A Guide to Aviation Acronyms for the Bamboozled

September 22, 2017

This post will act as a reference for some of the most commonly-encountered acronyms used in aviation and flight safety (at least, the ones that I happen across regularly as a data scientist). This is necessary because aviation-y types love their acronyms and it’s a bit perplexing for someone with no domain knowledge.

Acronym Expansion Notes
AAL (Altitude) Above Airfield Level Height of aircraft above airfield level. Reference altitude for takeoff and landing.
AMSL (Altitude) Above Mean Sea Level Height of aircraft above mean sea level. Reference altitude for cruise.
CCF Control Column Force Force exerted on the control column (pitch/roll controls, etc)
GPWS Ground Proximity Warning System A specific type of TAWS designed to alert pilots if they are approaching the ground.
NOTAM Notice to Airmen A notice sent to an aviation authority warning pilots of potential hazards along a flight route.
SAT Static Air Temperature Temperature of air outside aircraft, discounting kinetic energy transferred from movement. Usually derived from TAT. Also known as OAT (Outside Air Temperature).
TAT Total Air Temperature Air temperature after being brought to rest by probe mounted on aircraft. Warmer than SAT due to kinetic energy being converted into thermal energy.
TAWS Terrain Awareness Warning System An alert that tells pilots if the aircraft is below a minimum altitude.
TFR Temporary Flight Restriction A temporarily restricted portion of airspace, due to hazardous conditions or special events.
TOGA Takeoff/Go-around switch Autopilot setting - throttle mode switch. Takeoff mode used to spin up engines to correct power on takeoff, go-around mode is for approach.

Height, Altitude, or Elevation?

The distinction between these quantities always confuses me. I forget where I found this quote, but it’s very helpful when bamboozled.

“If it’s an altitude you can fly there, if it’s an elevation you can walk there, and if it’s height that’s how far a rock will fall before it hits the ground.”