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VMC or IMC, A/P or ARPT? Abbreviations in aviation

In Germany, a group called Die Fantastischen Vier (The Fantastic Four) had a huge hit whose lyrics consisted almost exclusively of abbreviations. MfG, Mit freundlichen Grüssen 🙂 (in English: Brgds, best regards)

The aviation industry also uses lots of abbreviations, many of which aren’t always clear from the outset. Some have even found their way into non-aviation contexts with different meanings. Want some examples? SMS – does that denote a Safety Management System or Short Message System? CRM – are we talking about Customer Relation Management or Crew Resource Management?

But since we’re focusing on flying here, below are a few of its thousands, if not tens of thousands of abbreviations – and not in alphabetical order :-).

Before boarding a flight, there’s the question of whether it can operate in VMC (visual meteorological conditions) or whether IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) exist and IFR (instrument flight rules) need to be followed. In any case, you can expect good visibility after TO (take-off) in VMC, even though the RVR (runway visual range) on the ground can sometimes be so poor that you need to take off based on IFR, switch to VFR (visual flight rules) once above the fog or clouds, and then switch back to IFR for landing – if need be having to approach the A/P (airport, but sometimes also “autopilot”, in which case “airport” would be ARPT!) via GCA (ground controlled approach) with the ILS (instrument landing system), using the HUD (head-up display) for better orientation and information, so as to decide on the LDG (landing) when you’re at the right ALT (altitude) on the GS (glideslope) with the right HDG (heading) at the DH (decision height), and then perform the TD (touchdown) on RWY 25 (runway with a compass heading of 250°). Hopefully no GA (go-around) is necessary as a result of another A/C (aircraft) being on the RWY.

In the aviation industry, we have a lot to deal with CAA (civil aviation authorities), which the British call “the” CAA. Meanwhile, the Swiss have their BAZL (Bundesamt für Zivilluftfahrt), which translates into English as FOCA (Federal Office of Civil Aviation). In the EU at least these CAAs are all governed by the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency). The Americans have their FAA (Federal Aviation Authority), and the Chinese their CAAC (Civil Aviation Authority of China). Every country has its own CAA.

As previously mentioned, there are a myriad of abbreviations for practically everything relating to aircraft, air space, equipment, maintenance, training etc. And it’s a challenge to make sure you understand their correct meaning – some are easy, while others require you to hit the books or the Internet :-)!

Please contact us if you have any questions about this – we’ll be glad to assist you further.

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