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Aviation Jargon Buster

Written by darren. Posted in All

Jargon Buster

Here are a few of the most important examples of jargon that you’ll commonly encounter when learning to fly, along with their basic definitions

  • Ab initio Refers to a training course which takes students from being a complete beginner through to the advertised standard.
  • Ailerons Found on the wings of an aircraft, these are movable sections of the trailing-edge of each wing that affect the roll of the aircraft. They are operated by the sideways movement of the control column or stick.
  • Airspace The sky is divided into different areas – or airspace. Much airspace is uncontrolled, which means you can pretty much fly in it when you want and without prior permission. However, some airspace is controlled and you require permission from the controlling authority (usually obtained in flight over the radio) before you can enter it.
  • Airspeed Indicator (ASI) Cockpit instrument telling the pilot how fast the aircraft is travelling through the air. The airspeed isn’t necessarily the same as the aircraft’s speed over the ground. For example, if an aircraft has an airspeed of 90 knots into a 20 knot headwind, its speed over the ground will only be 70 knots.
  • ATPL Air Transport Pilot’s Licence. You’ll need one of these if you’re planning to work for the airlines – although some will also accept the MPL.
  • CAA Civil Aviation Authority – regulator for aviation in the UK.
  • Charts The more common name for aviation maps used for navigation and showing areas of restricted airspace.
  • CPL Commercial Pilot’s Licence. Allows the holder to earn money from flying. This is also generally one of the steps on the way towards attaining an ATPL.
  • Drift A deviation from the intended course caused by the wind.
  • EASA European Aviation Safety Agency. The organisation which is taking over from the JAA.
  • Elevators Surfaces at the rear of the tailplane, controlled by the control column, to control the pitch of the aeroplane.
  • Flaps Control surface on the rear of the wing used to change the area and shape of the wings to allow you fly more slowly.
  • Frozen Term referring (usually) to an ATPL when the necessary ground exams have been passed but the required amount of flying time hasn’t been completed.
  • Fuselage Main section of an aircraft including the engine housing, cockpit and controls, but not the wings and tail.
  • GA General Aviation, commonly considered to refer to small aircraft, including PPL operations, but sometimes used in a wider context to denote anything that’s non-airline and non-military.
  • Ground Exams A set of examinations, usually multiple-choice, which must be passed before a pilot can get his or her licence.
  • GFT General Flight Test, the flying tests which are required for various licence qualifications. The culmination of a flying course.
  • IFR Instrument Flight Rules: a set of rules which cover flight in controlled airspace, poor weather and/or night. Not commonly used by basic PPLs.
  • IMC Instrument Meteorological Conditions, referring to weather below VMC standard. Also a rating allowing a pilot to fly in poor weather conditions, although only in the UK.
  • IR Instrument Rating, allowing a pilot to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and in any airspace. The toughest flying exam of all.
  • JAA Joint Aviation Authorities. A European organisation overseeing the formation and implementation of Joint Airworthiness Requirements (JAR).
  • JAR Joint Airworthiness Requirement, training and operational standards to which (European) JAA member States are signatories.
  • Knot Standard aviation measurement of speed, equal to one nautical mile per hour or 1.15mph. Usually shortened to ‘kt’.
  • Log book A notebook where a pilot or student pilot will record all of their flights.
  • Met Short for meteorology.
  • MPL Multi-crew Pilot Licence. A new licence which allows you to fly airliners, but will limit you to being the co-pilot.
  • NOTAM Notice to Airmen, the method by which pilots are told of permanent or temporary changes to essential information such as airspace, radio facilities and meteorological services.
  • NPPL National Private Pilot Licence, a licence allowing flight in UK airspace and in daylight hours, following a shorter period of instruction than required for a full JAA PPL.
  • P1 /P2/PICUS/PIC The status of a pilot as recorded in his or her logbook. P1 means commander, P2 is co-pilot and PICUS is pilot-in-command under supervision. PIC means Pilot in Command.
  • Pitch The nose up and down movement of an aircraft, controlled by the elevator and caused by the forward and backward movement of the control column.
  • PPL Private Pilot’s Licence – the first goal for many pilots. Also the first stepping stone to commercial or airline flying, as well as additional type and licence qualifications.
  • Radio Navigation or RadNav The world is peppered with navigation beacons – radio installations that broadcast information which can be interpreted by an aircraft’s systems and displayed on instruments in the cockpit. Radio navigation is the art of getting from A to B using the information from these beacons.
  • Roll As one wing tip goes up, the other goes down. Caused by the movement of the ailerons, effected by the sideways movement of the control column.
  • RT Using the radio to talk to Air Traffic Control. An abbreviated form of ‘radiotelephony.
  • Rudder Moving part of an aircraft vertical tail section that controls the yaw of an aircraft, controlled by the rudder pedals in the aircraft.
  • Taxying An aircraft’s self-propelled movement on the ground or, in a helicopter, just above the ground – a ‘hover taxi’.
  • Track The desired path of an aircraft over the ground. Unfortunately, due to the effect of the wind, this is rarely the same as the aircraft’s heading.
  • VFR Visual Flight Rules. Refers to the conditions under which a PPL usually flies – staying clear of controlled airspace and flying in relatively good weather conditions.
  • VMC Visual Meteorological Conditions, a set of weather criteria in which visual flight is deemed safe.
  • Yaw Side to side movement of an aircraft’s nose, caused by the movement of the rudder and effected by the rudder pedals.

Phonetic alphabet

The phonetic alphabet is used by pilots over the radio to communicate their registration in a clear and unambiguous manner. For example, the registration G-MYAT would be ‘Golf Mike Yankee Alpha Tango. The only letter not used any longer in the registration of UK aircraft is Q-Quebec as this can easily be mistaken as O-Oscar.

  • A – Alpha
  • B– Bravo
  • C – Charlie
  • D– Delta
  • E – Echo
  • F – Foxtrot
  • G– Golf
  • H– Hotel
  • I– India
  • J– Juliet
  • K– Kilo
  • L – Lima
  • M – Mike
  • N – November
  • O – Oscar
  • P – Papa
  • Q – Quebec
  • R – Romeo
  • S – Sierra
  • T – Tango
  • U – Uniform
  • V – Victor
  • W – Whisky
  • X – X Ray
  • Y – Yankee
  • Z – Zulu

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