Aviation Vocabulary ››› 19 most important words explained


aviation vocabulary

Aviation can affect our lives in many different ways!

For some of us, seeing an aeroplane means that we are off on holiday or vacation. This can be exciting but also a little stressful to organise!

For others, maybe it means work. If you are a pilot and you sit inside a plane everyday it’s just another day for you and perhaps not as thrilling!

Whatever the case, there are so many words associated with the process of flying. We’ve compiled some of the most common terms below with useful definitions, examples and dialogues so that you can fly with confidence in your English.

The words we have for you are:

  1. Airport
  2. Flight
  3. Layover
  4. Takeoff
  5. Landing
  6. Boarding
  7. Pilot
  8. Altitude
  9. Propeller
  10. Runway
  11. Streamlined
  12. Taxi
  13. Velocity
  14. Visibility
  15. Turbulence
  16. Wing
  17. Landing gear
  18. Cockpit
  19. Navigation

This is the place where planes takeoff and land.

Example sentences:

  • I love being at the airport, its exciting and there are so many different types of people around!
  • The airport was very busy because it was Christmas and everyone was going away for the holidays.


Shirley: Oh, I love the airport!

Tim: You love it? What?! It’s horrible!

Shirley: What do you mean? It’s wonderful! There are shops, there’s great food and there are so many interesting people around us!

Tim: I hate it. There are too many people, there is never anywhere to sit and you have to line up if you want to do anything. It’s too stressful.

The process of flying.

Example sentences:

  • He took a flight to France.
  • The flight was a bit bumpy and he didn’t like it one bit.


Graham: What time is your flight again Ivan?
Ivan: Oh it’s ages away, I’ve got two hours.

Graham: Two hours?!
Ivan: Yeah, why?

Graham: Ivan, you have to be there early, 3 hours before your flight, and it takes an hour to get to the airport!
Ivan: Oh no! We better get going or I’m going to miss my flight!

When you have to wait somewhere on the way to a final destination.

Example sentences:

  • It took her two days to get to Vietnam as she had a 24 hour layover in Hamburg.
  • He took a direct flight with no layovers. That meant he didn’t have to stop along the way!


Sarah: Hey, Joe how are you?
Joe: Oh hi Sarah, thanks for calling, I’m actually in Dubai right now!

Sarah: Really? What on earth are you doing there?
Joe: I’m here on a 24-hour layover. I’m on my way to Singapore but we had to stop here on the way to refuel.

Sarah: Oh, that sucks. I hate layovers.
Joe: No, it’s okay. It gives me the chance to have a sleep and take a shower before we carry on.

When the plane leaves the ground and begins to fly.

Example sentences:

  • Takeoff always made her nervous, she didn’t like the noise.
  • She was sat on the plane waiting for takeoff when the pilot announced there would be a delay.


Freya: George, what time is takeoff again?

George: It’s at 4 o’clock, but we board at 3 o’clock.

Freya: Ah, okay, that sounds right. Hopefully takeoff is not delayed, I’m fed up of sitting here!

George: Agreed!

The process of a plane coming back down to the ground.

Example sentences:

  • Luckily, it was a smooth landing, the plane landed lightly onto the ground.
  • The pilot announced that we would be making our landing shortly.


Dave: Maurice, wake up! The pilot said that we will be making our landing shortly.

Maurice: Finally! I’m ready to get off this plane!

Dave: I know me too, the sooner we land, the better!

Maurice: I just hope it’s a smooth landing.

When people get onto a plane.

Example sentences:

  • He had paid extra so that he could complete boarding before anybody else.
  • Boarding had been delayed by two hours for no reason!


Priya: Tony, did you hear that? It’s time for boarding!

Tony: Yes, but we should stay sat down.

Priya: What? Why?

Tony: Because we are in boarding group 3. First they have to board priority boarders like families and people who paid to get on the plane first. Then they will board group 2 and then finally it will be us!

Priya: I didn’t think about that! We should stay sat down for sure!

More for you:
››› Travel, Holiday, Vacation Vocabulary and Dialogs in English
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››› 397 Travel Words to Speak Freely while Travelling and Feel

The person that drives the plane.

Example sentences:

  • The pilot announced before the flight that he would be taking a speedy route.
  • Pilots take a long time to learn to fly. It’s very important that they know exactly what they’re doing!


Hamish: What on earth are we waiting for?
Gerald: Well I think the pilot has to do a few checks before we fly.

Hamish: Oh I get it. I suppose he is a pilot after all! He will know what he’s doing better than me.
Gerald: I should think so! Pilots have to train for a long time before they are allowed to fly commercial planes.

Hamish: That makes sense. When we are up in the air, the pilot is responsible for all of us!
Gerald: Exactly! It’s a lot of responsibility.

How high in the air something is.

Example sentences: 

  • The stewardess said we were flying at an altitude of 7,000 feet.
  • As we came in to land, the altitude of the plane decreased slowly.


Finley: Wow! Greta look how high we are!
Greta: Oh yeah, the screen says we are thousands of feet up in the air. Isn’t it amazing?

Finley: I learned at school that they call that altitude.
Greta: Yes, they do!

Finley: What an experience to be able to be this high up in the air and see absolutely everything!
Greta: Absolutely, we live in amazing times.

Mechanisms that spin to allow the plane to fly.

Example sentences:

  • The pilot told us that the plane had been delayed because there was a bird in the propeller.
  • Old aeroplanes used to have wooden propellers.


Dina: Agatha, what is that spinning thing by the plane’s wing?
Agatha: I think that’s called a propeller. It helps the aircraft to fly.

Dina: Ah yes I was trying to remember the name! They have huge ones on helicopters.
Agatha: I think the aeroplane ones are pretty big too! They have to be very powerful to carry us all through the air.

Dina: That’s right. At least they aren’t made out of wood anymore like in the olden days.
Agatha: Agreed, I would be too scared to fly!

The area where planes take off and land.

Example sentences:

  • The runway always has lights around it so that the pilot can see where he is going.
  • There can sometimes be three or four aeroplanes on the runway at the same time.


Will: Wow, that’s a long road that the plane goes down. Look how fast it’s going.
Tina: That’s called the runway, Will, it’s so the plane has enough time to gather speed before takeoff.

Will: Ah yes, the runway. The one with all the lights around it.
Tina: That’s so the pilots can see the runway when they land. It’s an important part of any flight!

When a plane is adapted to fly with speed through the air.

Example sentences:

  • The plane is built with streamlining in mind so that it can go as fast as possible.
  • The materials used to build an aeroplane are designed to be streamlined.


Barry: Aeroplanes these days look so sleek and advanced, don’t you think Martin?

Martin: I was just thinking the same thing, Barry! They look so smooth. I think it’s because they’re streamlined.

Barry: Oh yeah, I saw something about that on television. That makes them faster and more efficient when they fly.

Martin: Yes, that’s right. It’s big business for companies that want to streamline their planes to make their flights cheaper!

The time taken for the aeroplane to drive from the airport to the runway.

Example sentences:

  • The pilot had announced that we would begin taxiing shortly but we were still waiting half an hour later!
  • The taxi from the airport to the runway seemed to take ages!


Pilot: Good afternoon everyone, I would like to welcome you to this flight today, we will be taking off shortly and before that we will taxi onto the runway.

Joe: Taxi?! I’m taking an aeroplane to Spain not a taxi.

Felicity: No, Joe, you fool! Taxiing is when the plane drives from the terminal to the runway!

Joe: Ah, that’s a relief. I was thinking that wouldn’t be a very good trip!

Felicity: Joe, you need to read more books.

A technical term for speed.

Example sentences:

  • The velocity of an aeroplane frightened her. It was so fast!
  • As the plane went down the runway, the velocity increased rapidly.


Dan: Wow, Ryan, we are going so fast!
Ryan: I know! On the screen it says our velocity is at hundreds of miles per hour!

Dan: Can you imagine if we were going that fast on the ground?
Ryan: It’s mind-blowing! But I don’t know whether that velocity would be safe on the ground!

Dan: Yeah, that’s very true. People could crash and get seriously injured or die.
Ryan: We’ll leave that velocity for air travel for now!

How well something can be seen.

Example sentences:

  • The flight had been cancelled because of poor visibility.
  • The pilot announced that the visibility outside was excellent and that we might be able to see the City.


Heidi: Jake, have you heard? The flight has been delayed.
Jake: Oh no! Why?

Heidi: Well they have said that it is due to poor visibility.
Jake: I suppose it is very cloudy and foggy out there.

Heidi: Yeah but I want to go! Do we really not have technology that can deal with visibility issues?
Jake: I suppose not. Be patient, I’m sure we will be on our way soon!

Pockets of air that make a flight bumpy and uncomfortable.

Example sentences:

  • Turbulence scared her and it made her feel like the plane was going to crash.
  • Despite the fact that people get afraid of turbulence, it’s completely normal and is usually no problem for the pilot.

Example sentences:

Pilot: Ladies and gentlemen could you please fasten your seatbelts as we are going to be experiencing some light turbulence. Nothing to worry about, but please for your safety return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. Thank you!
Tessa: Oh no, I hate turbulence!

Ria: Don’t worry Tessa, it’s just like going over a bumpy road. The pilot just said that it’s not serious.
Tessa: I know, but it’s more scary in the air. I’m always worried that turbulence is going to make the plane crash.

Ria: Don’t be silly! You don’t need to worry. Statistically you are much safer with air travel than you are driving a car!
Tessa: I don’t like driving a car either and you don’t get turbulence!

The mechanisms on the side of the airplane that allow it to fly.

Example sentences:

  • She had a window seat right next to the wing.
  • The wings are the most important parts of the aircraft.


Kyle: Oh, Regan, look! We have seats right next to the wing!
Regan: Yeah, so what?

Kyle: I love watching the wings while we fly, it’s really interesting to watch the different parts and how they work during a flight!
Regan: Maybe for you! I prefer watching the movies and shows on my screen!

Kyle: That’s fine, I’ll take the window seat then!

Landing gear:
The equipment that allows the plane to come back to the ground.

Example sentences:

  • It was scary when the pilot told them there was a slight problem with the landing gear, but later he told them that it was fixed and that they would take off shortly.
  • Without the landing gear, we would be stuck in the air!


Pilot: We do apologise for this delay everyone, but we have to fix the problem before takeoff.
Fiona: What? Why are we delayed now?

Bruce: Didn’t you hear? There was a slight problem with the landing gear, but they said they are going to fix it soon.
Fiona: Okay, well I suppose they have to fix it! Otherwise we would be stuck in the air forever!

Bruce: Exactly! You need the landing gear working!

The are of the airplane with the controls for the aircraft. This is where the pilot and the copilot sit.

Example sentences:

  • The inside of the cockpit was full of lights and buttons.
  • The boy was allowed to go into the cockpit and meet the pilot! He was so excited!


James: Christian, is it true your dad is a pilot?
Christian: Yeah it’s true, why?

James: I want to be a pilot one day and I was wondering if I could go and see what a real-life cockpit looks like.
Christian: I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem, he’s shown me the cockpit before.

James: Really? What’s it like?
Christian: It’s so cool! There are lights everywhere and so many buttons. There’s also a lot more space than you would expect.

James: Oh I can’t wait to see one!

Example sentences:

  • Aeroplanes have very advanced navigation systems.
  • On most flights these days, you can see a version of the navigation system on the screen.


Faye: Brian, what’s that on your screen? Is that a film?
Brian: No! It’s the navigation screen, you can see where the plane is going and how far away we are!

Faye: Cool! So do you think this is the navigation screen that the pilot sees?
Brian: I think his screen might be a little more complicated, but I might be wrong!

Now you are ready for takeoff with all of this fantastic aviation vocabulary. You can talk to pilots everywhere or even help your friends on an English-speaking airline.

Please leave any questions or comments below!

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