Snakes on a plane? Sure, but in Irish

The language of aviation is English, and even in languages less endangered than Irish, aviation terms commonly are relatively raw borrowings from English. However, we sure can do better. So, here are the parts of a plane.

The plane itself is eitleán, which is a masculine word (an t-eitleán, an eitleáin, na heitleáin, na n-eitleán), but typically referred to with a feminine pronoun (the same applies to boats, ships and other vehicles). In old days, most eitleáin had a lián which is a propeller, attached to a seafta liáin or a propeller shaft for the traiseoladh cumhachta or transmission of power from the engine, inneall. Small planes even today usually have an inneall comhbhuailteach or inneall frithingeach, i.e. a reciprocating engine, and such an engine has sorcóirí, cylinders, and loiní – pistons – the way the internal combustion engine or inneall dócháin inmheánaigh of a gluaisteán has. You can call a reciprocating engine a piston engine – inneall loiní – too. Loine is a feminine word: an loine, na loine, na loiní, na loiní.

However, passenger planes these days are usually jet planes, scairdeitleáin. A jet engine is called scairdinneall, and it has a compressor – comhbhrúiteoir – for air intake (aer-iontógáil). Behind the compressor there is the combustion chamber, cuasán dó (or maybe cuasán dócháin!), where the breosla or fuel is consumed, and then the stream of fuel turns the tuirbín or turbine. There are also turboprop engines – inneall turba-liáin – and turbofan engines – inneall turba-fean. That word looks like a very raw loanword indeed.

The main part of the plane is the cabhail or fuselage – it is a feminine noun, an chabhail, na cabhlach, na cabhlacha, na gcabhlach. Inside the fuselage you’ll find the cábán or cabin, with the stewards and air hostesses – in Irish, both are called óstach or aeróstach, and this is a first-declension masculine noun: an t-aeróstach, an aeróstaigh, na haeróstaigh, na n-aeróstaigh. For cabin stewards, the word stíobhard can be used too. It is an old and well-established loanword (and even in my country’s first language the word used is “stuertti”, so using stíobhard is just fine).

A modern aerlínéar (airliner) will fly at high altitudes – sroichfidh sí an-airde agus í ag déanamh a bealaigh, tá a fhios agat. So, it is necessary for the cabin to be pressurized or brúchóirithe. Note the similarity of aerchóiriú ‘air-conditioning’ and brúchóiriú ‘pressurization’ – the second one means, word by word, ‘pressure-conditioning’. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Both are part of the córas rialaithe timpeallachta or environmental control system.

An aircraft has also something called eitleonaic or avionics. I must say I am not particularly happy with this Irish term, which is an English-modelled abbreviation for leictreonaic eitilte (flying electronics, or aviational electronics), but I guess it’s more compact than leictreonaic eitilte after all. Eitleonaic includes such stuff as uathphíolóta (autopilot), rabhchán raidió neamhthreo (non-directional radio beacon), córas an-ardmhinicíochta uile-raoin (Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range system, or VOR), gléasra fadtomhaiste (distance measuring equipment, or DME), trasfhreagróir (transponder), córas tuirlingthe ionstraimí (instrumental landing system or ILS), not to mention an Córas Suite Domhanda or GPS.

A plane obviously has sciatháin or wings (singular form: sciathán, a wing), with flapaí (flaps) and coscáin eitilte (air brakes) as well as ailearáin (ailerons).  The tail of the plane usually consists of a cobhsaitheoir ingearach (vertical stabilizer) with a stiúir (rudder) attached – this is a feminine noun: an stiúir, na stiúrach, na stiúracha, na stiúrach – as well as a cobhsaitheoir cothrománach or horizontal stabilizer, with a rialtán airde or elevator (the Irish word means “altitude controller”).

The eitleán is steered by the píolóta who is a professional eitleoir. He is assisted by the loingseoir eitilte (navigator). possibly even an innealtóir eitilte (flight engineer). They are sitting in cró an phíolóta (cockpit). They have a lot of ionstraimí (instruments, gauges) to attend to, but nowadays with everything computerized and electronized, so that they have just computer displays instead of those gauges, and they can choose which instruments they want those displays to show – this is called cró gloine (glass cockpit).

Planes land on an aerfort (actually aerphort would be etymologically better, as a spelling). Or maybe it is just an airstrip. aerstráice. Landing itself is tuirlingt, and landing-gear is fearas tuirlingthe. (The focloir.ie website gives also an alternative expression, cosa tuirlingthe, i.e. landing feet, which sounds excellent to me.) The place where the plane lands is the same place where it takes off, i.e. a runway, rúidbhealach. A taxiway is raon innealta, or bealach innealta – the participle innealta is associated with the verb innill!/inleadh “to set, to order, to array”. And of course it is important for the pilot to stay i dteagmháil raidió with the crew in the túr rialúcháin, control tower.

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