Logbook Stories

from my "Standard Pilot Master Log"


Aviation Terminology for Non-Pilots

The stories here are presented primarily for pilots and I make no excuses about using terms they use and understand. However, for non-pilots, here's a short glossary of aviation terms and acronymns used in my stories. Some terms cross-reference other terms in the list below. If you need more explanation, there are other websites that go into more detail than I wish to go into here.

AME: Aviation Medical Examiner - an MD who gives pilot physicals and certifies they are fit to fly for their grade of medical qualification.

A&P: Airframe and Powerplant - an FAA license designation for an aircraft mechanic who's authorized to perform and sign off aircraft maintenance.

Approach: shorthand for "instrument approach" - the portion of the flight that uses various types of navigation aid displays in the cockpit to enable descent through clouds and into position for landing.

Approach lights: lighting systems of various configurations that make the approach end of the runway more visible in poor visibility, and usually also provide runway alignment and distance guidance.

ATC: Air Traffic Control - controls flight of aircraft under their control to prevent them from occupying the same airspace at the same time.

ATCO: Air Taxi Commerical Operator - FAR Part 135 operations, the FAA rules that govern charter flights.

ATP: Airline Transport Pilot certificate (or "license" if you prefer). The highest level of pilot certificate awarded by the FAA. Doesn't necessarily imply you're an airline pilot if you have one.

BFR: Biennial Flight Review - an in-flight review appropriate to a pilot's grade of pilot certificate. Required for the pilot to continue acting as PIC. Pilots that have aircraft type ratings take periodic check rides for their type(s) and those also satisfy the BFR requirement.

Blue line: pilot slang for multi-engine aircraft single-engine best rate of climb speed, so-called because it's marked on the airspeed indicator with a blue line.

CAVU: Clear and Visibility Unlimited.

CFI: Certified Flight Instructor - a pilot qualified to teach others how to fly.

CG: Center of Gravity - "balance point" of the weight of the aircraft and all that's loaded onto it.

Charter: flights that operate for hire on demand, and are not on a regular schedule. The customer determines when, where and for how long. aka "air taxi" for obvious reasons.

Check ride: a flight test of a pilot applicant's knowledge and skills appropriate to the certificate or rating applied for. Some check rides can be done in a flight simulator.

Clearance: an authorization by ATC to an aircraft under their control, usually including directives or limitations to be followed.

CRM: Cockpit Resource Managment - utilizing all the resources available, including other crewmembers, for in-flight decision-making.

DE: Designated Examiner - an individual authorized by the FAA to given check rides for pilot certificates and type ratings.

DH: Decision Height - the lowest altitude you can descend to on an ILS approach before seeing the runway or approach lights.

Dual: flight time that a flight instructor is giving instruction to another pilot in flight in an aircraft. Required to be logged in the instructee's logbook, and signed by the instructor.

Endorsement: a statement in a logbook signed by an authorized person of having accomplished something required.

ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival - when you expect to get there.

FAA: Federal Aviation Administration - the Dept of Transportation entity responsible for regulation and oversight of aviation in the U.S.

FAR: Federal Aviation Regulations. The "rules" for flying. There are different rules for private, charter and airline flying.

FBO: Fixed Base Operator - a business on an airport that operates to provide services to local and transient aircraft, such as fuel, maintenance, parking, hangering and catering. Frequently also operates a flight school and sells new and used airplanes.

FL: Flight Level - aircraft altitude as measured with respect to the defined standard barometric pressure at Mean Sea Level. FL 350 is 35,000 feet above MSL if the barometric pressure at MSL is 29.92 inches.

Flight time: flight time is recorded as hours and tenths of hours by universally-accepted convention. See "Hobbs meter". FAA definition includes time to taxi out for takeoff and taxi in after landing.

FO: First Officer - aka "copilot" or "Second In Command", who normally occupies the right seat in a two-pilot aircraft.

Gross Weight: the total weight of the aircraft itself and everything else loaded onboard: fuel, passengers, baggage, freight, etc. "Maximum" gross weight is the maximum allowed for a particular phase of flight: e.g. Maximum Gross Takeoff Weight (MGTOW) is the maximum gross weight at which an aircraft can begin a takeoff.

Hobbs meter: an instrument that measures time in use as hours and tenths of hours; primarily for purposes of maintenance requirements, but also as a basis for flight time, depending on how the meter is activated.

IFR: Instrument Flight Rules - rules that apply when airplanes fly through clouds and can't see and avoid other airplanes.

ILS: Instrument Landing System - a radio navigation system that provides precise vertical and horizontal guidance to the runway.

IMC: Instrument Meteorological Conditions - in the clouds - can't see through the window where you are or where you're going.

Layover: when not at home base and in between flights.

Leg: a flight from one place to another; ie one takeoff and one landing.

Logbook: a record of a pilot's flight time, type of flight time, flight conditions, time in aircraft type, etc.

MDA: Minimum Descent Altitude - the lowest altitude you can descend to before seeing the runway if you're not using an ILS.

MEL: Minimum Equipment List - an FAA-approved document that specifies what equipment is allowed to be inoperative and still go flying.

NTSB: National Transportation Safety Board - the DOT entity responsible for investigating accidents.

Ops Manual: or "Operations Manal" - a document written by a corporate flight department that details the department's policies and SOPs over and above applicable FARs.

PF: Pilot Flying - the pilot handling the flight controls.

PIC: Pilot In Command - the pilot responsible for all decisions and actions affecting conduct of the flight. Titled as "Captain" when part of a multiple-person crew.

PNF: Pilot Not Flying - the other pilot, usually handling checklists, radio communications, and tasks directed by the PF. Sometime also "Pilot Monitoring".

Pop-up: a trip not on today's schedule that needs to go ASAP; so get your pilot butt out here right now.

Private Pilot: the FAA pilot certificate that allows an individual to act as PIC of an aircraft for which they're rated, and under flight conditions for which they're rated, and to carry passengers, but not to do so "for hire".

Ramp: where airplanes park. Real pilots don't use the term "tarmac". Tarmac is what ramps are made from.

RON: Remain Overnight - go to the hotel and get some sleep; next flight tomorrow or next day.

SIC: Second In Command - assists and reports to the PIC in a multiple-person crew. Titled as "First Officer" or referenced as "copilot".

Simulator: a computer-controlled device that simulates being in an aircraft cockpit in flight but without leaving the ground. Also called "the box".

Solo: all by your lonesome in the airplane.

SOP: Standard Operating Procedures, as outlined in the company's Ops Manual.

Special VFR: an authorization by ATC to operate within airspace they control under VFR flight rules when the weather conditions are less than required by those rules.

Taildragger: an airplane with its steerable wheel under the tail, or "tailwheel" aircraft.

Transponder: a digital electronic device that works with ATC radar to automatically report aircraft position and altitude for display on ATC radar screens.

Type rating: FAA authorization for a pilot to act as PIC on a specific aircraft type; periodic check rides are required to exercise this privilege.

Unicom: a common radio frequency used at uncontrolled airports for aircraft to report their position and intentions, and for the FBO on the ground to advise of conditions and active runway.

VFR: Visual Flight Rules - rules that may be used when flight in VMC can be maintained. Sometimes used as a synonym for "not under ATC control" when operating under those rules in airspace where control is not required.

VMC: Visual Meteorological Conditions - weather conditions good enough to see where you're going and to see and avoid other aircraft using your eyeballs.