PHRASAL VERBS OF FLIGHT
|Take Off: leave the ground. e.g. His plane took off at 6.30 a.m.|
|Touch Down: land, return to the ground. e.g. We touched down two hours ago.|
|Cut Out: (of engines) stop functioning. e.g. The engine cut out and the plan|
|Fly away / off: leave flying. e.g. She flew off into the sunset.|
|Fly by / past: pass flying. e.g. We flew past the crowd of spectators.|
|Fly in / out: enter / leave by aeroplane. e.g. The President will be flying in tomorrow to see the disaster for himself.|
|Fly someone / something in: bring someone or something by plane. e.g. The air force flew in supplies for the refugees.|
|Fly someone / something out: take someone or something by aeroplane. e.g. They flew the medical team in by helicopter.|
|Fly over: pass over something or someone in a plane. e.g. The bomber flew over the village several times before dropping its bombs.|
Fly by the seat of your pants: to operate by instinct. This phrase, which was first used by US airmen in the Second World War, refers to the feeling of whether you are going up or down (or are banking) felt by the pressure of your bottom on the pilot's seat: They have no formal qualifications so they manage the company by the seat of their pants.
To be flying blind: not know what you are doing; improvise. The expression refers to a pilot flying without being able to see where they are going, perhaps because of bad weather. In such a situation a pilot can use their intuition or instrumentation and so, by implication, someone who is "flying blind" may be able to achieve their objective: Without some serious market research we'll be flying blind in that country.
To wing it: to improvise. The expression originally referred to flying without a flight plan or even without a clear destination.
To get something off the ground: to get something started. This expression is often used in the negative (with can't /couldn't). The expression refers to a plane taking off. It dates from the 1960s and may specifically be a reference to space flight: They couldn't get their consultancy business off the ground and it closed after nine months.
To ground someone. (US and Australian English) not allow a child to go out as a punishment. A plane (or a pilot) is grounded if she, he or it is not allowed to fly: He's been grounded because his Dad caught him smoking.
To take off: to become popular or successful. The verb, which is used metaphorically to refer to products and fashions, is often accompanied by "really": That new dance has really taken off, hasn't it?
To take a nosedive: to fall sharply in value. The metaphor refers to a plane falling out of the sky, nose first: Sales took a nosedive at the beginning of the year because of the unfavourable economic climate.
To go into a flat spin: to panic. A flat spin in the early days of flight was when the pilot lost control of the plane and it began to descend in tight circles while remaining almost horizontal. The expression is also sometimes given as "to go into a tailspin". Literally, a tailspin is similar to a "flat spin" but in this case the tail of the plane is higher than the nose and the tail describes circles as the aircraft descends.
To bail out: to disassociate oneself from a risky business. The metaphor is of a pilot parachuting out of a plane that is going to crash: She didn't think the company had much of a future so she bailed out and set up her own business.
Golden parachute: a clause in the employment contract of some top executives that allows for generous compensation if they lose their jobs. A parachute lets you down gently; this one is "golden" in that it is "generous and sumptuous": The director seemed less worried by the closure than the employees -but of course he had a golden parachute.
To go pear-shaped: to go (very) wrong. This expression became popular in the 1980s but was used earlier in RAF slang. It refers to the characteristic "pear-shape" of a small plane that has crashed nose first into the ground: I was happily working away on the computer when suddenly, for no apparent reason, it went pear-shaped!.
To push the envelope: to go beyond established limits; to be a pioneer. In aviation, the "envelope" is the known limit of an aircraft's range or power. If a plane is pushed beyond its limit new possibilities are revealed: People who are pushing the envelope in biotechnology can find themselves vilified by some people and lionised by others.
To be flying low: a euphemism to tell someone that their zip is open. This expression explains why the zip on your trousers is often referred to as your "flies". The idea is that, when a pilot is flying low, he (or she) is in danger of a catastrophe: By the way, John, you're flying low!
To get weaving: to become active, begin an action. This is another piece of World War II slang from the RAF. Pilots were said "to weave" when they took evasive action by causing the plane to zigzag: Is that the time? We'd better get weaving!
On a wing and a prayer: with little chance of success (but with an optimistic attitude). The phrase comes from a World War II song based on the words of a pilot of a damaged plane radioing to ground control ("Though there's one motor gone, we can still carry on / Coming in on a wing and a prayer").
Gremlin: a goblin that breaks aircraft. Believe it or not, Gremlins were not invented by Joe Dante for his 1984 film of that name but were first imagined by RAF pilots in the 1920s. These airmen humorously blamed every fault in their aircraft on the imaginary gnomes: We seem to have Gremlins in the engine -it's not working properly.
To fly in the face of: to act in a way that ignores danger or defies logic. Apparently, the expression is a reference to someone flying into bad weather instead of trying to avoid it: You're flying in the face of common sense!
(The) Sky's the limit: there is no limit to what we can do to our enjoyment. The expression probably refers to the fact that there is no obvious limit to the sky, planes can apparently ascend indefinitely: Once you've got that professional qualification the sky's the limit.