Aviation Abbreviations & Acronyms: List of Common Terms

There are hundreds of aviation abbreviations used by people in the aviation industry. Most are used by pilots in the cockpit. This list includes a selection of them.

Jet airplane taking off at airport Jet airplane taking off at airport
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Commonly Used Aviation Abbreviations and Acronyms

To make life easier, airports use a lot of different abbreviations. Explore some of the most common aviation abbreviations used by major airlines and flying enthusiasts.

Direction or Time

These aviation abbreviations deal directly with direction or time.

  • A - At or Above
  • AOA - Angle of Attack
  • B - At or Below
  • CAS - Calibrated Air Speed
  • CAT - Clear Air Turbulence
  • DES - Descent
  • DEST - Destination
  • DIS or DIST - Distance
  • ETA - Estimated Time of Arrival
  • FA - Final Approach
  • FT - Feet
  • GA - Go Around
  • G/S - Glideslope
  • HDG - Heading
  • HAA - Height Above Airport
  • HAL - Height Above Landing
  • HARS - High Altitude Route System
  • HAT - Height Above Touchdown
  • LAT - Latitude
  • LNAV - Lateral Navigation
  • LONG - Longitude
  • MLS - Mean Sea Level
  • PSR - Point of Safe Return
  • TOC - Top of Climb
  • TOD - Top of Descent
  • UTC - Universal Coordinated Time
  • WOFW - Weight-off-Wheels (indicates aircraft is off ground since lift-off)
  • WONW - Weight-on-Wheels (indicates aircraft is on ground since touch down
  • Z - Zulu Time (Greenwich Mean Time)

Equipment & Systems

Airplanes have a lot of different equipment. Explore the operational jargon found in the cockpit:

  • AAIM - Aircraft Autonomous Integrity Monitor
  • AAS - Advanced Automation System
  • AB - Auto Brake
  • AC or A/C - Aircraft
  • ACAS - Airborne Collision Avoidance System
  • ACARS - Aircraft Communication and Addressing Reporting System
  • ACMS - Aircraft Condition Monitoring System
  • AP or A/P - Auto Pilot
  • ASI - Airspeed Indicator
  • AVGAS - Aviation Gasoline
  • CP - Control Panel
  • CVR - Cockpit Voice Recorder
  • ELT - Emergency Locator Transmitter
  • FBO - Fixed Base Operator
  • FDR - Flight Data Recorder
  • IFR - Instrument Flight Rules
  • GCA - Ground-controlled Approach
  • GPWS - Ground Proximity Warning System
  • INS - Inertial Navigation System
  • NDB - Non-Directional (Radio) Beacon
  • PAPI - Precision Approach Path Indicator
  • VASI - Visual Approach Slope Indicator

Facilities

An airplane couldn’t fly without the right facilities. Explore the abbreviations for aviation facilities.

  • AOA - Airport Operations Area
  • ATC - Air Traffic Control
  • ATIS - Automatic Terminal Information Service
  • DER - Departure End of Runway
  • FD - Flight Director
  • MOC - Minimum Obstacle Clearance
  • RW or RWY - Runway
  • STAR - Standard Terminal Arrival Route
  • TWR - Tower
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Communication

Communication between the pilot and air traffic controllers is pivotal to ensure big accidents aren’t happening in the sky. Get an overview of communication shorthand used in aviation.

  • AA - Acceleration Altitude
  • A/A - Air to Air
  • AO - Aircraft Operator
  • ACK - Acknowledge
  • EFAS - En Route Flight Advisory Service
  • FL - Flight Level
  • FLT - Flight
  • FSS - Flight Service Station
  • ACT - Active
  • ALT - Altitude
  • ALT HOLD - Altitude Hold Mode
  • ARR - Arrival
  • ATA - Actual Time of Arrival
  • DEP - Departure
  • GS - Ground Speed
  • HP - Holding Pattern
  • PIC - Pilot in Command
  • R/C - Rate of Climb
  • TO - Take Off
  • TURB - Turbulence
  • VA - Heading to an Altitude

Technical System and Association Abbreviations

The Federal Aviation Administration offers abbreviations and acronyms for several associations and technical systems. Explore these aviation abbreviations.

  • ABAA - Amateur Built Aircraft Acceptance
  • ABF - Australian Ballooning Federation
  • ACN - Aircraft Classification
  • AQAFO - Aeronautical Quality Assurance Field Office
  • AQS - FAA Office of Quality, Integration and Executive Services
  • CAA - Civil Airworthiness Authority
  • CAASD - Center for Advanced Aviation System Development
  • DGNSS - Differential Global Navigation Satellite System
  • FAA - Federal Aviation Administration
  • ICAO - International Civil Aviation Organization
  • IFPA - Instrument Flight Procedures Automation Program
  • MNPSA - Minimum Navigation Performance Specifications Airspace
  • PASS - Professional Airway System Specialists
  • RADLO - Regional Air Defense Liaison Office
  • RIIEP - Runway Incursion Information Evaluation Program
  • SAMS - Special Use Airspace Management System
  • SFAR - Special Federal Aviation Regulations
  • TAAS - Terminal Advance Automation System
  • TACAN - Tactical Aircraft Control and Navigation
  • TCACCIS - Transportation Coordinator Automated Command and Control Information System
  • UAS - Unmanned Aircraft Systems

For even more aviation abbreviations check out the Glossary of Airport Acronyms on the Federal Aviation Administration website.

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Abbreviations and Acronyms Used in Aviation

Aviation is full of a lot of systems, operations, and terminology. If you’re interested in learning more about aviation abbreviations and terms check out airport codes found around the world.