In this last of four online exercises on aviation English vocabulary, I'll show you and explain both the process and vocabulary/phrases used by controllers and pilots when planes are approaching the departure runway and taking off from an airport.

Click here to do the first part of this exercise on instructions when leaving the terminal gate.

Although the vocabulary used in this exercise is standard for instructions and communication between pilots and controllers, it may differ from what is sometimes used in some airports. But even if it does, once you the know the vocabulary here, you should have no problem understanding what a pilot or controller is saying.

Click here to see our other exercises on 'Aviation English vocabulary'.


Exercise: Taking off from an airport

Read the following conversation between Juan (a Spanish trainee pilot) and Peter (a professional pilot). In this part, Juan is approaching the runway where he going to take off from on a simulator. Peter is explaining to Juan the meaning of the aviation English vocabulary used to do this.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Peter:'So now we are approaching the departure runway, expect to receive more information and instructions from the controller at tower control.'

Juan:'I've justed received a message from the controller at tower control. It says 'United 231, you are number 4 for departure'. Which I suppose means I'm fourth in the queue for planes waiting to take off.'

Peter:'That's correct.'

Juan:'It also says 'follow departure procedure'. What does that mean?'

Peter:'When you are instructed to follow departure procedure, it means when you take off you have to follow the specified direction, attitude and speed instructions that you have been provided with earlier (before departing from the terminal gate). Do you remember what they are?'

Juan:'Yes I have a copy here. The controller has also instructed me to 'hold short of runway 17 on R'. But there are three planes waiting in front of me to take off. So I can't stop at the holding position.'

Peter:'Just stop in front of the last aircraft in the queue and move when they move. Make sure you read back that last message to the controller.'

Juan:'Will do.'

2 minutes later, when approaching the queue for takeoff

Peter:'Make sure that you stop at a safe distance before the plane in front of you in the queue to the runway.'

Juan:'I know, at least one plane's length. Got a message from the controller at tower. It says caution wake turbulence. I suppose it means that I have to be prepared for strong wind caused by the plane just about to take off.'

Peter:'Yes.'

4 minutes later, when at the holding position just in front of the runway

Juan:'I've got a message from the controller at the tower. He says 'runway 17, line up and wait'. Do I stay here?'

Peter:'No you don't. When you are told 'line up and wait', it means you have permission to taxi on to the departure runway to the takeoff position. So read back the instruction to the controller and follow the yellow line in front of you and stop where it ends on the runway.'

30 seconds later, when on the takeoff position on the runway

Peter:'Just before the controller gives you permission to take off, they will tell you about the wind conditions, where the wind is coming from and how strong it is. They'll say wind 210 at 3 for example.'

Juan:'I've just received this message from the controller, 'United 231, wind 90 at 5, runway 17, cleared for takeoff'.'

Peter:'You've got cleared for takeoff. So you have permission to take off. But read back the instruction (without the information about the wind) before you do.'

Juan:'Ok.'

10 seconds later

Peter:'So now start rolling.'

Juan:'What?'

Peter:'Rolling means to move the aircraft along the runway when you are taking off.'

Juan:'Ok, I'll start rolling then. Do I have to tell the controller when I'm in the air and off the runway?'

Peter:'No.'

40 seconds later, when the plane is in the air

Juan:'Just recieved a message from the controller at tower control to 'contact departure'. What does that mean?'

Peter:'When you leave the runway and are in the air, the responsibility of tower control ends. The controller is instructing you to contact on the radio a controller at departure control, who are responsible for aircraft once they have taken off and are in the air around the airport.'

Juan:'I'll contact departure control now.'


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Quiz: Airport pilot instruction vocabulary part 4

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.


1. An instruction from a controller to a pilot which gives the pilot permission to take off from a runway, is
         

Cleared for takeoff:
(phrase) This is an instruction given by the controller to a pilot. It basically means that they are permitted/allowed to take off on the runway. Once a pilot has stopped at the takeoff position on a runway, they will wait for the controller at the tower to tell them 'cleared for take off'.

Normally, the controller will give them information about the wind conditions (e.g. 'wind 90 at 5') and confirm the runway (e.g. 'runway 17L') just before saying 'cleared for takeoff'. For example, 'United 162, wind 90 at 5, runway 17L, cleared for takeoff'.

After this, the pilot has to confirm that they heard the instruction by repeating 'cleared for takeoff', followed by their plane's call sign (e.g. 'United 162'). For example, 'cleared for takeoff, United 162'. After this, the pilot will start the process of taking off.

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Cleared for takeoff:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. When a controller tells a pilot what their position is in the queue for takeoff is, they will say
         

Number 4 for departure:
(phrase) Whilst a pilot is taxing from the terminal to the departure runway, they will be told by the controller where they are in the queue for planes waiting to take off. The phrase 'number 4 for departure' (the number can be anything) is used by the controller to do this. For example, 'Iberia 564, you are number 9 for departure'.

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Number 4 for departure:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

3. When a controller tells a pilot about the wind conditions (the direction and the speed) on the runway, they will say
         

Wind 210 at 3:
(phrase) Just before a pilot is given permission to take off, the controller at the tower will inform them what the wind conditions are at the runway.

When a controller does this, they will start with 'wind' followed by the direction the wind is coming from (e.g. 90 (which means 90 degrees or east) etc...). Then they will say 'at' followed by the wind speed in knots (e.g. 5 etc...).

When the controller does this, they will normally just say the numbers for both the wind direction and speed. For example, 'wind 90 at 5'. As I said above, this information is normally given just before the pilot is cleared for takeoff. For example, 'British Airways 643, wind 90 at 5, cleared for takeoff'.

Close

Wind 210 at 3:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. When a plane is moving down a runway in the process of taking off, the movement is called
         

Rolling:
(verb) This means that a plane is moving along the ground on the runway in the process of taking off.

Normally, the pilot doesn't have to inform the tower controller that this is happening. But if they did, the pilot would say 'rolling' followed by the runway they are on. For example, 'United 643, rolling 13'.

Close

Rolling:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close

5. An instruction given by a controller to a pilot to move on to the runway and prepare for takeoff, is
         

Line up and wait:
(phrase) This is an instruction given by air traffic control to a pilot. It gives permission to the pilot to move their plane onto the runway they are leaving from and wait at the takeoff position. When the controller uses this phrase, they will say the name/number of the runway before it. For example, 'United 127, runway 19, line up and wait'.

The pilot is required to repeat this instruction back to the controller. For example, 'Tower. United 127, runway 19, line up and wait'.

They will then have to wait until they are given clearance to take off.

Close

Line up and wait:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. A warning given by a controller to a pilot to be prepared for strong winds caused by a plane taking off, is
         

Caution wake turbulence:
(phrase) 'caution' is used by a controller to warn a pilot(s) of a possible safety issue. In the case of 'caution wake turbulence', it's a warning to pilots of planes queuing to take off by a runway to be prepared for strong winds (called 'wake') produced by a plane taking off on the runway.

Normally, when the controller uses 'caution wake turbulence', they will follow it by saying which aircraft will produce it and on which runway. For example, 'caution wake turbulence by heavy Lockheed C5A departing runway 23'.

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Caution wake turbulence:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. An instruction given by a controller to a pilot which means they have to change radio frequency to receive instructions/information from a new controller, is
         

Contact departure:
(phrase) Once a plane has taken off from the runway, the responsibility for looking after the plane changes from tower control to departure control (who are responsible for coordinating departing planes in the airspace around the airport). The tower controller will instruct the pilot to contact a controller at departure control on their radio when their plane has left the ground.

The controller will normally just say to the pilot 'contact departure' to do this. Sometimes they add the name of city before 'departure'. For example, 'United 218, contact New York departure'.

It is the responsibility of the controller at departure to make sure that the plane is safely given directions whilst it is in the airspace around the airport.

Close

Contact departure:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. The details of direction, attitude and speed that a pilot has to follow after they have taken off from the runway, is called
         

Departure procedure:
(noun) Also called 'Standard Instrument Departure' or SID. Most airports have standardized departure procedures for planes to follow directly after taking off. These 'departure procedures' detail the direction, attitude and speed which pilots have to follow after departing from the airports runways.

Pilots will know about the 'departure procedure' for their flight before they start their journey (i.e. they leave the gate at the terminal). Unless any changes have been made to it, controllers will generally not talk to the pilots about them whilst the pilots are on the ground at the airport.

Close

Departure procedure:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

Close




Click here to do the first part of this exercise on instructions when leaving the terminal gate.




Practice

Now that you understand the vocabulary, practise it by creating sentences in English with the new words/phrases.

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