Frequently-asked Questions About Aviation

This HTML document is derived from Geoff Peck's regular FAQ posting to the rec.aviation.answers newsgroup. Comments about the HTML formatting should be directed to Questions or comments about the content should be directed to
This document was last revised October 2, 1994. It answers frequently asked questions on rec.aviation, and provides a glossary of frequently-used acronyms, so posters don't need to provide translations of these terms. This document was written by Geoff Peck (, with input from many other netters. The author takes full responsibility for any omissions or errors. (Use of this posting in flight is prohibited. :-) ) Comments and questions are most welcome. This article is now being automatically posted twice per month to the Usenet newsgroup rec.aviation.answers. [If you have trouble sending mail to, you may send to; it will be forwarded.]

The questions which are answered include:

How is rec.aviation organized?
I'd like to learn to fly. How do I do it, how much does it cost, how long does it take?
I'm flying to Canada, Mexico, or the Carribean. What do I need to know? I'm having trouble getting a medical. Who should I call? Does someone have sample aircraft partnership agreement? Where can I get the bluebook value of a particular aircraft?
I want to buy a headset. What should I buy?
What about aircraft intercoms?
Tell me about mail-order.
I'm a private pilot. How should I log time in instrument conditions?
What about logging cross-country time?
Tell me about DUATS on-line weather briefings.
ell me about BITNET access, the aviation-digest list, and posting by mail.
How do I start a brand-new thread of articles?
I'm a non-U.S. licensed private pilot. Can I fly in the U.S.?
What about hang-gliding? Ultralights?
Where can I get a copy of public-domain flight planning software and other good stuff on the net?
I'm considering buying an airplane. How much will it cost?
Can I use my cellular telephone in an airplane?
Can I use a radio, either a broadcast or aviation receiver, in an aircraft?
I have a physical disability and would like to learn to fly. How?
What are the alternatives for taking an FAA written examination?
Are slips with flaps prohibited in certain Cessnas?
How can I get a copy of an NTSB accident report?
From what does "I have slipped the surly bonds..." come?

The rec.aviation Glossary

The rec.aviation Guide to Proper Spelling

Questions and answers

Q1: How is rec.aviation organized?

There are now 15 distinct newsgroups which comprise rec.aviation:

  announce   events of interest to the aviation community  (moderated)
  answers    frequently asked questions about aviation  (moderated)
  homebuilt  selecting, designing, building, and restoring aircraft
  ifr        flying under Instrument Flight Rules
  military   military aircraft of the past, present and future
  misc       miscellaneous topics in aviation
  owning     information on owning airplanes
  piloting   general discussion for aviators
  products   reviews and discussion of products useful to pilots
  simulators flight simulation on all levels
  soaring    all aspects of sailplanes and hang-gliders
  stories    accounts of flight experiences (moderated)
  student    learning to fly
  ultralight ultralight, microlight aircraft

It is suggested that you read rec.aviation for a little while before you post, so that you can best determine which subgroup is appropriate for your posting.

In addition, the following newsgroups outside the rec.aviation hierarchy may be of interest:

  sci.aeronautics   the science of aeronautics & related technology (mod.)
  sci.aeronautics.airliners (moderated)
  sci.military      discussion about science & the military (moderated)    airline travel around the world

Q2: I'd like to learn to fly. How do I do it, how much does it cost, how long does it take?

Learning to fly a single-engine airplane is usually accomplished by visiting an FBO (see acronym list below) or two and selecting one for your instruction. Costs vary widely, not only by geographic area, but also because different individuals take different amounts of time to learn to fly. You should expect that learning to fly in the U.S. will cost you between US$3,000 and US$5,000, and it will take about 60-80 hours of flying of which about 20-30 hours will be solo (on your own) and the rest with an instructor, spread out over a period of 3-6 months.

For further information, send e-mail to (ask for the private pilot handout), and you can receive a helpful and comprehensive handout. [Note: sometimes, due to mail system problems, you may not get a copy of this handout when you ask for one -- if you ask and don't get a response within a week, or if you've asked before and didn't receive it, send me e-mail again, preferably containing some "alternate" e-mail addresses! If all else fails, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Geoff Peck at 3075 Marston Way, San Jose, CA 95148-3121]

If your goal is to fly a glider or a helicopter, you need not start out by learning to fly a single-engine airplane. Learning to fly in a helicopter will cost about twice as much as learning to fly in an airplane. (In U.S. metropolitan areas, a typical trainer helicopter rents for about US$100/hour; a typical trainer-class airplane for US$30-50/hour.) Learning to fly in a glider will vary in cost from significantly less than the cost to learn in an airplane to about the same as learning to fly in an airplane. If you plan to learn to fly airplanes as well as gliders or helicopters, it is typically less expensive to do the airplane first and then the other aircraft type. If you're interested in flying gliders (soaring), in the U.S., contact the Soaring Society of America (SSA -- see below) for information on glider sites around the country.

Q3: I'm flying to Canada, Mexico, or the Carribean. What do I need to know?
I'm having trouble getting a medical. Who should I call?
Does someone have sample aircraft partnership agreement?
Where can I get the bluebook value of a particular aircraft?

These questions, and many others, can be simply and correctly answered for U.S. readers by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, AOPA. Call 1-800-USA-AOPA. You can speak to a number of different specialists, who will gladly answer your questions whether or not you are a member. Of course, you can and should also join AOPA -- it's $35/year, and you can do so on the same toll-free number.

So, gentle reader, rather than asking these questions on the net and getting a mixed bag of answers, please call AOPA and then report to the net with your question -- and their answer!

Q4: I want to buy a headset. What should I buy?

There are three types of aviation headsets which are commonly available:

  1. Active noise-cancelling (ANC). These are in the $600-$900 range, from Telex (ANR, ~$660; the ANR 4000 is not recommended), David Clark (DCNC, ~$850), and Peltor (ANR, ~$640). The Bose headset (~$900) is available only directly from Bose in Framingham MA.

  2. Passive noise-cancelling. These are in the $90-$300 range, and come from a variety of manufacturers. David Clark is generally regarded as the "Rolls Royce" of headset makers, and their models are more expensive than the competition -- they stand up to amazing abuse. Recommended models include the H10-13.4 (13.4 oz -- light!) ~$245, H10-60 ~$250, H10-20 ~$225, H10-80 ~$245, and H10-40 ~$220, usually in that order. The H10-30 is not recommended (inferior microphone). A number of companies import "clones" of the David Clarks; many netters have found the Flightcom 4DLX, ~$120, to be satisfactory in terms of performance and reliability. There are many, many more makers out there -- try 'em on and see what feels comfortable to you. Other notable headsets: Peltor 7004 ~$190, which has a significantly different and possibly more comfortable "feel" -- buy it in preference to the 7003, which has an inferior dynamic microphone; Pilot PA11-20 ~$140; Telex Pro-Air 2000E, ~$225. The Peltor is probably the best choice for kids.

  3. "Open-air," "Walkman-style". These are for quieter aircraft such as jets or sailplanes, and are _not_ recommended for prop aircraft use.

[Headsets are typically discounted; prices given above are typical US$ discounted prices, not list. See Q6 below for mail-order supply houses.]
Q5: What about aircraft intercoms?

There are two basic types of intercoms -- portable and panel-mount. If you're an aircraft owner, you should strongly consider a permanently installed, panel-mounted intercom. There are many brands out there -- investigate carefully. You will probably want to wire the aircraft for stereo, even if you don't have stereo headsets right away, since the cost of having an avionics shop wire the intercom can easily exceed the price of the intercom.

Renters should consider purchasing their own portable intercom. With a portable intercom, you plug the intercom in to the pilot-side microphone and headphone jacks, and then plug all the other headsets (up to 4) into the portable. You will also want to purchase a push-to-talk switch which will allow you to use your headset's boom mic with the radios in aircraft which are not equipped with a push-to-talk switch.

Portable units vary from about US$90 to US$300; permanent units seem to be priced US$100-200 more than the portables.

Good squelch action, overall sound quality, audio entertainment inputs, ability to mix headset models, sufficient output volume, durability, and whether the instructor can talk during transmissions from the left seat (without being heard over the air) are important factors.

By far the most popular portable intercoms from the net's perspective are the Flightcom IIsx (mono) and Flightcom III (stereo), which can be bought as two-place or four-place units (there's a small expansion box for the rear seats). The IIsx typically retails for a little over US$100. A more deluxe version is the Flightcom III, which offers stereo audio with a plug-in Walkman or Discman. The IIId offers a digital clearance recorder, which can "remember" and re-play up to about 30 seconds of speech at the push of a button. Cute, but not very useful. Panel-mount versions of the III, and IIId are available as the 403 (stereo), and 403D (DCR), respectively.

Other brands of intercoms include [listed alphabetically] David Clark, NAT (panel only), Pilot, PS Engineering, Sigtronics, Softcomm, and Telex. Regrettably, pilots will often defend their own purchase choices, whether or not they actually have significant experience with other intercoms. (The FAQ author does have significant in-flight experience with all of the brands listed above, and he still recommends the Flightcom units for overall audio quality, squelch performance, reliability, feature versatility, and price.)

Q6: Tell me about mail-order.

For pilot supplies such as intercoms, headsets, tires, etc.:

For aviation books: For aviation software, "techno-toys", etc.: Q7: I'm a private pilot. How should I log time in instrument conditions?

The key concept here, and in most logging questions, is that the requirements for LOGGING pilot time (in FAR 61.51) are completely distinct from the requirements for ACTING as pilot in command.

(1) you are the sole manipulator of the controls, and
(2) you have at least a private certificate for that category and class of aircraft
you may log the time as pilot in command.

It does _not_ matter whether or not you are in visual or instrument conditions, nor whether or not you have a "high-performance" endorsement and are flying an retractable-gear airplane. (If you are flying in IMC and are not instrument rated, you must have a current, instrument rated pilot who is rated to fly the aircraft in the plane with you. The instrument-rated pilot then _acts_ as pilot in command while you fly and log time as sole manipulator; the other pilot may also log the time spent in actual instrument conditions as pilot in command.)

Much confusion stems from the long sentence in FAR 61.51(c)(2)(i) which governs who may log pilot-in-command flight time; this indented, specially punctuated "translation" of this clause should be helpful:

    (i)  A recreational, private, or commercial pilot may log as pilot in
         command time only that flight time during which that pilot
	 (1)  is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft
              for which the pilot is rated, OR
	 (2)  when the pilot is the sole occupant of the aircraft, OR,
	 (3)  except for a recreational pilot, when acting as pilot in
	      command of an aircraft on which more than one pilot
	      is required under
	      (a)  the type certification of the aircraft, or
	      (b)  the regulations under which the flight is conducted.
Instrument flight is much easier, as FAR 61.51(c)(4) shows:
 (4)     Instrument flight time. A pilot may log as instrument flight time
         only that time during which he operates the aircraft solely by
	 reference to instruments, under actual or simulated instrument
	 flight conditions. ...
OK, so this means that
  1. As a private pilot, you get to _log_ PIC whenever you are the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which you are rated. Note that "rated" in this case means "rating", as in "airplane, single-engine land", _not_ "endorsement", as in "high-performance endorsement", or (worse yet) insurance-company endorsement.
  2. If you're the sole occupant of an aircraft and you hold a private pilot license or better, even if you aren't rated for that category and class of aircraft, you can log it as pilot in command (i.e., you're soloing a glider as a student glider pilot).
  3. As a pilot (doesn't matter what kind), you get to log instrument flight time whenever you "operate the aircraft solely by reference to instruments".

Q8: What about logging cross-country time?

You *may* log as a cross-country flight any flight at which you leave the immediate vicinity of the airport. From the point of view of cross-country flight experience requirements any FAA rating or certificate, you need to *land* at an airport other than the airport of departure for the flight to be counted as a cross-country flight. You don't even have to do a full-stop landing at the second airport -- a touch-and-go (shudder) is fine. You do have to land -- an instrument missed approach doesn't count, as far as the FAA is concerned. However, it's also true that you are not *required* to log any flight as cross-country. It's up to you.

The requirements for certain ratings make restrictions on which logged cross-country flights may be counted towards a given rating. To make your logbook simpler, you may wish to count as cross-country flight time only those flights which are relevant to ratings which you are or might be seeking. Note that the mileage requirement is the _straight-line_ distance between two airports -- if you take a circuitous route, that won't help. (The summary below applies to airplanes only; rotorcraft, gliders, etc. differ.)

for the Private Pilot certificate (see FAR 61.109(b)(2)):
    Dual cross-country:  no restrictions.  Solo cross-country:  more than
    50nm from the point of departure.

for the Instrument rating (see FAR 61.65(e)(1)):
    more than 50nm from the point of departure.

for the Commercial certificate (see FAR 61.129(b)(3)(ii):
    more than 50nm from the point of departure.

for the ATP certificate (see FAR 61.155(b)(2)):
    no restrictions.

Q9: Tell me about DUATS on-line weather briefings.

If you can dial a U.S. (800) number, or you have access to the Internet, you can access DUATS, the FAA's Direct User Access Terminal System, at no charge. DUATS service is provided by two commercial vendors:

				        voice info      data line
    DTC (Data Transformation Corp.)   1-800-243-3828  1-800-245-3828
    GTE Federal Sys Division (Contel) 1-800-345-3828  1-800-767-9989
GTE (Contel) DUATS may be accessed via the Internet; simply telnet to If your machine seems to be brain-dead in the name server department, try Non-pilots must use the machine (note the "s" in duats), address You can use e-mail to contact GTE for help at . A shell script which allows an entire briefing to be obtained using a single command to the shell is available by request from

GTE's 800-number dial-in lines now support v.32 (9600 bps). GTE DUATS may also be accessed via SPRINTNET; call the voice info line for a local access number. For DTC, 243-3828 is "AID-DUAT" and 245-3828 is "CHK-DUAT".

If you're a U.S.-licensed pilot (student pilots and glider pilots without medicals included), it is to your advantage to obtain a DUATS user I.D. and to use that I.D. whenever you obtain a briefing. Users who sign on without giving an I.D. cannot file flight plans, and the briefing will not be recorded for the purposes of counting as a "legal" briefing.

If you haven't used DUATS before, you can simply call the data number and register on-line. When registering, student pilots should use their student pilot certificate number which is also the medical certificate number; it begins with "BB" or "DD", and you need to type in the "BB" or "DD" as well as the digits. If your medical is less than about three months old, or you are a glider or other pilot who doesn't have a medical certificate, you may need to call the voice info numbers to get them to add you to the database. You must register with each provider independently; they provide similar levels of service.

Several commercial weather vendors also exist, and each of them provides additional services which may not be available on DUATS. Jeppesen-Sanderson has two different services, Jeppesen DataPlan at 1-800- 358-6468 [voice] is designed for "big guys"; Jepp/Link at 1-800-553-7750 [voice] is an enhanced version of DUATS for "the rest of us". CompuServe Information Services (buy a starter pack from a local computer store, type "GO AWX") has local data access numbers throughout the country. WeatherBank, Inc. of Salt Lake City, UT, also has more specialized information such as ROAB soundings and farm forecasts, as well as a longer online "history" (up to one year) than other vendors.

There is a wealth of additional weather information available on the Internet. Please see Ilana Stern's Sources of Meteorological Data FAQ which is posted to sci.geo.meteorology, news.answers, and sci.answers

Q10: Tell me about BITNET access, the aviation-digest list, and posting by mail.

If you live at a site which can't receive rec.aviation through normal (netnews) channels, you can have a digest mailed to you. At this time, all 13 rec.aviation subgroups are consolidated into a single digest; it is not at this time possible to subscribe to a selected subset. To subscribe or unsubscribe, mail to "". As a BITNET address, I'm told that this is "". Please, please DO NOT send mail to aviation-digest...

  *** ATTENTION!!!  As of 5/14/93, the aviation digest service went off
  *** the air; (Christopher C. Stacy) may fix someday.
To post to rec.aviation via e-mail, you can send the posting by mail to "". To post to subgroups other than .misc, replace "misc" in this address with the name of the subgroup you wish. Note that this is an _automated_ posting service, so be sure that your subject line contains the subject of the message, not "please post"!
Q11: How do I start a brand-new thread of articles?

On UNIX systems, the typical method is to use the "postnews" or "Pnews" command to the shell. These days, it is _particularly_ important to start a new thread of articles when you start a new subject, rather than just following up an existing article and changing the subject. This is because threaded newsreaders depend on article-id's to sort articles, and they can't do this properly if one doesn't start new threads properly.

If you wish to create a posting to one of the moderated rec.aviation groups (.announce or .stories), most UNIX posting software will allow you to enter the post in the normal manner; that post will then be mailed to the group moderator for approval. If you are on a non-UNIX system, simply mail your article to or

Q12: I'm a non-U.S. licensed private pilot. Can I fly in the U.S.?

In general, a pilot's license entitles you to fly aircraft of the same country of registry as your license _anywhere_ in the world. So if you can find an airplane registered in your "home" country, there's no problem. For most non-U.S. pilots, if you wish to obtain a U.S. pilot's certificate, simply present your existing pilot certificate at any FAA FSDO (acronyms below), and you will receive free of charge an equivalent U.S. certificate (private and instrument ratings only). Note that non-governmentally regulated licenses, such as a British glider license which is issued by the British Soaring Association, will _not_ be honored by the FAA. Some FSDOs also require a current medical certificate; you will probably be able to use your "home" medical. But call the FSDO before you visit. You can then legally fly U.S.-registered aircraft.

Q13: What about hang-gliding? Ultralights?

Hang-gliding articles typically appear in rec.aviation.soaring. If you desire additional traffic, there is a hang-gliding mailing list which is also available in digest form. Subscribe by sending a request to

To [un]subscribe your Subject line should be: [un]subscribe and the body or your message should look like: [un]subscribe hang-gliding [list, digest] For further information, send mail to Additional hang-gliding information is available on WWW as

An ultralight mailing list is maintained by David Hempy; to find out more send mail to The subject line should be "subscribe", "unsubscribe", "info", or "faq".

Q14: Where can I get a copy of public-domain flight planning software and other good stuff on the net?

The public-domain flight-planning software and data is available on in pub/aviation and on also in pub/aviation; data only from in the flight directory. has a bunch of aviation related stuff in ~ftp/misc/av, including NTSB accident abstracts in in ~ftp/misc/av/safety-folder/aviation-abstracts.txt.

Many folks ask about current FARs, the AIM, and published NOTAMS. You should be able to ftp many parts from in the Fly directory. The files are ZIPped, so you'll need to have an un-ZIPping program.

Machine-readable FARs (parts 1-199) and the AIM are also available commercially on IBM-PC format diskettes (either 3.5" or 5.25") from FlytNET at 1-214-436-0164 (voice/FAX) 1-214-434-1127 (BBS) or or send $24.95 (FARs) or $34.95 (FAR+AIM) [1994 update] to FlytNET, P.O. Box 610128, DFW International Airport, TX 75261. Regular updates are available. Let's support these folks by _not_ copying disks or "making the material available", please.

Q15: I'm considering buying an airplane. How much will it cost?

The general consensus is that if you fly from 200 to 300 hours per year, the hourly costs for owning an airplane will be about equal to the hourly costs of renting an equivalent airplane from a local FBO. In a partnership, evaluate the total flying hours for the aircraft. This number of hours is required because there are substantial fixed costs associated with ownership: tiedown, insurance, annual inspections, taxes, and so on, which must be amortized over flight hours.

Many people who own aircraft do so not to reduce the cost of flying but to improve its quality, convenience, and safety. With an owned aircraft, one can have the equipment one wants in the condition one wants, and the airplane will (well, mostly) be available when one wants. There's nothing like deciding the day before a major holiday weekend "oh, let's go flying to XYZ!"

Q16: Can I use my cellular telephone in an airplane?

FCC regulations effective March 9, 1992 state that:

Further info is in the Federal Register, vol. 57, pages 830-831.
Q17: Can I use a radio, either a broadcast or aviation receiver, in an aircraft?

FAR 91.21 governs portable electronic devices. Use of a receiver is prohibited except for units which "the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used." "(c) In the case of an aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate ... the determination ... shall be made by that operator of the aircraft on which the particular device is to be used. In the case of other aircraft, the determination may be made by the pilot in command or other operator of the aircraft."

In plain English, this means that on an airliner, the _airline_ must allow you to operate the radio -- the captain does not have the sole authority to authorize its use. On a private aircraft, the captain does have that authority. Note that amateur (ham) radio operators are forbidden by FCC regulations from transmitting on _any_ IFR flight.

Q18: I have a physical disability and would like to learn to fly. How?

Contact: Bill Blackwood, secretary, International Wheelchair Aviators, 11117 Rising Hill Way, Escondido, CA 92025. You need not be disabled or a pilot to join; membership is $15/year. There are pilots in all kinds of aircraft flying all over the world with some kind of disability, including amputees, paraplegics, etc.

If you have a condition which might preclude you from getting a medical certificate, contact the medical services department of AOPA (see below). They will be glad to assist you, whether or not you are a member.

Q19: What are the alternatives for taking an FAA written examination?

The least expensive alternative, typically $20-30, is to find a local FBO or community college who is an FAA Designated Written Test Examiner. Call your nearest FAA FSDO for pointers. (You might luck out and get the FSDO to give you an exam for free, but this is highly unlikely.) The drawback with these methods is that it will take 3-5 weeks for you to get your results, as the tests are scored by the FAA in Oklahoma City.

Several commercial vendors now offer computerized testing with results available immediately after you finish the test. Costs range from $50 to $85 for a test. To find out where your nearest testing center is, and to schedule a test, contact Drake Testing Services at 1-800-FLY-FAST, The Roach Organization (Plato Professional Testing) at 1-800-869-1100, or CATS (Computerized Aviation Testing Service) at 1-800-947-4228. There are other vendors; if you let the FAQ author know, they too can be listed here. As of 10/93, Drake offers a $10 discount to AOPA members.

In any case, you will need a written authorization to take most FAA tests. This may be obtained from an appropriately rated and FAA-Certificated Flight Instructor or Ground Instructor, or, if you completed a home-study course, with some difficulty you can get your local FSDO to sign you off.

Q20: Are slips with flaps prohibited in certain Cessnas?

No. Some Cessna 172's have a recommendation that extended slips with full flaps be _avoided_. This is because the flaps on these aircraft are sufficiently effective to partially blanket the empennage during a full-flap slip, which may result in a gentle, but fully controllable, bobbing motion. That bobbing motion has on more than one occasion unduly alarmed a pilot on short final, resulting in a less than satisfactory outcome. Bottom line: go up to altitude and try it yourself, with a CFI aboard if you prefer. Then you won't need to worry about the recommendation. [Disclaimer: if the POH for your specific aircraft says something different, the POH takes precedence over this note. Certain C-170s are reported to have such a prohibition, because they exhibit "exciting" descents in this configuration.]

Q21: How can I get a copy of an NTSB accident report?

There are several types of reports available: preliminary reports, which are usually available within a month of the accident; factual reports, which are usually available 7 months to 1 year following the accident; and probable cause reports, which may take up to 2 years. Copies may be obtained from General Microfilm, 11141 Georgia Avenue, Suite B6, Silver Springs MD 20902; phone 301/929-8888. You'll need (a) the aircraft registration number, or (b) the date and location of the accident, or (c) the name of the pilot for accidents which occurred prior to 1978. [Thanks to _Flying_ magazine, June 1993, for this info.]

Q22: From what does "I have slipped the surly bonds..." come?
                   High Flight

            by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. 

     Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
     And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
     Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
     Of sun-split clouds -- and done a hundred things
     You have not dreamed of -- wheeled and soared and swung
     High in the sunlit silence.  Hov'ring there,
     I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
     My eager craft through footless halls of air.
     Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
     I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
     Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
     And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
     The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
     Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

The rec.aviation Glossary

Pilots, Ratings, and other basic stuff

Airline Transport Pilot (the "highest" grade of pilot certificate)
Federal Aviation Regulations (U.S.)
Certificated Flight Instructor (see suffixes, below)
Commercial (pilot certificate) (see suffixes, below)
Instrument Flight Rules (see below)
Private Pilot
Private (pilot certificate) (see suffixes, below)
Visual Flight Rules (see below)
Pilot and instructor certificates may be suffixed with certain combinations of the following:
For example, the typical private pilot is "PP-ASEL" or "PVT-ASEL". Ratings are more complex than this limited explanation -- for example, Rotorcraft come in two flavors, Helicopter and Gyroplane; Lighter-than-Air aircraft come in two flavors, Free Balloon and Airship; and there are specific type ratings for aircraft over 12,500 pounds. One can spend several lifetimes accumulating ratings.

A pilot who does not hold an instrument rating must fly under VFR, which specify minimum cloud clearance and visibility requirements. In some countries other than the U.S., VFR flight at night is not permitted. Pilots who fly under VFR do so by looking out the window. Flight through clouds is permitted only under IFR, which requires an instrument rating and an appropriately-equipped aircraft. Instrument-rated pilots may control the aircraft solely by reference to instruments, but if they are flying in VMC, they are expected to look out the window to avoid other aircraft.

Navigation, Instruments, and Avionics

Automatic Direction Finder - an instrument in an airplane which displays the relative bearing to an NDB (see below) -- it essentially "points at the NDB"
Attitude Indicator (also known as AH - Artificial Horizon) - an instrument which provides the pilot with pitch and roll information
Airport Surveillance Radar (usually, a type of instrument approach which provides only horizontal guidance to the pilot)
Course Deviation Indicator - part of a VOR navigation system, which shows how far off a desired course the aircraft is
Directional Gyro - a compass-like device which uses a gyroscope to provide stable directional information for a pilot
Distance Measuring Equipment
Electronic Flight Instrumentation System
Emergency Locator Transmitter
Ground-Controlled (instrument) Approach (uses radar, see ASR and PAR)
Global Positioning System - a satellite-based navigation system, just coming up now
Glideslope - the vertical guidance component of an ILS
Horizontal Situation Indicator - combines the functions of a VOR and a DG
Identify Friend or Foe -- see transponder
Instrument Landing System - a system which allows appropriately equipped aircraft to find a runway and land, when the clouds may be as low as 200 feet (or lower for special circumstances)
Inertial Navigation System
Inertial Reference System
Localizer - the horizontal guidance component of an ILS
Long RANge Navigation -- a navigation system, originally for marine use, which utilizes timing differences between multiple low-frequency transmissions to provide accurate latitude/longitude position information, at best to within 50 feet
Microwave Landing System - not in use yet, but it's getting warmer...
A transponder which does not give the controllers altitude information
A transponder and encoding altimeter which together give air traffic controllers altitude information
A new "flavor" of transponder which features unique identification per unit, the potential for low-speed up and down datalinks, and "selective interrogation" triggered by ground facilities
Non-Directional Beacon - an older type of electronic navigation aid, basically a low-power AM radio station
Omnibearing Selector - part of a VOR receiver system, which allows the pilot to select a course to or from a VOR station
Precision Approach Radar - a ground-radar based instrument approach which provides both horizontal and vertical guidance
Radio Magnetic Indicator - an ADF-like display with a pair of pointers which might be attached to either VOR or ADF receivers
aRea Navigation - a VOR/DME based system which allows one to fly to an arbitrary point, rather than to a point under which a VOR exists
A 4-digit (actually 4-octal-digit -> 12-bit) number which is set into a transponder by the pilot to identify the aircraft to air traffic controllers
an airborne transmitter which responds to a ground-based interrogation signal to provide air traffic controllers with more accurate and reliable position information than would be possible with "passive" radar; a transponder may also provide air traffic control with an aircraft's altitude
VHF Omnidirectional Range - a common type of electronic navigation aid; the acronym refers both to the ground station and the airborne receiver.

Organizations, etc.

The Ninety-Nines, Inc., Will Rogers World Airport, P.O. Box 59965, Oklahoma City, OK 73159; 405/685-7969, fax 405/685-7985 [the 99's is the International Organization of Women Pilots]
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, MD 21701; 1-800-USA-AOPA or 1-301-695-2000; FAX 1-301-695-2375
Air Route Traffic Control Center - a "long-distance" ATC facility, known more briefly as "Center"
Aviation Safety Reporting System (voluntary NASA safety program) [write to: Aviation Safety Reporting System, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189, or call 1-415-969-3969; Sue McCarthy should be able to send you copies of form 277 and/or a free subscription to the monthly _Callback_ newsletter]
Air Traffic Control
Civil Aviation Authority (U.K.)
Civil Air Patrol
Department of Transportation (U.S); Department of Transport (Canada)
Experimental Aircraft Association, PO Box 3086, Oshkosh, WI 54903 Phone 1-414-426-4800; FAX 1-414-426-4828; Membership 1-800-843-3612
Federal Aviation Administration (U.S.)
Federation Aeronautique International
Fixed-Base Operator - a firm on an airport which maintains, rents, sells, and/or fuels aircraft, and may also provide flight training
Flight Standards District Office - an FAA field office
Flight Service Station - an FAA facility which provides weather information to pilots and allows them to file flight plans
General Aviation District Office - an FAA field office for G.A. only
International Wheelchair Aviators (see Q17 above) 1-619-746-0518
The Lighter-Than-Air Society, 1800 Triplett Blvd., Akron, OH 44306
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (U.S.)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.)
National Ocean Service, part of NOAA [they print aviation charts]
National Transportation Safety Board (U.S.)
National Weather Service (U.S.)
Oshkosh, WI (see next entry)
Wisconsin is the site of the annual EAA convention, the largest gathering of aircraft in the world -- typically, over 15,000 aircraft are on site. Oshkosh '95 is July 27 through August 2.
Soaring Society of America, PO Box E, Hobbs, NM 88241
Trade-A-Plane, PO Box 509, 410 West 4th St., Crossville, TN 38557 1-615-484-5137
United States Hang Gliding Association [POB 8300 Colo Springs CO 80933]


Changes to the U.S. Airspace system were instituted on 9/16/93; the changes are primarily nomenclature, as shown below. Note that there are a few rules changes in addition to name changes -- consult the latest AIM.
	Old name:					After 9/16/93:
	---------					--------------
ARSA	Airport Radar Service Area			Class C
ATA	Airport Traffic Area				Class D
CZ	Control Zone					Class E
MOA	Military Operations Area
PCA	Positive Controlled Airspace (above 18,000')	Class A
TCA	Terminal Control Area				Class B
TRSA	Terminal Radar Service Area			-> Class C or D
	Uncontrolled Airspace				Class G


Airframe and Powerplant - the basic FAA aircraft maintenance rating
Above Ground Level - distance above the ground you're over right now
Airman's Information Manual
Aviation gasoline (two primary grades, 80 and 100 octane)
Automatic Terminal Information Service - pre-recorded airport weather
Biennial Flight Review - an instructional review session required of all U.S. pilots once every two years
Ceiling and visibility unrestricted (clear or scattered, vis > 10 miles)
Direct User Access Terminal System (on-line weather briefings)
Frequently Asked Questions (this posting)
Flight Simulator, usually Microsoft's
Inspection Authorization - added to an A&P, allows sign-off of annuals
Instrument Meteorological Conditions - flying in conditions below those required for VFR flight; colloquially, "in the clouds"
in my humble opinion
Lighter Than Air
Minimum Enroute Altitude (IFR)
Minimum Obstacle Clearance Altitude (IFR)
Manifold Pressure (usually refers to the gauge which is the primary indication of power output in aircraft with controllable-pitch props)
Mean Sea Level - altitude above the ocean
Motor (automotive) gasoline
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Oxygen (Aviator's Breathing Oxygen, of course!)
Outside Air Temperature
Pilot In Command
Pilot's Operating Handbook (the manufacturer's guide to the airplane)
Second In Command
Since Major Overhaul
Since Top Overhaul (cylinders, etc., but not crankshaft, etc.)
Supplemental Type Certificate
Special VFR - allows VFR flight in the vicinity of an airport in
less than VFR conditions under restricted circumstances
There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch [R. Heinlein]
Time Between (or Before) Overhaul
Technical Standard Order
Visual Approach Slope Indicator
Visual Meteorological Conditions - flying in conditions at least as good as the minimums required for VFR flight

Frequently-Noted Places

Pittsburgh (Allegheny Co.) PA
Hanscom Field, Bedford MA
Bloomington, IN
Boston MA
Beverly MA
Chicago (Meigs) IL
Port Columbus OH
Champaign-Urbana IL
Washington (National) DC
Dayton OH
Ellington Field, Houston TX
White Plains NY
Hayward CA
Dulles International, Washington DC
Houston (Intercontinental) TX
Williamsport PA
Los Angeles CA
Long Beach CA
Martha's Vineyard MA
Montgomery Field, San Diego CA
Oakland CA
Orchard Field, a.k.a O'Hare, Chicago IL
Palo Alto CA
Reid-Hillview Intergalactic, San Jose CA
San Francisco CA
San Jose CA
Santa Monica CA
Santa Ana (Orange County) CA
St. Louis (Lambert) MO
Teterboro NJ
Van Nuys CA

The rec.aviation Guide to Proper Spelling

Right				Wrong
-----				-----
Beech[craft]			Beach[craft]
Comanche			Commanche
descend				decend
definitely			definately
gauge				guage
hazard				hazzard
Hobbs (an hour meter)		Hobb's, hobbs, Hobbes (as in Calvin and)
Monterey (California)		Monterrey (not CA, but Mexico)
propeller			propellor
turbulence			turbulance
And some words which are frequently confused:
advice (I'd like a bit of ...)	   advise (please tell me)
descend (to lose altitude)	   decent (proper; in good taste; moral)
flare (part of a good landing)	   flair (with panache)
hangar (a place for airplanes)	   hanger (a place for clothes)
it's (contraction for "it is")	   its (possessive, belonging to it)
loose (not fully attached)	   lose (to misplace or forget; to reduce)
roll (aerobatic maneuver)	   role (part in a dramatic production)
yoke (aircraft control)		   yolk (yellow part of an egg)
you're (you are)		   your (indicating possession)

Copyright (C) 1990-1994, Geoffrey G. Peck, all rights reserved. You may redistribute this information freely as long as it is distributed in its entirety, with this copyright notice included. You may also not charge, either directly or indirectly, for this information, nor may you include this information in a compendium for which a charge of any sort is made.