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The Top 12 Essential Aviation Acronyms, According to Pilots of Instagram

If anything is true in aviation, it’s that you’ll be continuously learning acronyms throughout your career. If you’re just starting in the industry, be forewarned, and don’t be overwhelmed. Natural curiosity will guide you; ask when you hear one you don’t know.

We polled our community of fans on Instagram to identify what they consider the essential acronyms in aviation, and many pilots responded. You’ll undoubtedly notice some important ones missing because there are so many, but consider this a place to start.

*Some acronyms have multiple popular interpretations for some letters, but the intent is the same. Depending on your instructors or where you did your research, you may notice some differences on this list.

Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

PILOT SAFETY

Aviation is one of the most regulated industries in the world, so it’s no surprise you’ll learn acronyms that revolve around safety, starting with you. Before boarding any aircraft to fly, do a self-assessment and make sure you’re in the right headspace. If you are not 100% ready to fly, don’t. These acronyms are most commonly associated with pilots, but IMSAFE is helpful for any safety-sensitive position.

IMSAFE
I – Illness
M – Medication
S – Stress
A – Alcohol
F – Fatigue
E – Emotions/Eating

PAVE
P – Pilot
A – Aircraft
V – enVironment
E – External Pressures

BEFORE FLIGHT

Many aviation acronyms are checklists. These are just a few that you’ll repeat all the time.

ARROW – Make sure you have all required documents. Sometimes instructors teach AROW, without Radio Station License.
A – Airworthiness Certificate
R – Radio Station License
R – Registration Certificate
O – Operation Limitations
W – Weight and Balance

AVIATES – Always verify the airworthiness of an aircraft, and make sure all required maintenance is completed and up-to-date.
A – Annual Check
V – VORs
1 – 100 Hour Check
A – Altimeter/Pitot Static
T – Transponder
E – Emergency Location Transmitter
S – Static Inspection

NWKRAFT – Prepare for each flight by having all of the relevant information.
N – NOTAMs (A NOTAM is a notice with essential information about flight operations.)
W – Weather
K – Known Air Traffic Control (ATC) Delays
R – Runway Lengths
A – Alternate Airport
F – Fuel
T – Takeoff and Landing Distances

ATOMATOFLAMES – This checklist covers the equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the day.
A – Altimeter
T – Tachometer
O – Oil Pressure Gauge
M – Magnetic Compass
A – Airspeed Indicator
T – Temperature Gauge
O – Oil Temperature Gauge
E – Emergency Location Transmitter
F – Fuel Gauge
L – Landing Gear Extension Lights
A – Anti-Collision Lights
M – Manifold Pressure Gauge
E – ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter)
S – Seatbelts

FLAPS – Verify your equipment required for Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during the night.
F – Fuses
L – Landing Light
A – Anti-Collision Lights
P – Position lights
S – Source of power

GRABCARD – You’ll remember the minimum equipment required under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) using this acronym.
G – Generator or Alternator
R – Radio/Navigation Appropriate For Flight
A – Attitude Indicator
B – Ball (Inclinometer)
C – Clock
A – Altimeter
R – Rate of Turn Indicator
D – Directional Gyro

Photo by Chris Leipelt on Unsplash

DURING FLIGHT

Communication is essential when on the ground and especially when in the air. Air Wisconsin makes it a point to teach pilots how to communicate with each other in the cockpit, disagree and have a productive conversation, and properly communicate with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower during training. Pilots must also be tuned in and engaged. You’ll hear these acronyms often.

ANC

A – Aviate

N – Navigate

C – Communicate

THE 5 Ts – The pilot who suggested this acronym admitted he never thought much of it as a student, but as a CFII, he can’t remind students enough.

T– Turn

T – Time

T – Twist

T – Throttle

T – Talk

The 3 Ps

P – Perceive

P – Process

P – Perform

DECIDE

D – Detect

E – Estimate

C – Choose

I – Identify

D – Do

E – Evaluate

BONUS

We wanted to include one more essential acronym—SAFETY. Always brief your passengers, if any are aboard. If you choose to become a commercial pilot, the Inflight announcement will cover most of the items listed below. However, if your pilot journey includes flying a helicopter, private charters, teaching, operating discovery flights, taking friends and family up for a ride, etc., it’ll be your responsibility.

SAFETY

S – Seat Belts

A – Air Ventilation

F – Fire Extinguisher

E – Emergency Procedure

T – Traffic

Y – “Your Questions”

What do you think is the most crucial acronym in aviation? If it’s not on our list, comment below to add it and help out future aviators reading this blog. As a bonus, we’ve compiled resources below worth checking out if you want to learn more acronyms or common industry abbreviations.

RESOURCES

FAA: Airport and Facility Codes

FAA: Acronyms and Abbreviations

AOPA – The ABCs of Aviation

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