June 24, 2015

English is the language of aviation, and its dialects are defined by the abbreviations and acronyms that efficiently communicate information pertinent to a group’s operational needs. Confusion can arise when one group, such as NBAA Air Traffic Services (ATS), tries to communicate with another group – pilots or schedulers and dispatchers, for example – using an unfamiliar dialect. A new online glossary of traffic flow management terms is the latest step in ATS’s ongoing effort to improve this line of communication.

Whenever possible, ATS notices that convey real-time information on the National Airspace System use fully spelled-out words and aviation terms, explained ATS Project Manager Jim McClay.

“But in many cases that isn’t possible because the resulting email would be pages longer,” he said. The new, online glossary efficiently translates and explains the abbreviations and acronyms common to the dialect of traffic flow management (TFM).

The ATS staff, located at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center just outside Washington, DC, urged Members to read the glossary. While some of the terms may be new, McClay said, they are part of aviation language, and a single reading will likely make them part of an individual’s aviation lexicon.

McClay compiled the glossary and reworked many of the FAA definitions to make them more concise, adding additional explanatory information as necessary. As a result, Members will learn, for example, that “GDP” stands for “ground delay program” and a “GS” is a “ground stop” – they will understand how they are different. A GDP is used when projected traffic to an airport exceeds its acceptance rate for a prolonged period (weather is a common cause), and a GS is used for events of shorter duration (a disabled aircraft on the runway, for example).

NBAA’s TFM glossary is a living document, McClay added, and ATS staff can update it almost instantly.

“If Members see a TFM-related term not in the glossary, let us know and we’ll take it from there,” he said. The goal is clear and efficient real-time communication of airspace issues that enables Members to deal with them efficiently.