Definitions of aviation-related terms used on this site:
$100 Hamburger Syndrome
a financially irrational urge to fly somewhere just to grab a casual meal.
ADF (automatic direction finder)
A device which shows the direction to a specified NDB.
A required inspection and maintenance operation done every year to keep the airplane legal.
AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association)
Probably the largest general aviation educational and lobbying organization around.
A diagram which shows the procedures for a specific instrument approach at an airport. It is usually one page in a
booklet which covers one or more entire states.
the third leg of the pattern, perpendicular to the runway, from which the turn is made to the final leg. Not a good place to be distracted.
the bottom of the lowest layer of clouds. If the ceiling is 12,000 feet, and we’re flying at 1000 feet, there’s 11,000 feet of clear air above us. A satellite view could show the area completely blanketed by clouds, but as long as the ceiling is far enough above us, we’ll be fine.
the type of plane I fly. The 152 has a more powerful engine, and some of the instruments are in different places, but otherwise the two models are the same. They are single-engine two-seaters and are perhaps the most popular trainers. Going from one to the other is not a big deal. None were built for about a decade starting in the mid 1980’s. Thanks a lot, lawyers!
certificated flight instructor. Some instructors, including mine, have a CFII certificate; the second I is for instrument.
class B airspace
airspace surrounding the busiest airports. Requires permission of Air Traffic Control to enter. Starts at the surface within a few miles of the airport; farther out there are usually several layers, each beginning at higher altitudes than the previous layer. The shape of the airspace is often compared to an upside-down wedding cake. Ever flip a wedding cake upside down? It makes a real mess.
class E airspace
another type of controlled airspace even harder to describe than class B, but doesn’t require permission to enter.
class G airspace
uncontrolled airspace. My personal favorite. Yes, there is class A, C, and D airspace, too, but not F, in the U.S. I’m glad they simplified the system a few years ago.
Instructions from a controller, which can include such things as routes, altitudes, etc.
someone who makes his living playing with computers. Also called programmer, software engineer, developer, coder, bit twiddler, glorified typist, hacker, etc., but doesn’t care about titles as long as the checks clear.
one which requires permission from Air Traffic Control for landings, takeoffs, etc.
the portion of the wind directly across the runway. If the wind is straight down the runway, the component is zero.
Airplane engines are recommended (but not required) to be overhauled (essentially taken apart, inspected, repaired,
and reassembled with many parts replaced) after a certain number of hours, known as the time between overhauls (TBO).
the last leg of the pattern, which includes the runway.
A specified point on the ground, which could be an NDB, a VOR, an intersection of radials/bearings, etc.
Flight Service Station
the service pilots call for weather briefings, among other things. The office looks like a much larger version of
a TV weather center.
glasses used for instrument training. Only the bottom half of each lens is transparent.
fuel measuring stick
a straw-like device which displays the amount of fuel in a tank. Put a finger over the top, insert the stick in the tank, and remove it. The fuel will stay in the tube long enough to read the amount. The stick is specific to the model of airplane, since the tank shapes and sizes vary. (The brand name of mine is FuelHawk. It’s well worth having- no more guessing that the tank is about two-thirds full.)
A device used for instrument approaches. Two needles, one horizontal and one vertical, indicate whether the plane is on the correct descent path. (Actually, the glideslope is just the horizontal needle, and the vertical one is the localizer, but the entire instrument is often called a glideslope.) It doubles as a VOR.
an aborted landing resulting in another trip around the pattern.
GPS (global positioning system)
An electronic gadget which was so rare when I first created this site that I had to define it because most people had not heard of it.
A device resembling an odometer which measures the number of hours the engine runs.
any device used to partially block vision during instrument training, known as being “under the hood”. The intent is to allow the wearer to see the instrument panel but not outside, to simulate non-visual flight conditions. A cap with an extended visor is often used.
IFR (instrument flight rules)
The system under which pilots fly by reference to the instruments, possibly in clouds and bad weather, under the
direction of air traffic controllers. It requires a airplane to have certain equipment and the pilot to have an instrument rating.
ILS (instrument landing system)
The most precise type of instrument approach.
IMC (instrument meteorological conditions)
Weather which requires instrument flight due to poor visibility.
Jeppesen Sanderson, Inc.
a leading manufacturer/publisher of aviation training and reference materials.
pro football team from New Jersey. Also, a type of plane I’m unlikely to be operating anytime in the near future.
license to learn
realistic term for a private pilot certificate, aka license.
a pocket-size guide which contains diagrams and step-by-step instructions for normal and crosswind taxi, takeoffs, landings, stalls, S-turns, turns around a point, and a bunch of other stuff I need to learn. Only costs a few bucks, and everyone who sees it wants one. A book included with my pilot course covers this material in more detail, but the booklet is designed for quick reference in flight.
A device used for instrument approaches.
A radio that can be used for sending/receiving calls and as a tuner for navigational equipment like a VOR.
NDB (non-directional beacon)
A radio station on the ground which transmits a signal in all directions that can be tracked by an ADF. The concept is similar to a VOR.
a rectangular course around an airport, one leg of which includes the runway.
pilot in command
the person responsible for the safety of the flight. (That’s how the regulations define it.) If I’m alone, it’s me. With an instructor, him. (Sort of.)
a $20 device which lets me use my $300 headset to talk on the radio. Without it, I have to use a hand-held, CB-radio style mike.
a wind coming from the right or left rear of the plane (i.e., southeast or southwest when headed north). It is the trickiest wind in which to taxi; if strong enough it can flip a light high-wing plane over.
a flashing light installed at an airport to help pilots locate it at night, like a lighthouse for aircraft
The airport doesn’t have 18 runways, just one. The number indicates the compass heading (direction); 18 means 180 degrees, which is south. When the same runway is used from the other direction, headed north, it’s runway 36.
a device, on the tail of the plane, which is a combined horizontal stabilizer and elevator (used for climbing and descending).
loss of lift, caused by the wing being at too steep an angle. Has nothing to do with engine failure.
STC (supplemental type certificate)
a document that allows me to legally use auto gas in the airplane. (The STC was purchased by a previous owner and stays with the airplane. Nothing was physically done to the airplane to allow use of the car gas, but without the document, the gas can’t be used legally.) There are STC’s for all kinds of things, mostly for alterations and installation of equipment.
touch and go
a landing immediately followed by a takeoff, without stopping.
A device which sends out an identifying signal which controllers can use to track a airplane on radar.
someone who fears the number 13.
VOR (VHF omnidirectional range)
A device on the ground which transmits a radio signal in all directions, and an instrument in the airplane which uses that signal to determine the plane’s direction from the transmitter.
wind speed and direction at various altitudes, which can vary greatly from winds at the surface. Used partly to select a cruising altitude.
a control which looks something like a steering wheel but cannot be used as one on the ground, since it isn’t connected to the wheels (at least not in the Cessnas I fly). Source of amusement for CFI after a few lessons.