Aviation Terminology & Acronyms Explained

Aviation terminology can be hard and sometimes confusing to understand. We have therefore gathered some useful aviation acronyms for general guidance and use in the aviation industry and explained each individual meaning. Please note that this is not a complete list of aviation terminology and acronyms but hope that you can learn something new!

Accident: An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which, in the case of an unmanned aircraft, takes place between the time the aircraft is ready to move with the purpose of flight until such time it comes to rest at the end of the flight and the primary momentum system is shutdown in which:

a. A person is fatally or seriously injured as a result of:

    • Being in the aircraft
    • Direct contact with any part of the aircraft, including parts which have become detached from the aircraft
    • Direct exposure to jet blast, except when the injuries are from natural causes, self-inflicted or inflicted by other persons, or when the injuries are to stowaways hiding outside the areas normally available to the passengers and crew

b. The aircraft sustains damage or structural failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance or flight characteristics of the aircraft, and would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component, except for engine failure or damage, when the damage is limited to a single engine (including its cowlings or accessories), to propellers, wing tips, antennas, probes, vanes, tires, brakes, small dents or puncture holes) or minor damages to main rotor blades, tail rotor blades, landing gear and those resulting from hail or bird strike (including holes in the radome)

c. The aircraft is missing or is completely inaccessible

Autonomous Operation: An operation during which an unmanned aircraft is operating without pilot intervention in the management of flight.

Commercial Operation: Means any flight by a small unmanned aircraft except a flight for public transport, or any operation of any other aircraft except an operation for public transport –

  1. Which is available to the public
  2. Which when not made available to the public –
  3. In the case of a flight by a small unmanned aircraft, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the remote pilot
  4. In any other case, is performed under a contract between an operator and a customer, where the latter has no control over the operator

In return for remuneration or other valuable consideration.

Command and Control Link: The data link between the remotely-piloted aircraft and the remote pilot station to manage the flight.

Competent Observer: A competent person designated by the SUA Operator or Remote Pilot who, by visual observation of the of the Remotely Piloted Aircraft, assists the Remote Pilot in the safe conduction of the flight.

Congested Area: In relation to a city, town or settlement, means any area which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes.

Danger Area: Airspace which has been notified as such within which activities dangerous to the flight of aircraft may take place or exist at such times as may be notified.

Detect and Avoid: The capability to see, sense or detect conflicting traffic or other hazards and take the appropriate action.

Extended Visual Line-Of-Sight Operation: An operation in which the Remote Pilot and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft Observer(s), maintain a direct unaided visual contact with the Remote Pilot Aircraft sufficient to monitor the crafts flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vessels, vehicles and structures to avoid collisions.

Handover: The act of passing piloting control from one Remote Pilot/ Remote Pilot Station to another.

Human Machine Interface: The element(s) of the Remote Pilot Station that physically interact with the Remote Pilot to receive input data and commands and that outputs sensory data and flight telemetry for the Remote Pilot to control the Remotely Piloted Aircraft and gather the mission data.

Lost Link: The loss of command and control link contact with the remotely piloted aircraft such that the remote pilot can no longer manage the aircraft’s flight.

Operator: A person, organisation or enterprise engaged in or offering to engage in an aircraft operation.

Pre-flight Inspection: The inspection carried out before the flight to ensure that the aircraft is fit for the intended flight.

Remote Pilot: In relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is an individual who –

  1. Operates the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft by manual use of remote controls
  2. When the small unmanned aircraft is flying automatically, monitors its course and is able to intervene and change its course by operating its flight controls.

Serious Incident: An incident involving circumstances indicating that there was a high probability of an accident and associated with the operation of an aircraft which in the case of an unmanned aircraft, takes place between the time the aircraft is ready to move with the purpose of flight until such time it comes to rest at the end of the flight and the primary propulsion system is shut down.

Safety: The state in which risks associated with aviation activities, related to, or in direct support of the operation of aircraft, are reduced and controlled to an acceptable level.

Safety Management System: A systematic approach to managing safety, including the necessary organisational structures, accountabilities, policies and procedures.

Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA): Any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20k without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight.

Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft: A small unmanned aircraft which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.

SUA Operator: In relation to a small unmanned aircraft, is the person who has management of the small unmanned aircraft.

Unmanned Aircraft (UA): An aircraft which is intended to operate with no human pilot on board, as part of an Unmanned Aircraft System. Moreover, an Unmanned Aircraft:

  • Is capable of a sustained flight by aerodynamic means
  • Is remotely piloted or capable of degrees of automated or autonomous operation
  • Is reusable
  • Is not classified as a guided weapon or similar one-shot device designed for the delivery of munitions.

Unmanned Aircraft System: Comprises individual ‘System Elements’ consisting of the Unmanned Aircraft and any other System Elements necessary to enable flight, such as an RPS and Launch and Recovery Element. There may be multiple UA’s, RPS or Launch and Recovery Elements within a UAS.

Visual Flight Rules: Procedures to navigate and avoid collisions without navigational instruments.

For further acronyms and abbreviations, please visit the CAA website or the Drone Desk aviation abbreviations and acronyms lookup.