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Dec 4, 2009

"Retard, retard" (Is that an insult?)

Is the autopilot insulting the pilots when an airplane lands? Press the play button below to listen the sound of an Airbus A320 during the round out and flare:

A320 50-30-20- Retard Retard sound bite

Here is an answer:

""French Insult?


Whenever I'm sitting in first class on an Airbus, I hear the computer call out the altitude just before landing. I also hear it say "Retard". What exactly does that mean? I thought it must be the signal to deploy spoilers and reverse thrust.


No, it's nothing to do with the spoilers or reverse thrust. The word "retard" is a reminder to pilots to bring the thrust levers to idle during the landing maneuver, known as the "flare," just prior to touchdown. If the autothrottles are engaged, which they are most of the time on highly-automated aircraft such as the Airbus, the thrust will go to idle on its own just prior to touchdown on landing.

On Airbus planes, the thrust levers themselves don't move with the autothrottles engaged, so it’s a reminder for the pilot bring the thrust levers all the way back to idle to match the thrust setting of idle for landing. If the pilot ignores the directive, the thrust will still be at idle, however, regardless of the position of the thrust levers.

If the autothrottles aren’t on (they're left off sometimes for practice), then it’s telling the pilots to bring the thrust to idle by bringing the thrust levers back all the way. It’s basically the same directive as when the autothrottles are engaged, but in one case it’s a reminder that thrust is being reduced automatically, and in the second case it’s a reminder to the pilot to reduce the thrust manually.

Here's an interesting tidbit. I noticed during my eight years on the Airbus that the fact the throttles don't move when the autothrottles are engaged drives a lot of guys nuts, but, for whatever reason, the women I flew with didn't seem to mind. This held true for me as well. It didn't bug me that the thrust levers didn't move when the thrust was changing, but many of the guys I flew with said it just didn't seem right and they found it mildly disconcerting.

By the way, there is another theory that the word "retard' is said by the airplane to pilots as an insult by a French airplane to Americans who fly it, but it's conceivable our imaginations may be a tad too active. C'est la vie!""

Here is more about autoland procedures:

(BTW: Do NOT click "Back to Table of Contents" on the bottom of that page since there is strange html code on those pages. What ever the linked page was ok.)

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