PC Pilot

The Complete Guide to Computer Aviation
by Steve Smith


What the Heck is a HOTAS?

*Definitions in boldface indicate the ones you really need to know

"AAA" (Anti-Aircraft Artillery; aka "Triple-A"; aka "Flak")

"A-A/A-G" (Air-to-Air/Air-to-Ground; attack modes and weapons)

"Ace" (a combat pilot with five kills; during World War II, America's top ace had forty kills; Germany's had over three hundred!)

"ADF" (Automatic Direction Finder; navigational apparatus)

"Afterburner" (a device that temporarily—and vastly—increases a jet engine's output…and fuel consumption…and RCS)

"AGL" (altitude Above Ground Level; as opposed to altitude above sea level; curiously, there is no "ASL" as such)

"AGM" (Air-to-Ground Missile; typically an AGM-65 Maverick)

"AI" (Artificial Intelligence; in combat sims, how cleverly your opponents analyze and counter your moves)

"Aileron" (movable flaps on the wing's trailing edge; connected to the joystick, they control the plane's ability to bank)

"Alpha" (the degree to which an aircraft is in a nose-up or nose-down condition; more commonly known as AoA, see below)

"AoA" (Angle of Attack; aka "Alpha," see above)

"AMI" (Aeronautica Militaria Italiana; the Italian Air Force)

"Angels" (pilot-talk for altitude in 1000-foot increments; thus, "Angels 22" means 22,000 feet; "Cupids" are 100-foot increments)

"Aspect" (the angle or perspective relative to the viewer)

"ATC" (Air Traffic Controller—usually ground-based radar operator who vectors planes to specific coordinates, speeds, and altitudes)

"Atoll" (Standard Warsaw Pact air-to-air missile; like our Sidewinder only not nearly as good; range: 14 klicks; aka "AA-2")

"Auger in" (the kind of crash you don't saunter away from)

"AWACS" (Airborne Warning And Control Systems—a flying command center, usually a Boeing 707, crammed with electronic gear)

"Ballistic" (when a jet's thrust exceeds its weight and it can thus accelerate straight up: that's ballistic)

"Bandit" (enemy aircraft)

"Bang out" (to eject—the "bang" comes from the explosive charge that literally blows the ejection seat out of the aircraft)

"Bank" (rotation of the aircraft around its lengthwise axis; roll—lateral movement of the stick will result in a roll)

"BBS" (Bulletin Board Service; a dial-up service accessed over the phone via modem; usually tied to special-interest groups)

"BDA" (Bomb Damage Assessment; popular rear-echelon activity)

"Bingo" (low on fuel, must return to base; see also "Joker")

"Blackout" (when a pilot pulls out of a dive, the blood can rush from his head, causing a temporary loss of consciousness)

"Blip" (a contact on the radar screen, see also "Spike")

"Blue Water Operations" (carrier-based aviation; when you're so far out to sea that the carrier is the only place you can land)

"Board" (a circuit board that is plugged into a slot in a computer; see also "Card")

"Bogey" (not a Bogie; unidentified aircraft)

"Bogie" (not a Bogey; wheel suspension or undercarriage)

"Bolter" (aborted carrier landing; the pilot applies full throttle and goes around again)

"Boot" (to start a computer; a "warm boot" is a restart)

"Bounce" (to ambush another plane or planes)

"BUFF" (naughty pilot-talk for "Big, Ugly Fat F*cker," i.e., Boeing's redoubtable B-52 Stratofortress)

"BVR" (Beyond Visual Range; i.e., over the horizon)

"Byte" (each computer "word" is a "byte" made up of eight "bits")

"C3" (Command, Communications, and Control; refers to the infrastructure that supports the military's chain of command)

"Callsign" (nom de guerre; remember Citizen Band's "handles"?)

"CAP" (Combat Air Patrol; up looking for trouble)

"Card" (see "Board")

"CAS" (Close Air Support; a helping hand for ground forces)

"CBU" (Cluster Bomb Unit; the dum-dum of iron bombs)

"CCIP" (Continuously Computed Impact Point; an indicator on your HUD where your bombs would hit if released right now)

"CD-ROM" (looks like an audio CD, this optical/digital medium can store over 600 megabytes of computer code per disk)

"CFI" (the civilian equivalent of IPs, or Instructor Pilots)

"CGA" (the oldest, crudest video standard to which any computer games still conform; see also "EGA" and "VGA")

"Chaff" (metal strips dispensed to foil radar; aka "Window")

"Chipset" (a group of computer microchips working together that comprise part of a system unit or an expansion card)

"CIS" (Confederation of Independent States; the loose political alliance that replaced the Soviet Union)

"Click" (one kilometer; aka "klick")

"Clone" (an IBM-compatible computer)

"COIN" (Pentagonese for COunter-INsurgency)

"Compatibility" (the degree to which software for one machine—an IBM, say—is compatible with another machine—a Compaq, say)

"Co-processor" (an add-on chip that enables your computer to crunch numbers faster; used by very few games)

"CPU" (Central Processing Unit, your computer's main chip; also sometimes refers to the system unit—the box—itself)

"CRT" (Cathode-Ray Tube; used in TVs, computer monitors, and aircraft cockpits; see also "VDT")

"Default" (compu-jargon for what you get if you don't specify something else; like Meigs Field in Flight Simulator)

"Deflection" (relative angle of pursuer and pursued; zero deflection is nose to tail; 90 degrees is at right angles)

"Delta Sierra" (naughty pilot-talk for dog do-do, as in "This situation is Delta Sierra")

"Dogfight" (classic air battle where two or more fighter planes try to shoot each other down)

"Doppler radar" (like a cop's radar gun, most effective when the target is flying straight at it or directly away from it)

"DOS" (Disk Operating System; the IBM-compatible operating system; aka MS-DOS, for its original publisher, Microsoft)

"Dot" (just a dot on the horizon, as in "I'm a dot," i.e., "I'm outta here")

"Double Ugly" (pilot slang for McDonnell F-4 Phantom, aka "Rhino")

"Drag" (the aerodynamic friction that tends to slow an aircraft down)

"Dreamland" (the secret-air-base-within-a-secret-air-base in the Tonopah Range in Nevada where the F-117A Stealth first flew)

"Driver" (pilot, as in "Eagle driver")

"DUFF" (Double-Ugly Fat F*cker, i.e., F-4 Phantom)

"Durandel" (a type of bomb used to destroy airport runways)

"ECM" (Electronic Counter Measures—jamming signals used to confuse enemy radar, command, communications, and control)

"EGA" (an older IBM color video display standard that has been largely supplanted by VGA for games; see also "CGA")

"Egress" (skedaddle; see also "RTB")

"Elbow" (the point behind your opponent from which you control a dogfight; as in "I was on his elbow")

"Element" (one or more aircraft serving a function on a mission)

"Elevator" (the flaps on the horizontal tail assembly that act like a submarine's dive planes, affecting the plane's pitch)

"Empennage" (an aircraft's tail assembly, consisting of the fin, the rudder, the horizontal stabilizer, and the elevators)

"Exocet" (a French-made air-to-ground or air-to-ship missile)

"FAA" (Federal Aviation Administration; the governing body of all commercial and general aviation in the United States)

"FAC" (Forward Air Controller, a small plane that flies ahead of the main force to guide planes—or artillery—to the target)

"Feet wet"/"Feet dry" (on a carrier-based mission, the point at which your aircraft crosses the beach in each direction)

"Fire-and-forget" (a missile that, once launched at its target, requires no further action from the pilot)

"Fixed disk" (see "Hard disk")

"Fixed-wing" (an aircraft, as opposed to a helicopter—or an autogiro—whose wing or wings rotate)

"Flak" (from Flugabwehrkanone, or antiaircraft artillery)

"Flame" (a verb meaning to shoot your opponent down in the proverbial flames, as in "I flamed him")

"Flame out" (when a jet engine stalls, often at high AoA or—in a compressor stall—AGL)

"Flaps" (movable surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing; used to increase lift at low speed…at the expense of drag)

"Flare" (a landing maneuver to bring the plane down gently; or hot flares dispensed to foil heat-seeking missiles)

"Flight envelope" (a set of parameters—speed, power, control settings, G-loadings, etc.—that you must keep your aircraft within or risk falling out of the sky)

"Flight model" (see "Physics model")

"FLIR" (Forward-Looking Infra-Red sensor; a passive night-sight device used in the F-117A and other "low-observables" aircraft)

"Floppy" (a 3.5 or 5.25-inch magnetic disk holding up to 3 megs of data—the 5.25s really are floppy; the 3.5s are stiff)

"Fly-by-wire" (all-electronic control system, with no mechanical connection between the controls and the control surfaces)

"FOD" (Foreign Object Debris; you don't want your turbofan to suck in any of this while it's turning at 60,000 revolutions per minute)

"Foxtrot Uniform" (naughty pilot-talk for f*cked up, as in "This situation is Foxtrot Uniform")

"Furball" (dogfight; usually involving many participants)

"G-force" (acceleration measured against gravity: zero G is weightlessness; ten G's makes you weigh ten times as much)

"GIB" (Guy in Back; see "Wizzo")

"Glass cockpit" (the all-electronic instrument panel of most "heavies")

"GPS" (Global Positioning Satellites; DoD satellites that can give you a fix on your position, altitude, direction, and speed)

"Graphics adaptor" (your computer's video board)

"Gulf War" (the coalition of forces that threw Iraq out of Kuwait; January 1990 to March 1991)

"Gunsmoke" (a bombing competition for U.S. tactical aircraft)

"Hainty" (a southeast Texas term meaning ... well, what does "hainty" mean, anyway?)

"Hard disk" (permanent data storage on a magnetic platter, usually inside your computer; see also "Fixed disk")

"HARM" (a long-range air-to-ground missile that seeks out and destroys SAM antiaircraft missile sites)

"Harpoon" (long-range air-to-ship missile like the Exocet)

"Have Blue" (code name when the F-117A was under development)

"HDD" (Hard-Disk Drive; see also "Fixed disk")

"Heater" (Sidewinder missile)

"Heavy" (air traffic controller slang for any wide-body, i.e., a "heavy" airliner like the Boeing 747)

"Heyl Ha'Avir" (the Israeli air force)

"HOTAS" (Hands-On Stick and Throttle; the F–16s hand controls, with the joystick—aka "side-stick"—next to your right thigh and the throttle next to your left… plus extra buttons)

"HSI" (Horizontal Situation Indicator; an overhead [God's-eye] view of your position, heading, etc.)

"HUD" (Head-Up Display—instrument readings like speed and altitude projected on a transparent panel ahead of the pilot)

"IAS" (Indicated Air Speed, as opposed to true speed, which is measured relative to the ground)

"IFF" (Identification, Friend or Foe; coded radio messages for identification; requires a transmitter and a receiver)

"IFR" (Instrument Flight Rules; FAA-defined mode pertaining to civilian flight without any visual references; see "VFR")

"Immelmann" (flight maneuver named after a German World War I ace)

"INS" (Interial Navigation System; a gyro- [i.e., not compass-] based navigation system used by airplanes and missiles)

"IP" (Initial Point; the point from which bombers begin their run-in on the target; also—confusingly— "Instructor Pilot")

"IRST" (Infra-Red Search and Tracking; Soviet equivalent of "FLIR"… only better; the MiG-29 and Su-27 have it)

"Jam" (ECM to "blind" the enemy's radar and communications)

"Jinking" (furious maneuvering to avoid enemy planes or missiles)

"Joker" (almost out of fuel, must return to base ASAP)

"Joystick" (the control stick for an aircraft or computer flight simulation)

"KIA" (Killed in Action; also—not usually confused with—Knots Indicated Airspeed)

"Kill" (a confirmed downing of an enemy aircraft)

"Klick" (see "Click")

"Knife fight" (dogfighting up close and dirty, i.e., no rules)

"KTO" (Kuwaiti Theater of Operations; our finest hour)

"LANTIRN" (Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night; too bad it isn't Enfra-Red… can you spell potatoe?

"Lead" and "Wing" (two positions of the basic flight element)

"LERX" (Leading Edge [wing] Root extensions; nose strakes or chines; induce vortex lift, delaying stall in tight maneuvers) (N.B. The F-16 and F/A-18 have 'em; the F-14 and F-15 don't)

"Lift" (the aerodynamic force pulling the aircraft up—in level flight; if lift doesn't exceed weight, you don't fly)

"LSO" (Landing Signal Officer—the guy on the deck of World War II-era carriers who guided planes to a landing by waving hand paddles)

"Mach" (speed compared to the speed of sound at that altitude)

"Maverick" (the most ubiquitous air-to-ground missile in the U.S. inventory; a fire-and-forget weapon)

"Meatball" (landing lights on a carrier; when you're on the proper glide path, the lights line up. Replaced World War II's LSO)

"Megabyte" (computer memory—temporary or long-term storage—measured in bytes or millions of bytes; abbreviated "Mb" or "MB")

"Megahertz" (the speed a computer's chips run at; abbreviated "MHz")

"Menehune" (the lost tribe of "little people" from Hawaii; akin—spiritually, at least—to Ireland's leprechauns)

"MFD" (Multi-Function Display; a CRT that can display, for example, radar or stores or a map; aka "MPD": Multi-Purpose Display)

"MIA" (Missing In Action; better than KIA … but not by much)

"Military power" (a jet engine's thrust up to—but not including—cutting in the afterburner)

"Modem" (from modulator/demodulator; a "black-box" device that enables computers to communicate over ordinary phone lines)

"Motherboard" (a computer's main circuit board, into which is plugged the CPU, memory chips, the BIOS, peripherals, etc.)

"Mouse" (a pointing device shaped like Rattus Norwegicus)

"MRE" (Meal Ready to Eat; modern C-rations)

"MSRP" (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price—about 30 percent more than you should have to pay … if you know where to look)

"NACA" (not NASA; the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics; pioneered early scientific research on earthbound flight)

"NASA" (not NACA; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; the federal agency in charge of civilian space flight)

"NATO" (North Atlantic Treaty Organization—U.S.-led, anti-Soviet military coalition opposing Warsaw Pact nations)

"NoE" (Nap of the Earth; low-level flying, hugging the contours of the ground—don't try this at home!)

"No joy" (no contact with the enemy)

"Norden" (top-secret Allied bombsight in World War II)

"NTSC" (National Television Standards Committee, the American TV standard; it's PAL or SECAM in the rest of the world)

"Ordnance" (in general, explosives; usually refers to bombs, sometimes air-to-ground missiles like the HARM or Maverick)

"OS" (Operating System; the code that runs your computer while your computer runs your application; aka DOS, PC- and MS-DOS)

"Padlock" (part of Situational Awareness; keep your eye on your enemy; or, as they say, "Lose the sight, lose the fight")

"Paint" (to detect a target with radar; as in "I'm being painted"; the Brits say they're being "illuminated")

"Pave Penny" (laser target indicator … and yet another unfathomable use of the word Pave in arcane USAF nomenclature)

"Physics model" (the set of algorithms in a computer program that control the flight dynamics of the simulation's aircraft)

"Pickle" (to release your ordnance, hopefully over the target)

"Pitch" (movement about an aircraft's horizontal axis)

p>"Pitch ladder" (markings on your HUD to indicate how steeply up or down your plane is aiming)

"Pixel" (short for "picture element"; the individual dots that comprise the image on your computer screen)

"PPL" (Private Pilot's License)

"Pulse radar" (like airport radar, least effective when target is flying straight at it or directly away from it)

"RAF" (Royal Air Force or Red Army Faction, depending on your political persuasion)

"RAM" (Random Access Memory; a computer's short-term memory)

"RCAF" (Royal Canadian Air Force, eh?)

"RCS" (Radar Cross Section; how "big" your aircraft looks to radar)

"Recon" (Reconnaissance; in England, the slang is "recce,", pronounced "wreck-ee")

"Redout" (when a pilot flies a negative-G arc, blood rushes to his head and he experiences a vision-blocking redout)

"Reheat" (Briticism for "afterburner")

"RF" (Radio Frequency; electromagnetic radiation within the 100 KHz-1 GHz range)

"RFI" (Radio Frequency Interference; computers are certified by the FCC for home use, Class B; or business, Class A emissions)

"Rhino" (the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom, i.e., Double Ugly)

"RoE" (Rules of Engagement; when war isn't a free-for-all, somebody will tell you who, what, when, and where you may attack)

"Roll" (movement about an aircraft's fore-and-aft axis)

"Roll in" and "Pull off" (beginning and end of an air attack)

"RSAF" (Royal Saudi Air Force)

"RTB" (Return to Base)

"Rudder" (like a boat, dummy—the gizmo that steers the plane; the movable part .of the tail that affects yaw)

"SA" (Situational Awareness; Edwards Park, in Fighters—see the Bibliography—defined it as "knowing exactly what is going on in three dimensions and where you fit in")

"SAC" (Strategic Air Command; guys in charge of U.S. bombers)

"SAM" (Surface-to-Air Missiles; in reality, more dangerous than enemy fighters)

"S-and-D" (Search-and-Destroy; one type of mission)

"SAR" (Search-and-Rescue; they guys who pick up downed pilots)

"Senior Trend" (another code name for the once-secret F-117A)

"Service the target" (euphemism for dropping your ordance)

"Shilka" (ZSU-23-4; a mobile, radar-guided array of four 23-mm antiaircraft guns; deadly at close range and low altitudes)

"Sidewinder" (the most effective short-range air-to-air missile in the U.S. inventory … or anybody else's inventory)

"Sierra Creek" (naughty pilot-talk for "Up Sierra Creek without a paddle")

"Sierra Hotel" (naughty pilot-talk for the current duty roster; self-important pilots are referred to as "sh*t hot")

"SIG" (Special Interest Group; a forum on a BBS dealing with one subject or topic, like Flight Simulator or high-score tips)

"Signature" (a distinctive pattern on a radar or sonar screen that identifies enemy planes, tanks, ships, subs, etc.)

"Sim" (compu-jargon for "simulation")

"SIMM" (Single in-line Memory Module; computer RAM chips are available in 1MB, 2MB or 4MB capacities)

"Six" (the six o'clock position,i.e., directly behind the aircraft, as in "Check Six!")

"Slot" (in a formation, the position behind the leader)

"SLUFF" (naughty pilot-talk for "Slow, Ugly Fat F*cker," i.e., Fairchild's plug-ugly A-10 Warthog tank-buster)

"Smart bomb" (a bomb equipped with a video, inertial, or radar guidance system, steered by movable vanes as it falls)

"Smash" (your energy state vis a vis that of your opponent; too much overtaking speed can leave you no time to aim or shoot)

"Snake!" (pilot's call when a Sidewinder launches off its rail; like yelling "Fore!" when you hit a golf ball)

"Sound board" (an expansion board that brings hi-fi sound to those games that support it; examples: AdLib, SoundBlaster)

"Speed brakes" (flaps that are used to arrest speed without causing the aircraft's nose to pitch up)

"Speed of heat" (pilot slang for running on afterburner; i.e., very fast)

"Spike" (see "Blip")

"Splash" (to down an enemy plane over water)

"Sortie"(one mission flown by one aircraft)

"Spin" (when an aircraft spirals down out of control)

"Spoof"(to foil an incoming missile with flares, chaff, ECM, or jinking at the right moment)

"Sporty" (hairy, as in dangerous)

"Stall" (when an aircraft isn't generating enough lift and shudders to a stop before falling out of the sky)

"Stealth" (the technology or reducing a plane's "observables"—by whatever means—to make it as undetectable as possible)

"STOL" (Short Take-Off and Landing; some STOL aircraft can get airborne within the length of a tennis court; see also "V/STOL")

"Super VGA" (a higher-than-VGA video standard—850,000 pixels—not much used … yet. Advantage: higher resolution, more colors)

"System" (the main component of a computer system; also the name of the Macintosh's operating system, as in "System 7")

"Tally-ho!" (traditional cry upon sighting enemy; also "tally" as in "copy" or "I see him")

"Task" (in the military, this is a verb, not a noun)

"TEWS" (Tactical Electronic Warfare System; the multifunction displays in the F-15 Eagle; pronounced "tooz")

"Tone" (the growling noise the pilot hears when his Sidewinder air-to-air missile's search-radar has locked onto its target)

"Top Gun" (the Navy equivalent of the Air Force's Red Flag school)

"Trap" (cable-arrested carrier landing; see "Bolter")

"Triple-A" (AAA or antiaircraft artillery)

"TSR" (Terminate and Stay Resident; a computer program that leaves bits of itself in RAM when you exit; e.g.: SideKick)

"12 o'clock" (the position directly ahead of an aircraft; often modified by "high" or "low" relative to the horizon)

"Twenty" (position, location; from the 10 Code, as in "What's your Twenty?")

"286," 386," and "486" (nicknames for the most prevalent CPUs in DOS computers; i.e., the 80286, the 80386 and 80486)

"V-1" (one of Hitler's secret weapons: a small ram-jet so slow that Allied fighters could fly alongside, brush wingtips, and tip them over like sleeping cows)

"V-2" (another of Hitler's secret weapons: a large, suborbital ballistic missile capable of reaching England at 2,000 miles per hour)

"VDT" (Video Display Terminal; used as computer monitors and in cockpit multifunction displays)

"Vector" (literally, a force in a direction, but usually used to mean "directed," as in being "vectored" to an intercept)

"Vertical speed indicator" (gauge that tells you, in feet per minute, how fast your plane is climbing or diving)

"VFR" (Visual Flight Rules; FAA-defined mode pertaining to clear-weather flying; see "IFR")

"VGA" (the most common color video display standard supported by computer games: 640 by 380 pixels, up to 256 colors)

"VIFFing" (when Harrier jump jets maneuver by "steering" their exhaust nozzles, they are Vectoring-In-Forward-Flight)

"V/STOL" (variously Very Short Take Off and Landing—see "STOL"—or Vertical/Short Take Off and Landing, like the Harrier)

"Warsaw Pact" (defunct military coalition of Soviet and Eastern European satellite forces arrayed against NATO forces)

"Waypoint" (an in-between navigational point or mark, between home base and your destination)

"Whiteout" (flying in a negative-G arc, just before a "redout" a pilot will experience a milder "whiteout"; loss of vision)

"Wild Weasels" (radar-busting ground-strike aircraft—usually F-4 Phantoms—that go in ahead of air strikes and destroy SAM antiaircraft missile sites)

"Winchester" (when a pilot is out of missiles and down to his gun, as in "I've gone Winchester"; in computers: a hard disk)

"Windows" (a Macintosh-like screen "look" for IBM-compatibles; thus far, few flight simulations can operate under Windows)

"Wingie" (cute slang for "wingman/woman")

"Wizzo" or "WSO" (Weapons System Officer—copilot in charge of an attack craft's electronics; aka "GIB" or "Guy in Back")

"XGA" (the latest IBM color video standard; thus far adopted by few game developers)

"Yaw" (movement about an aircraft's vertical axis)

"Zeus" (the deadly ZSU 23-4 Shilka self-propelled Russian AAA)

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