The Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings
The aviation industry has its own vocabulary of hundreds of aeronautical terminology. Here you can find the most popular aviation terminology as well as a few that are not so frequent. Some terms are derived from French, German, and even military terminology, although English is always the official language of aviation.
You must master the abbreviations, slang, and aircraft navigation terms and meanings. Aviation language is dominated by acronyms. This dictionary includes definitions of common airline jargon. We have prepared a vocabulary that includes both standard pilot terminology and humorous expressions. A “handshake” in aviation has a very different meaning than you may imagine!
Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings
These are some of the aircraft navigation terms and meanings:
- ADF (Automatic Direction Finder): is a navigation system that determines the relative bearing of an aircraft using a radio beacon transmitting in the MF or LF spectrum.
- True North: The geographic north pole is located at the northernmost point of the Earth. Due to the rotation of the earth in respect to the earth’s magnetic field, true north is not the same as magnetic north.
- Magnetic North: The northern location where the Earth’s magnetic force exerts the greatest downward thrust. A magnetic compass would point downwards if you were standing on magnetic north. Magnetic north is in a different place than true north due to movements in the Earth’s core.
- Magnetic Variation: refers to the angular difference between magnetic north and true north. Also referred to as declination.
- Magnetic Deviation: A magnetic abnormality that affects the compass is a “Magnetic Deviation” The aircraft’s magnetic compass is impacted by electromagnetic and magnetic disturbances.
- Compass Heading: refers to the magnetic heading of the aircraft corrected for deviation. The deviation is typically found on a compass card or a sign beside the compass, and it differs by no more than two degrees. There are still more aircraft navigation terms and meanings, read on!
- “Magnetic Course“: a correction to the true course for magnetic variation.
- “Magnetic Heading“: refers to the correction of the true heading for magnetic variation. The magnetic variation can be determined using a sectional map.
- “True Course“: refers to the flight path of an aircraft relative to true north. Using a navigation plotter and a sectional map, the true route of a vessel is determined.
- “True Heading“: refers to the actual course corrected for wind.
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Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings: Speeds
These are the aircraft navigation terms and meanings relating to the aircraft’s speed:
- Accelerated Stall: refers to a stall that happens at a higher airspeed than typical due to a greater load factor (g).
- “Calibrated Airspeed” (CAS): Airspeed indicated that has been compensated for instrument or positional errors. The calibrated airspeed can be found on the airspeed indicator or in the pilot operating handbook.
- “Indicated Airspeed” (IAS) refers to the airspeed as indicated by the airspeed indicator. Already know this? Read on for more aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
- Groundspeed (GS): The actual speed at which an aircraft travels over the ground. The groundspeed is the true airspeed adjusted for the wind. The ground speed of an aircraft can be calculated using a flight computer.
- True Airspeed: The real speed compared to the surrounding air. True airspeed is calibrated airspeed with nonstandard pressure and temperature corrections applied. A flight computer can determine the aircraft’s actual airspeed.
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Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings: Altitudes
These are the altitudes of aircraft navigation terms and meanings:
- “Adverse yaw”: This is when the nose of the aircraft rotates away from the direction of turn.
- “Indicated Altitude“: refers to the altitude displayed on an altimeter. The indicated altitude is the vertical distance above mean sea level (MSL), and not above the surface of the earth.
- Density Altitude: Pressure altitude that has been adjusted for nonstandard temperature. A flight computer is capable of calculating density altitude. Already know this? Read on for more aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
- Pressure Altitude: refers to the altitude displayed by an altimeter when it is set to 29.92 inches or standard atmospheric pressure.
- Absolute Altitude: is the vertical distance of an aircraft above the earth’s surface or Above Ground Level (AGL).
- True Altitude: The altitude of an aircraft above mean sea level (MSL). With a flight computer, the true height may be determined.
Other Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings
- “Aeronautical Decision-Making“: refers to the training and planning required to make the best and safest decisions to reduce risk.
- Above Ground Level (AGL): is the vertical distance between an aircraft and a certain land mass. Read on for more aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
- “Aileron”: refers to the moveable, hinged flight control surfaces used in pairs to control the roll of an aircraft.
- “Base Leg“: refers to the flight path in an airport pattern that goes in the direction of the runway landing.
- “Baseline”: refers to a comparison’s beginning point or minimum.
- “Best Lift Over Drag Ratio” – Also known as “L over D Max,” this is the ratio of lift to drag with the highest value for any airfoil.
- Blade Angle: This is the angle between a propeller blade’s reference line and a plane perpendicular to the axis of rotation.
- Bleed Air: refers to the hot, pressurized air created during the compressor phase of an aircraft engine’s operation.
- Cabin Crew: refers to the airline employees responsible for passenger safety and comfort during flight, mainly flight attendants.
- Calibrated Airspeed: refers to the indicated airspeed that has been adjusted to account for position and instrument inaccuracy.
- Camber: is the convexity of an aircraft wing’s curve.
- “CAVU” (Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited): Refers to the optimum flying circumstances of 10 miles or more of visibility and a ceiling of at least 10,000 feet.
- Cargo: Refers to the goods carried by an aircraft.
- Ceiling: Refers to the height of the lowest cloud layer or obscuring phenomenon that is reported as “broken,” “overcast,” or “obscuration,” but not as “thin” or “partial.”
- “DA” – “Density Altitude” – stands for “Density Altitude.” Density altitude refers to the air density expressed as a height above sea level. The density altitude is the pressure altitude that has been adjusted for a non-standard temperature.
- “Distance Measuring Equipment” (DME) Refers to radio navigation equipment used to determine the distance between an aircraft and a ground station. There are more aircraft navigation terms and meanings, read on!
- Distress: is a globally-recognized indication signaling imminent danger and the need for aid.
- Dogfight: A dogfight is a close-quarters aerial combat between two aircraft. Prior to 1992, this occurred in every war involving aircraft.
- Elevator”– Horizontal surfaces that control the pitch of an aircraft and are normally hinged to the stabilizer.
- Empennage: This is an alternate term for the tail of an aircraft, which provides flying stability. Learn more about the airplane’s components.
- “ETA” – Estimated Time of Arrival – The time you are expected to arrive at a destination, based on the local time. This may be a common term but do you know other aircraft navigation terms and meanings?
- “ETD” – “Estimated Time of Departure” – The anticipated departure time.
- “ETE” – Estimated Time en Route – The amount of time you will spend traveling to a destination.
- “FBO” – “Fixed-Base Operator” — An airport operation where fuel and other services are available to pilots.
- Feathering: Adjusting variable pitch propellers such that the blades are aligned with the airflow and do not produce air resistance.
- Ferry Flight — A flight intended to return an aircraft to its home base, deliver a new aircraft from the manufacturer to the buyer, move an aircraft from one operational base to another, or transport an aircraft for maintenance purposes.
- Final Approach: Refers to a flight path that runs in the direction of the runway and culminates in a landing.
- Firewall — A fire-resistant bulkhead that separates the engine from other aircraft compartments.
- Flight Bag: A pilot’s flying bag is used to transport necessary paperwork and helpful items, such as a kneeboard, headset, and checklists.
- Flight Computer: Numerous pilots rely on the E6B flight computer to compute fuel consumption, wind direction, etc.
- Flight Deck: The region at the front of an aircraft where the pilot and aircraft controls are located; sometimes known as the cockpit. Already know this? Read on for more aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
- Flight Plan — Formatted information provided by pilots or dispatchers regarding a future flight, such as the destination, route, timing, etc.
- Flying Dirty – Refers to flying with extendable surfaces, like as flaps and landing gear, in their extended states to create drag.
- “F/O” – “First Officer” — The aircraft’s second-in-command.
- Fog: Thisis a dense cloud of microscopic water droplets at or near the Earth’s surface that obscures visibility.
- “FSDO” – “Flight Standards District Office” — FAA-supervised local authority
- “George” is the moniker for the autopilot system. Is your name George? Sounds Hilarious! Read on for other aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
- “Go-Around” — A go-around occurs when the pilot aborts an attempted landing and circles the flight pattern before attempting to land again.
- Gross Weight: This is the total weight of an aircraft, including passengers, cargo, fuel, etc.
- “Ground Effect: refers to the increasing lift and decreasing drag caused by an aircraft’s wings as it approaches the ground.
- Ground Speed: The horizontal velocity of an aircraft relative to the surface beneath.
- “Handshake”: Refers to the initial communication or “hello” between two computers. Aircraft connect with satellites to determine their location. SATCOM systems are used to communicate messages from the cockpit as well as automatic communications from on-board equipment. During these exchanges, a log-on request, sometimes known as a ‘ping,’ occurs. This questioning of the terminal is known as the handshake.
- Hangar: A structure designed to house aircraft for storage, repair, assembly, etc.
- Wind Shear: This is a sudden change in the horizontal or vertical direction of the wind.
- “Wx” – “weather”
- “XC” stands for “cross-country.”
- Yaw: is the movement of an aircraft about its vertical axis, manifested by a side-to-side movement of the nose. The rudder regulates yaw.
- Yoke – The aircraft control devices utilized by the pilot for attitude changes, as well as pitch and roll motion.
- “Zulu Time“: It is synonymous with UTC (Universal Coordinated Time), or Greenwich Mean Time. All flight plans are submitted in Zulu Time. It is not necessary to be in South Africa before you can use the Zulu Time, this will be the last of our aircraft navigation terms and meanings.
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FAQs on Aircraft Navigation Terms and Meanings
What exactly is the 3/6 Rule in Aircraft?
For larger aircraft, individuals often employ a variation of the 3/6 Rule. The distance back to begin the descent is equal to three times the height (in thousands of feet), and your fall rate is six times your groundspeed.
What does Message 7400 Indicate?
Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) may show the code 7400 when the control link between the aircraft and the pilot has been severed. Lost link procedures are encoded into the flight management system and associated with the flight plan that is currently being executed.
What are the 7 stages of flight?
The general flight phases are divided into: planning phase, takeoff phase, climb phase, cruise phase, descent phase, approach phase, and taxi phase.
What are the 5 P’s in aviation?
One such approach involves regular evaluation of: Plan, Plane, Pilot, Passengers, and Programming. The point of the 5P approach is not to memorize yet another aviation mnemonic. You might simply write these words on your kneeboard, or add a reference to 5Ps to your checklist for key decision points during the flight
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