Monday, June 14, 2010

Aviation Abbreviations

I try to make each blog entry understandable in itself, even to people who aren't familiar with aviation abbreviations, but some unexplained jargon creeps in. Sometimes I think that I've explained something recently enough, or I'm in a hurry, or I forget altogether that something is an abbreviation. These things become words unto themselves after a while.

Some of the expanded abbreviations don't match the letters in the abbreviation. That's just the way life is. If I haven't expanded a particular abbreviation in the list below then either it doesn't stand for anything worth expanding, or I forget what it stands for. Definitions given are not official, complete or completely accurate, just enough to allow you to understand them in context. Some of the terms only apply in Canada and/or may mean different things in other countries. If there's no pronunciation, either I forgot to put one or I only use the abbreviation in writing and don't say it out loud.

See (or add to) the comments for variation in usage or pronunciation and pedantic expansions on the definitions.

A&P (eh 'n' pee) - American equivalent of AME

ADF (eh-dee-eff) - Automatic Direction Finder - cockpit navigation instrument that uses ground-based radio beacons. It can also be used to listen to AM radio.

AME (eh-em-ee) - person certified to supervise and sign for repairs and modifications done to aircraft

AMO (eh-em-oh) - licenced airplane repair shop

ATIS (eh-tiss) - a recorded message broadcast at some airports describing the weather conditions and the runway in use

CAME - Civil Aviation Medical Examiner - a doctor who is licenced to certify pilots fit or unfit for duty

CARs (cars) - Canadian Aviation Regulations - the rules of the air for Canadian pilots

CFS (see-eff-ess) - book listing facilities (runway, frequencies, services) information for Canadian aerodromes

ETA (ee-tee-eh) - Estimated Time of Arrival - when I think I will get there

ETE (ee-tee-ee) - Estimated Time Enroute - how much longer I think it will take to get there

FA (eff-eh) - Flight Attendant - a person other than a pilot who is responsible for passenger safety during a flight

FAF (faff) - Final Approach Fix - a point lined up with the runway a few miles back

FBO (eff-bee-oh) - Fixed Base Operator - an airplane service station at an airport

FO (eff-oh) - First Officer - a pilot who is second-in-command of an aircraft

FSS (eff-ess-ess) - 1. Flight Service Station 2. Flight Service Specialist - Source of aviation information such as weather

GFA (gee-eff-eh) - Graphical Area Forecast- A regional forecast in the form of a weather map

GPS (gee-pee-ess) - Global Positioning System - Usually refers to the GPS receiver, an instrument that provides navigation information

GPU (gee-pee-you) - Ground Power Unit - A cart with its own power that can be connected to an airplane on the ground to provide power to electrical systems or an extra boost for starting engines

IFR (eye-eff-are) - Instrument Flight Rules - 1. flying with reference to instruments alone, 2. IMC 3. capable (pilot, aircraft, etc) of #1

IMC (eye-em-see) - Instrument Meteorological Conditions - weather that requires IFR #1

LNAV (el-nav) - Lateral Navigation - A type of GPS approach

MDA (em-dee-eh) - Minimum Descent Altitude - Lowest altitude a pilot may legally descend to before seeing the runway

METAR (may-tar or meh-tar) - an hourly report on weather at an aerodrome

NDB (en-dee-bee) - Non-Directional Beacon - ground-based navigational beacon. Occasionally misused to mean ADF

NOTAM (no-tam or no-t'm) - an advisory of a change in procedure or a non-weather hazard to aviation

PIC (pee-eye-see) - Pilot in Command - 1. the crewmember on an airplane who has ultimate responsibility for the flight, regardless of who is actually manipulating the controls 2. time logged by a pilot while acting in that capacity

PPC (pee-pee-see) - Pilot Proficiency Check - 1. A recurring flight test to establish and maintain commercial qualifications on a particular type of airplane 2. the qualification thereby obtained 3. (verb) to arrange and pay for such qualifications

PRM (pee-are-em) - Person Responsible for Maintenance - the company official who is legally liable if the aircraft is not properly maintained

RNAV (are-nav) - navigation not dependent on ground facilities, nowadays usually GPS

TAC (tack) - Terminal Aerodrome Chart - a 1:25,000 chart for VFR navigation in the United States near a major aerodrome

TAF (taff) - a forecast for weather in the immediate area of an aerodrome over the next 12 to 36 hours

TC - Transport Canada - the regulatory authority that governs aviation in Canada

TSB - Transportation Safety Bureau - the Canadian body that investigates aviation accidents and makes safety recommendations

TT - Total Time - the total number of hours logged by a pilot in all aircraft

UTC (you-tee-see) - Coordinated Universal Time - a time that is the same all over the world, regardless of time zone or Daylight Savings status

VFR (vee-eff-are) - Visual Flight Rules - 1. flying by looking out the window, 2. weather that allows #1, 3. only capable (pilot, aircraft, airport, etc.) of #1 (as opposed to IFR)

VMC (vee-em-see) - Visual Meteorological Conditions - Weather that allows VFR #1

VNC (vee-en-see) - 1:50,000 scale VFR Canadian aviation navigation chart

VOR (vee-oh-are) - 1. a type of navigational beacon 2. aircraft navigational instrument that receives its information from 1

VTA (vee-tee-eh) - 1:25,000 scale VFR navigation chart for Canada

YQT (why-queue-tee) - if it's three letters and starts with Y or Z it's probably a Canadian airport identifier. It doesn't stand for anything, just represents that airport, which usually I will have already named before using this form. YQT is Thunder Bay. These aren't usually spoken in conversation unless the name of the airport is longer or harder to pronounce than the identifier.

Z or Zulu (pronounced "zoo-loo" in either form) - UTC

I'll update this as I use more abbreviations. If any explanations are missing, wrong or unclear, please leave a comment on this blog entry, and I'll add, fix or explain it. Unless you're just being pedantic, in which case I'll leave your comment for people who like that sort of thing.

If the jargon you don't understand isn't an abbreviation, try this Aviation Dictionary website.


A Squared said...

IFR - Instrument Flight Rules - 1. flying with reference to instruments alone,

Y'know, I hate to be pedantic....aaahhh who am I fooling, I love being pedantic....But IFR means flying in accordance with the instrument flight rules. It is entirely possible to be:

a) flying under IFR while controlling the plane primarily by outside reference.

b) Flying under Visual Flight Rules, while controlling the plane exclusively by reference to instruments.

Aviatrix said...

Yep, A Squared, but if you know that, you don't need this list. It's just to sort out the three ways I use the term. "The plane's not IFR." "We're going IFR." and "It's IFR at destination."

I'm surprised that was the only definition you had quibbles with.

Anoynmous said...

UTC is actually Coordinated Universal Time. The scrambled acronym is sort of a compromise between the English (which wants to be CUT) and the French version of the phrase (which wants to be TUC).

Aviatrix said...

Anoynmous I knew that: the order I had the words in didn't match the acronym either. Just an indication of how little I need to expand the abbreviation.

Critical Alpha said...

Avi, this is a pedant's paradise...For UTC I would have expected a definition which said something like: "The time with reference to the meridian of Greenwich, (the meridian of zero longitude) and therefore [your definition]

Perhaps pedantry isn't quite the right word. but fun anyway!!


Peter said...

So which of these are pronounced as words instead of initials? I would guess RNAV = "ar-nav", but what about TAF or VOR?

Anonymous said...

ATIS: Automated Traffic Information System

Or so I've been told numerous times :)

A Squared said...

ATIS: Automated Traffic Information System

Or so I've been told numerous times

repetition doesn't negate inaccuracy. ATIS is automatid Terminal Information Service. Ain't nuthin' about traffic on an ATIS recording.

Aviatrix said...

Critical Alpha, I could have longer definitions for everything, but I wanted it simple. My intent is only to make my posts make sense for the uninitiated. I may eventually link this list to formal definitions or longer explanations.

As I said in the post, it's "not official, complete or completely accurate, just enough to allow you to understand them in context."

A Squared and Anonymous have just demonstrated that it is irrelevant what ATIS stands for, because pilots happily use it without knowing or agreeing on the expansion.

bgpeteb has a very good point. I just got caught out the day before yesterday asking at an Alaska FBO for a Tee Eh See chart. The person looked at me funny and sold me a tack. I'll add those.

aluwings said...

@ A Squared re: Ain't nuthin' about traffic on an ATIS recording.

'Cept us oldies may recall when the broadcast used to end with "Keep alert and watch for traffic." But now that I think about it, that probably applied only to the longer hourly broadcast of area weather conditions. I wonder if that feature of aviation weather dissemination still happens somewhere?

Traveller said...


I agree with you on RNAV.

I've always pronounced TAF to rhyme with "laugh". I've never heard VOR as anything but "spelled out". I hear "vor" and I think of Barrayar. :-)

gmc said...

FAF is pronouced as a word - i.e. "Faph."

All these pronouncation guides remind me of this catchy little ditty - dedicated to those of us who must take regular eye-tests for our pilot licences:
click I M 4 U for a Sample

I-M-4-U S-I-M S-I-M




I-M-I-N-U U-R-I-N-2

S-E-Z-2-C B-B


I-M-4-U S-I-M S-I-M


I.M.4.U 1955
Marino/ Melis
Paar/ Haskell

Aviatrix said...

Thanks gmc, looks like I managed to skip that one. Your CAME has a different eye chart than mine.

zeeke42 said...

FWIW, AME is the US equivalent of CAME.

Anonymous said...

Critical Alpha, you don't even want to think about starting to turn this into a pedant's paradise, especially if you bring up time.

For example, UTC is not in fact "with reference to the meridian of Greenwich," though with the regular addition of leap seconds (at least so far, whether this practice will be continued is under hot debate) it does more or less track UT1, which is mean solar time at Greenwich.

To this point, if you don't care about being up to about 0.9 seconds out (not that anybody here would be that sloppy), you could use the term "UT" instead, to make it ambiguous as to which UT you were referring.

As for the future of leap seconds, I think that pilots should step up and volunteer to help out. If we simply banned all eastward trips of more than a certain length (dependent on latitude, of course), instead going the long way 'round to the west, this might stop the slowing of the earth's rotation enough that UTC would stay in sync with UT1 without having to add leap seconds. So, what do you all think?