Aviation Acronyms

Other · 4 min read · Feb 01, 2022
Aviation Acronyms

Below is an extract from the CVR (Cockpit Voice Recorder) transcript of the well-known landing on the Hudson River, US Airways Flight 1549. By any chance, if you find the acronyms such as FWC and QRH a little confusing, we got you covered: this article is tailor-made for people like you.

15:27:23.2 HOT-1 my aircraft.

15:27:24 HOT-2 your aircraft.

15:27:24.4 FWC [sound of single chime]

15:27:25 CAM [sound similar to electrical noise from engine igniters begins]

15:27:26.5 FWC priority left. [auto callout from the FWC. this occurs when the sidestick priority button is activated on the Captain’s sidestick]

15:27:26.5 FWC [sound of single chime]

15:27:28 CAM [sound similar to electrical noise from engine igniters ends]

15:27:28 HOT-1 get the QRH… [Quick Reference Handbook] loss of thrust on both engines.

Most importantly, this article covers more ground on the aviation-related acronyms in a broader context to revamp the knowledge of everyone, including the tier of conversant audience.

Why are acronyms used?

The simple answer is to get rid of the complicated jargon. In usual aviation duties, pilots encounter hundreds if not thousands of aviation abbreviations in a single flight. One of the heavily used acronyms is ATC, which stands for Air Traffic Control. Pilots simply spell three letters ‘ATC’ rather than speaking out all the denoted words.

Another example is Automatic Terminal Information Service, and the acronym ATIS is used to reduce the effort and confusion during the communication. It is quite obvious that the entire term takes more time than the acronym as the acronym comes in handy amidst emergency procedures when each second is precious for the pilots.

Pilots in a cockpit, holding a list of aviation acronyms by the control column.

Who defines the acronyms?

Acronyms are used within the aviation industry in every setting: military, general, and civil. No authority has undertaken the responsibility of handling aviation abbreviations, but Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has presented a list of aviation abbreviations and acronyms on their website for reference.

The below list provides you with the most common acronyms used in the world of aviation:

  • AGL – Above Ground Level
  • ASR – Airport Surveillance Radar
  • ATC – Air Traffic Control or Air Traffic Controllers
  • ATIS – Automatic Terminal Information Service
  • CAT – Calibrated Air Speed
  • CAT – Clear Air Turbulence
  • DER – Departure End (of the) Runway
  • FAF – Final Approach Fix
  • FAP – Final Approach Point
  • FF – Fuel Flow
  • FWC – Flight Warning Computer
  • GS – Glide Slope
  • IFR – Instrument Flight Rules
  • LOC – Localizer
  • LVP – Low Visibility Procedures
  • PET – Point of Equal Time
  • PIC – Pilot in Command
  • PPR – Prior Permission Required
  • QRH – Quick Reference Handbook
  • VFR – Visual Flight Rules
  • VX – Best Angle of Climb Speed
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Newly added acronyms

With the development and introduction of novel technologies into the aviation industry and aircraft systems, new abbreviations are introduced as well. The introduction of Fly-By-Wire (FBW) into the aircraft architecture and utilization of a data link to enhance aircraft communication between the pilot and ATC introduced a whole new set of abbreviations. Here is a list of relatively new aviation abbreviations added to the industry.

ADS-B – Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast:

ADS-B is a novel technology developed to improve aircraft surveillance. With the usage of Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR), ATC can locate an aircraft without sending an interrogation signal. Airborne aircraft utilize the ADS-B concept to identify intruders and to mitigate collision threats by feeding ADSB-B information into the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).

ATIS – Automatic Terminal Information Service

As the name implies, pilots are given the opportunity to listen to an automatic broadcasted aural message giving out crucial information about the airport: weather, active runways, Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), and many more. This reduces the workload of air traffic controllers and grants access to readily available information for the pilots.

FMS – Flight Management System

Controls the Auto Pilot (AP) of the aircraft by generating optimum steering commands based on the flight plan, operational database, and inputs from various aircraft sensors.

GPS – Global Positioning System

Pinpoints aircraft location with the help of GPS satellites.

TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System

Identifies intruders to alleviate collision threats by issuing aural warnings and vertical correction maneuvers (Traffic Advisory and Resolution Advisory -TA & RA).

There is a set of aviation abbreviations denoting terms related to the time:

  • ATA – Actual Time of Arrival
  • ETA – Estimated Time of Arrival
  • GMT – Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu time)
  • UTC – Coordinated Universal Time
A central view of an aircraft cockpit equipment displaying various information and aviation acronyms.
  • LW – Landing Weight
  • MLW – Maximum Landing Weight
  • MRW – Maximum Ramp Weight
  • MTOW – Maximum Take-Off Weight
  • MZFW – Maximum Zero Fuel Weight
  • ZFW – Zero Fuel Weight
  • ALT – Altitude
  • AMSL – Above Mean Sea Level
  • MAA – Missed Approach Altitude
  • MDA – Minimum Descent Altitude
  • MEA – Minimum En-Route Altitude
  • RA – Radio Altitude

Just like other organizations, aviation-related organizations are also popularly addressed by their abbreviations.

  • CAA – Civil Aviation Authority
  • FAA – Federal Aviation Administration
  • IATA – International Air Transport Association
  • ICAO – International Civil Aviation Organization

Operational procedures as acronyms

Aviation is an industry that sticks to a plethora of operational procedures (e.g. the pilot in command performing a pre-flight check, maintenance personnel operating a piece of equipment, or ATC granting take-off clearance) have to be done according to a specific procedure mentioned in relevant documents.

In aviation, some of those procedures have been boiled to mnemonics for the ease of memorizing.


This abbreviation defines the required documents onboard before each flight.

  • Airworthiness Certificate
  • Registration Certificate
  • Radio License
  • Operating Handbook
  • Weight and Balance Chart


Defines the basic elements pilot has to mention on their safety briefing to ensure the safety of passengers such as wearing seat belts and when to wear them.

  • Seat Belts
  • Air and Heat\Ventilation Options
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Exits, Emergency Exits, and Equipment
  • Traffic and Talking
  • Your Questions


The IMSAFE checklist helps the pilot to run a self-assessment to verify his\her fitness for the flight.

  • Illness
  • Medication
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Fatigue
  • Emotions\Eating
Cockpit of a Boeing 737-800 with various pieces of equipment showing data and aviation acronyms.

Apart from the aforementioned mnemonics, the following listed ones are also used in various settings.

AV1ATE – Ensures the airworthiness of the aircraft by checking various onboard equipment and inspection intervals.

NW CRAFT – Aspects pilots have to be aware of before each flight.

A TOMATO FLAME – Required equipment for daytime VFR flight.

FLAPS – Required equipment for nighttime VFR flight.

It is always good to be familiar with aviation abbreviations as they mitigate the complexity and improve conformity. With that said, if someone is trying to memorize all the acronyms by heart in the aviation industry, it is cumbersome and useless. Having a fair bit of understanding will get the job done!

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Aeroclass Team
A team of professionals with a deep passion for the aviation industry bringing you the newest and the most striking industry-related news and content.

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