily focuses on emergencies and worst-case scenario training.

Type Rating: Specialized and aircraft-specific certification that requires training involving both aircraft systems and simulator education. Required for:
 • Any large aircraft over 12,500 lbs maximum certified takeoff weight
 • Any aircraft that is turbojet-powered
 • Any other aircraft as specified by the FAA

CRM: Crew Resource Management. Practice of effectively using all resources available to a flight crew to ensure a safe and efficient flight.

Call-outs: Standardized crew communication that occurs at set points with verbatim phrases to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening.

Flows: The standardized sequence in which procedures are performed in the cockpit, from memory, which are then revisited using a checklist.

IOE/OE: Initial Operating Experience/Operating Experience. That part of airline pilot training where instruction is being given by an airline flight instructor, or LCA (Line Check Airman) during a live flight, usually with a full complement of passengers or cargo. First Officers undergo IOE, as it is the first time they are operating that aircraft for that company. Captains normally undergo OE, as their IOE already occurred during their First Officer training.

Soft Pay: Compensation not directly related to block hours flown, including per diem, Examples include rig pay, premium pay, medical and life insurance, contractual benefits, time off and vacation accrued.

Domiciles: Also referred to as your base, a domicile is the airport location from which your scheduled trips must always start and finish.

Commuting: A commuting pilot must travel via standby or “jump seat” on an airplane from their home to their airport domicile before starting their trip, as opposed to a pilot who “lives in base” and will simply drive a much shorter distance from their home to their domicile.

Dead Head: Dead heading is not the same as commuting. Dead heading or a dead head leg is when you are on the clock – the time counts as if you were actually flying as per 117 – but you are seated in either the “jump seat” or back of the aircraft. The airline is relocating you from one airport location to another to be in a position to crew a flight. Dead heading is part of your duty time, although how it is paid varies from one carrier to the next.

Jump Seat: The jump seat is a small, folding seat either in or just outside the cockpit normally used for crew members. If a jump seat is open, a crew member from a CASS-participating airline can occupy the seat on a first come, first serve basis.

Commuter Hotel: A hotel room provided by the airline for commuting pilots the day before a trip starts or after a trip ends. Not all airlines provide commuter hotels.

CASS: Cockpit Access Security System. CASS is an electronic database that allows employment verification across airlines. This, in turn, gives access to certain privileges on other CASS-participating airlines, such as access to the jump seat.

KCM: Known Crew Member. For the purposes of airport security, the KCM program links airline employee databases together so the TSA (Transportation and Security Administration) can verify and identify the crewmember. Crewmembers can transit TSA security checkpoint with less stringent screening procedures.

Crash Pad: A crash pad is a reserved bed in a private residence or hotel offered at a discounted rate for airline crewmembers either commuting or on reserve. Crash pads are seldom single occupancy and provide little more than dorm living for pilots requiring the use of such space. Crash pads are normally paid for on a monthly basis, regardless of the number of nights/month a crewmember will require.

On Reserve: Reserve is a standby schedule for airline crews. It is a set period of time on set dates when, based on the airline and the type of reserve, you have to be within close proximity or a given amount of time from your domicile airport, in the event that you are needed to staff a flight. Time available per day and minimum time to report varies between airlines.

Segment Pay: There is a hierarchy when it comes to how you are paid for a trip in the airline world; normally, it’ll be the greatest of what you were scheduled (blocked) or what you flew. (Unless trip and duty rigs come into play.) Depending on the airline, how that “block or better” is determined may be by day, trip, week or month. Segment pay is when that “block or better” scenario is computed for each individual leg - or segment - you fly.

Trip Touching: A contractual benefit for some airlines, “trip touching” stipulates that any scheduled trip that touches the front or back end of an approved, paid vacation will be removed from your schedule, but still count toward your MMG.

Junior Manning: A practice in which, in the event that a flight is not adequately crewed, crew scheduling will call crewmembers in reverse seniority order (most junior to most senior) and, if the crewmember responds and is physically/legally able, require that the crewmember staff the open flight.

Commuter Clause/Policy: A contractual clause or general agreement that provides some protection and leniency to commuting pilots in the event that flights from their home airport to their domicile airport are overbooked or otherwise unable to accommodate them.

Per Diem: Latin for, “for each day” or “by the day”. Per diem is a rate by which pilots are paid for time away from home while on a trip to assist in daily expenses, such as meals and transportation.

AQP: Advanced Qualification Program. An alternate means of training adopted by some airlines for either initial or recurrent training. AQP uses collected data to identify areas of training deficiency to educate pilots, then purposes the de-identified data for statistical use. AQP does not incorporate traditional testing methods or results, rather allows pilots to attempt “failed” maneuvers and procedures multiple times to reach proficiency.

Proficiency Check (PC): Regularly scheduled recurrent education to ensure the airline standards and proficiency are still being met. Usually consists of a combination of classroom and simulator training.

Narrow-Body Aircraft: Aircraft with one aisle between groupings of passenger seats. It may be one to a side, two to a side, three to a side, or any combination thereof. In any case, there is only one aisle to separate them.

Wide-body Aircraft: Aircraft with two rows separating groupings of passenger seats. There will be a left, middle and right-hand row of seats, each separated by an aisle.

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