10 Things You Never Want to Hear from a Pilot

Ever listen to "channel 9" on United, to hear what the pilots are saying? Not all captains turn it on for passengers, but when available, it's a fascinating inside "view" of cockpit communications.

But it can also offer some unwanted information. Last year, a flier listening in claimed he heard a flight attendant refer to the "idiots in coach."

That's bad, of course, but at least it wasn't a pilot.

Yes, pilots have also been known to say things you don't really want to hear. I'm talking about comments that make you cringe, but also funny stuff, too (which may leave you wondering what the heck they're doing up there in the cockpit).

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So I made up a list of the most memorable pilot lines I've heard (or heard about); I call it: Ten Things You Don't Want to Hear from Your Pilot.

#1: "Folks, We just lost one of our engines, but everything's going to be OK."

This was overheard by the mother of a network news producer. Mom's reaction went something like this: "Oh, for heaven's sake, did I really need to know this?"

Exactly, especially if everything really is going to "be OK." But maybe the pilot figured scared passengers are less likely to complain about high bag fees or paying 10 bucks for those skimpy airline salads.

It reminds me of a similar announcement on then-presidential contender Barack Obama's plane in the summer of 2008: "The emergency evacuation slide has deployed so we'll be landing now."

The candidate stayed cool and later joked with reporters, "Just thought we would spice things up a little bit today," and then added, "The pilots knew what they were doing."

#2: "Whoa, big fella?WHOA!"

A colleague swears this happened: a pilot (or co-pilot) jokingly yelled "Whoa, big fella!" over the intercom, just as her plane landed in Los Angeles.

"I know you'll think I'm stealing an urban legend," the colleague said, "like that junk that's spammed into your e-mail, but I really heard this. Maybe the pilot got the idea from his spam."

The airline in question? Southwest.

#3: "We're 22nd in Line for Take-off"

Boy, do I hate this. I was sitting on a plane at LaGuardia, when the pilot gave us the ominous news about being 22nd in line for departure. It was windy out, and when that happens they only use one runway for take-offs and landings.

What got me was that the pilot sounded kind of chipper about the whole thing. Were we supposed to be happy we weren't 35th in line? Then he said the delay would be just 45 minutes.

Hah! Fellow business travelers immediately whipped out calculators to figure the true length of the delay, and the consensus: an hour and a half (they were right). At least we made it in under the mandatory "three-hour rule" so we weren't further delayed by a trip back to the gate.

#4: "Brace for impact!"

You probably recognize this frightening phrase: it's what Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger said just before he safely landed his aircraft on the Hudson River, saving a planeload of passengers.

Your odds of being in any plane accident are incredibly small (about 1 in 11 million) but don't fool around if you ever do hear, "Brace for impact." Just assume the position.

Unfortunately, you won't have the pleasure of hearing it from Sully. He retired last year.

#5: "(?the sound of wind whistling through a hole in the plane?)"

The sound of wind? That's what some passengers could have heard on a US Airways flight a couple of years ago after a pilot's gun accidentally discharged in-flight, blasting a hole through the fuselage.

The pilot was packing legally (as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officers program), but airlines take a dim view of holes in planes and fired him. He was later reinstated when the accidental shooting was blamed on a "flawed" holster, but was told, no more guns for you.

#6: "Please Move, We Need to Balance the Jet"

A new variation on "too fat to fly"? A cargo door on a Thomas Cook plane heading from Majorca to the U.K. last year was jammed, so all bags had to be loaded up front, making the aircraft "nose heavy." The pilot ordered passengers to move to the rear to "balance things out."

I've heard of this happening on small, private jets, but this aircraft held more than 180 people -- or it did until 71 of them left, fearing for their lives.

As one scared passenger put it, "We just wanted a plane that would stay level without us being used as ballast." The plane ultimately took off with no problems.

#7: "Uh-oh? are there Mounties in Minneapolis?"

That could have been what you heard from those two Northwest pilots who overshot their destination -- Minneapolis -- by over 150 miles last year (some say it was a lot closer to 200 miles).

Were they asleep? Of course not, they said indignantly. They were on their laptops. At least they weren't partying, which brings us to #8.

#8: "Yesh, I'm pilot, wassa matter?"

Last year, a United Airlines pilot was removed from the cockpit as he was about to depart Heathrow for Chicago and was eventually charged with having too much alcohol in his system. He pleaded guilty, received a suspended sentence and enrolled in a rehab program. (United, we were told, was keeping him on the job, as he "took responsibility for his actions")

Earlier, passengers in Moscow revolted when their Aeroflot pilot greeted them with bloodshot eyes and slurred words. Airline executives told the angry fliers the pilot hadn't been drinking, and that it was no big deal anyway because the aircraft "practically flew itself!" Not reassured, the passengers left the plane.

#9: "It's 'Volunteer Taxi Time' at JFK"

The place, New York. The airline, Delta. What the pilot said on this 7 p.m. flight to Salt Lake City last week was, "Due to the traffic problems here at JFK, they've instituted a volunteer taxi time program, and we've volunteered for the 8 p.m. spot."

Why not "volunteer" for an earlier spot? Not that it would have mattered; the pilot's 8 p.m. spot wound up being a lot closer to 9 p.m. Just once, I'd love to hear a pilot say, "We have no clue when we'll take off!"

#10: "Feel free to move about the cabin, but please stay in the plane. It's cold outside."

OK, this one probably isn't true.

Chances are that your next flight will have no such interesting announcements from the cockpit, so you've got nothing to worry about. However, if you start seeing people that look a lot like the cast of "Lost" boarding your plane, you might consider rescheduling...

This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.

Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.