Important Glossary/Full Forms Related to the Airline Industry

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A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic's license - An FAA-regulated and issued license for aircraft mechanics. It involves formal training in aircraft systems and theory.

ALPA-Air Line Pilots Association. This is a national pilots union that represents the bulk of all airline pilots in the United States.

AME - Aviation Medical Examiner. A doctor designated by the FAA to examine pilots and pilot candidates.

APA - Allied Pilots Association. Union representing American Airlines pilots.

ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) license-An FAA-regulated and issued license that is a necessity today for a pilot aspiring to an airline flying career. For an ATP, a pilot has to have 1,500 hours of logged flight time, with necessary minimums of cross-country, night and weather flying. First Class Medical Certificate required.

Ab initio training - Ab initio (Latin for "from the beginning") refers to pilot training programs that take pilot candidates from zero flight time to an Air Transport Pilot license and a type rating on an airliner. Generally, the "airliner" is not a big jet but is instead a turboprop of the kind used by regional/commuter airlines. Some programs, however, also type-rate their pilots in large jets.

Captain - The flight officer in command.

Certified Flight Instructor rating - An FAA-regulated and issued certificate permitting a pilot to instruct others in flying. It requires a Second Class Medical Certificate. Commercial Pilot License and Instrument Rating required.

Commercial Pilot Certificate - An FAA-regulated and issued license to do commercial flying, i.e., carry passengers for hire. Second Class Medical Certificate required (the more restrictive medical requirements arise from the fact that the pilot now is certified to carry paying passengers).

Designated Flight Examiner - An FAA-designated individual who checks out a pilot's flying skills for whatever level of flying he is attempting to qualify for or to continue to qualify for.

Domicile - The town at which an airline pilot is based for scheduling and flight purposes. This town may or may not be the community in which the pilot lives. Some pilots commute to domicile from another city, often one several states away from domicile.

FARs - Federal Aviation Regulations. These are the FAA rules for the piloting, operation and maintenance of aircraft of all kinds in the United States.

FBO - Fixed-Base Operator. This is a facility that provides a variety of services, including aircraft maintenance, fueling, charter flights, aircraft for hire, small-package cargo service, etc.

FE (Flight Engineer) certificate-FAA-regulated and issued certificate to control the complex systems found on many commercial aircraft. The student pilot must go quite deeply into aircraft systems and principles of operation in order to acquire an FE.

FEPA - Federal Express Pilots Association. Union representing Federal Express pilots.

FEX - Flight Engineer/Turbojet combined test. See "Flight Engineer Basic (FE) and Turbojet (FEJ) tests," below.

Feed traffic-Passengers brought to a major airline by a regional/commuter airline. Major carriers maintain hubs at large airports. Many small airlines have contracts with the major carriers to supply these hubs with "feed" from small towns in exchange for various benefits, often including joint marketing, use of the major's CRS (computer reservations system), some ground handling, the display of certain insignia of the major airline, ticketing at some stations, and a pro rata share of through-fare revenues.

First Class Medical Certificate - Also called Class 1 Medical Certificate. This is the certificate that a pilot must have in order to fly for an airline. It signifies that the pilot is in top physical condition with no serious health problems.

First officer - The copilot.

Flight engineer - The third crew member in a three-person crew. He/she controls the complex systems found in some aircraft.

Flight Engineer Basic (FE) and Turbojet (FEJ) tests - The written and flight tests, respectively, that a pilot must take to qualify as an FAA-certified flight engineer.

Hub airport - An airport at which one or more major airlines have established service hubs, i.e., clearing sites for traffic. The airlines' routes branch out in "spokes" from the "hub" to form a service "wheel." This kind of operation, a product largely of airline deregulation, has proven to be the most efficient method of moving both people and cargo by air.

Instrument rating - Written and flight tests are taken to get the FAA-regulated instrument rating. An instrument flight test determines a pilot's ability to control the airplane safely under instrument meteorological conditions and under the control of Air Traffic Control (ATC). Third Class Medical Certificate required.

Line check - An in-flight, in-revenue-service check of an airline pilot's flying skills.

LOFT - Line Oriented Flight Training. This is a type of training for pilots that is keyed to actual routes and route airports flown by the airline for which the pilot works. Simulators that can replicate these flying conditions are used for such training.

Major airline - A commercial airline with more than $1 billion in annual revenue (U.S. Department of Transportation's definition).

Multi-engine aircraft - Aircraft with two or more engines.

Multi-engine rating - An FAA-regulated and issued certificate to fly aircraft that have more than one engine. The medical certificate is keyed to the pilot's license held.

Myopia - Near-sightedness.

National airline - A commercial airline with revenue from $100 million to $1 billion (U.S. Department of Transportation's definition).

Pilot Logbook - The pilot's log is a legal document that is inspected thoroughly by prospective employers and the FAA to verify flight training and experience. In it, the pilot records each flight he/she makes, the type of aircraft, tail number, date, point of takeoff and landing, duration of flight, flight conditions, and training received.

Piston-engine aircraft - Also called "reciprocating engine" aircraft. These are propeller-driven aircraft that are powered by piston engines.

PFE - Professional Flight Engineer. This is a profession separate from piloting; a PFE is not allowed to advance to a pilot seat, and PFEs have their own unions, seniority systems, etc. A PFE at a major airline is required to have both a full FE Turbojet rating and an A&P (see above for A&P).

Regional/commuter airline - An airline with less than $100 million in revenue (U.S. Department of Transportation definition).

Second officer - The flight engineer in a three-person airplane crew.

Seniority - Pilot pay, work assignments, promotions, benefits, etc., are pegged to seniority, based on date of hire. The more senior pilots not only make more money but get the aircraft, route and scheduling assignments of their choice.

Simulator - An aircraft-specific computerized training device that simulates actual flight in the aircraft. Simulators are used for training in preference to utilizing actual aircraft because (1) planes thus are not taken off the flight line for training duty and (2) simulators really are more effective for many aspects of training (e.g., the devices can simulate emergency situations that would be extremely dangerous to induce in an aircraft with a student pilot at the controls).

SWAPA (Southwest Airlines Pilots Association) - Union representing Southwest Airlines pilots.

Student Pilot Certificate - See "Third Class Medical and Student License," below.

Teamsters Union, Airline Division. Union organization representing pilots and PFEs of several airlines.

Third Class Medical and Student License - This serves as one's Student Pilot license; it is a medical certificate and must be endorsed by a flight instructor when one has met the flight time and skill requirements specified for solo flight.

Turbojet aircraft - Jet airplanes. The turbojet or turbofan engine propels the aircraft with a jet of forced air. The engine continuously generates tremendous compression and heat in its compressors; this is the energy that drives the aircraft.

Turbojet airline-A jet carrier with less than $ 100 million in revenue (a distinction made by some in the airline industry, including Future Aviation Professionals of America).

Turboprop aircraft - Aircraft powered by turbine engines that circulate hot, compressed air through a series of ducts, generating the force necessary to turn the propeller or propellers of the aircraft. Like the turbofan engine, the turboprop engine runs on a fuel akin to kerosene.

Type ratings-FAA-issued pilot ratings by aircraft type. The rating means that the pilot is qualified to fly this make and model of airplane.

VTA/CTT (Vision Testing Apparatus/Color Threshold Test) - This examination shows a series of varying colors of different intensities in order to learn whether a pilot who has shown some problems with color testing has sufficient color perception for flying demands.
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