I have heard some slang terms used mainly by ATCs:

  • follow the black holes
  • taxi not too deep
  • how is your ride

What do they actually mean and are there others?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ The first two seem unusual (at least to me), where exactly did you hear them? And did you hear them in English or another language? The last one is ATC asking for a PIREP to find out what the flying conditions are like, possibly because another aircraft nearby is experiencing turbulence and is looking for a better (smoother) level to fly at. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the first 2 really are unusual, that's why I used the word SLANG. I have hear on QRG from MIA and ORL. And, they were heard in English, for sure. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ What country are we talking about here? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 19:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you have any recordings, or a link to liveatc.net? If we could hear the complete conversation then it might be clearer. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 22:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Something like these: During taxi phase: FOLLOW THE BLACK HOLES (it seems to be, follow the twin engine aircraft, leading you); CLEARED PUSHBACK, NOT TOO DEEP, THERE IS A TRAFFIC PASSING BEHIND YOU (it seems to be, turn right or left soon, to avoid traffic, passing right to left or vice versa)...I don't know. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


Follow the black holes

I have no idea about this one. I looked at the airport diagrams and arrival/departure procedures for MIA, MCO and ORL and I couldn't see anything that seems like it could be confused with the words "black hole". So, I have two guesses:

  • It's the code name for a set of local taxi instructions
  • As you suggested, it's the controller's slang for "the twin-engine aircraft in front of you", i.e. the black holes are the exhausts

I think the second possibility is very unlikely, though. A controller at a major international airport - which implies many pilots with English as a second language - is unlikely to use non-standard phrasing for a critical instruction like which aircraft to follow.

Taxi not too deep

This one is a lot clearer from the updated comment you gave: "CLEARED PUSHBACK, NOT TOO DEEP, THERE IS A TRAFFIC PASSING BEHIND YOU". That's exactly what it sounds like: the aircraft was cleared to push back from the gate, but the ground controller was warning the pilot not to push back too far ("too deep") because of another aircraft passing behind.

How is your ride?

This one is ATC asking a pilot for a PIREP. That could be because another aircraft nearby is in turbulence and trying to find a smoother altitude, so the controller asks other aircraft about the ride at their flight levels. Or, since you heard this in the US, it could be for this reason, from the AIM section 7-1-20:

FAA air traffic facilities are required to solicit PIREPs when the following conditions are reported or forecast: ceilings at or below 5,000 feet; visibility at or below 5 miles (surface or aloft); thunderstorms and related phenomena; icing of light degree or greater; turbulence of moderate degree or greater; wind shear and reported or forecast volcanic ash clouds.

Are there other examples of slang?

I'm sure there are, although slang in general is discouraged because of the potential for misunderstandings. The FAA has a pilot/controller glossary to make sure that everyone is using the same words and phrases as far as possible (ICAO provides one too), but that doesn't mean that people always stick to it 100% of the time. Ex-military pilots - and controllers - in particular sometimes use some military terminology (e.g. bingo fuel) out of habit (presumably) even though they really shouldn't in a civilian setting.


"Follow the black holes" doesn't sound like a good thing. A "black hole approach" is an optical illusion during night approaches when there isn't any light between you and the approach array. You tend to and up flying too low and crash short of the runway. So, "following the black hole" sounds to me like ATC is telling you to believe the illusion.

"Taxi not too deep" sounds like alternate phraseology for "land as short as possible and exit quickly". ATC will give this instruction when something bigger or faster is coming in behind you.


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