Air Navigation Name Nonsense

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Air navigation maps and computers contain thousands of routes and waypoints (or fixes) to help pilots and air traffic controllers keep track of where the airplanes are. To make navigation and communication a little easier, most of the fixes are given names. Read on for some fun fix naming nonsense!

What are Navigation Fixes?

FMC - Air Navigation Name Nonsense
5 letter fixes displayed on an aircraft FMC.

Navigation fixes are intersections or points along airways (highways in the sky) and airport arrival/departure procedures. Fixes are given five letter names (like NOISE and WEEDY) to make them easy for pilots and air traffic controllers to reference.

Who names navigation fixes in the U.S.?

When airways or procedures are being designed or modified, local FAA facility employees often recommend fix names. The FAA’s Office of Aeronautical Information Management (AIM) checks the names to make sure they are unique, pronounceable, and not obscene or controversial. Air traffic controllers have a pretty vivid imagination and a great sense of humor. There are some really clever fix names out there. It’s a small part of what makes aviation interesting and fun.

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Famous Figure Fixes

Celebrities are often honored by having fixes named after them. With only five letters to work with, the spellings are often creative! Here are a few notable examples.

Jimmy Fallon Navigation Names
Click to see larger chart section


The Tonight Show host, Jimmy Fallon has two fixes named in his honor, JIMEE and FALON. They are located on a low altitude airway (V312) between New York City and Atlantic City, New Jersey.

LEBRN - LeBron James Intersection
Click for full chart


Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star, LeBron James has his own intersection east of Cleveland’s Hopkins International airport. LEBRN intersection is the final fix airplanes fly over on the CHARDON arrival before landing in Cleveland.

The Donald by Casey Hoke
The Donald by Casey Hoke

In 2010, during Donald Trump‘s popular TV show, The Apprentice, three fixes near Palm Beach, Florida were named after him: DONLD, TRMMP, and UFIRD (pronounced You-Fired). An arrival procedure, IVNKA ONE, was named after his daughter.

There’s no doubt The Donald stirred up controversy during his presidential campaign. It’s rumored that some pilots were refusing to fly the IVNKA procedure or use the Trump fixes. In July of 2015, the FAA determined that Trump was too controversial and renamed all Trump-related navigation names. Sorry, Donald… You’re Fired!

LEAKY-BOATS
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Leaky Boats?

Sometimes a series of fix names will be used creatively to make a sentence. The BLAKA arrival procedure to Brisbane, Qld, Australia’s runway 19 reminds pilots that “LEAKY BOATS SINNK.” Gives flight crews something to ponder while flying over the water.

Get your Disney fix.

Jafar-and-Jasmine
Jafar and Jasmine in Aladdin
© 1992 Walt Disney Productions

For Disney fans, the Orlando, Florida area is filled with fun fix names. The PIGLT (Piglet) arrival to Orlando International can’t be beat!

The PIGLT arrival includes three references to Disney’s “The Lion King”: HKUNA, MTATA (Hakuna Matata) and RFIKI (Rafiki).

MCO PIGLT STAR
Click for large chart

Disney’s Academy Award winning “Aladdin” is honored with the fixes JAZMN (Jasmine) and JAFAR.

Finally, the arrival procedure’s namesake, PIGLT (Piglet), and his friend TTIGR (Tigger) from “Winnie The Pooh” are featured.

The Orlando area has many other fixes named after Disney, Universal, and Warner Bros characters:

  • MICKX – Mix (almost Mickey)
  • MINEE – Minnie (Mouse)
  • POPYE – Popeye
  • TWETY & BURRD – Tweety Bird
  • GRNCH – Grinch
  • DAFIE – Daffy (Duck)
  • BUGGZ & BUNIE – Bugs Bunny
  • TINKR – Tinker (Tinkerbell)
  • EARRS – Ears (reference to Mickey)
  • TRAMP (from Lady and the Tramp)

“I tawt I taw a puddy tat!”

PSM-RWY16-thumbnail
Click for large chart.

One of the best tributes to Warner Bros. Cartoons can be found at the international airport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The instrument approach to runway 16 includes the fixes: ITAWT, ITAWA, PUDYE, TTATT, and IDEED.

If you say the fix names out loud, you’ll recognize the famous line uttered by poor Tweety Bird as she’s pursued by Sylvester the Cat: “I tawt I taw a puddy tat! I did! I did taw a puddy tat!

Louisville, Kentucky has plenty of fun fix names!

My home base in Louisville, KY is famous for bourbon, baseball bats, college sports, and the biggest horse race of them all, the Kentucky Derby. The airspace around Louisville International’s Standiford Field (KSDF) is full of references to Louisville events, legends, landmarks, and more.

Click for large chart.
Click for large chart.

The instrument approach to runway 35L is a fun one. It features several fixes that commemorate Louisville landmarks and legends:

  • CRDNL – Cardinal (the University of Louisville Cardinals)
  • RDBRD – Redbird (previous name of the Louisville Bats AAA baseball team was the Redbirds)
  • AWLEE: Louisville native and still The Greatest: Mohammad Ali
  • BRBON – Bourbon. Kentucky’s most famous export.

Did someone say Bourbon?

BardstownRWY02
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MakersMarkBottle3Just a few miles south of Louisville is the heart of Bourbon Country and home of Maker’s Mark bourbon. Nearby Samuels Field in Bardstown, Kentucky (named after Maker’s Mark founder Bill Samuels Sr.) has an approach procedure to runway 02 that features the famous beverage and references to bourbon production.

Fixes on the procedure include:

  • MAKRZ & MAARK – Maker’s Mark
  • BARRL – Barrel
  • MAASH – Mash (mixture of grains that are fermented into alcohol)
  • DSTIL – Distill (how you extract the alcohol from the mash)

Other fun fixes in the Louisville area:

Fix names and waypoints
Twin Spires of Churchill Downs.
  • BLGRS – Bluegrass (Kentucky is the Bluegrass State)
  • RACRR – Racer (reference to horse racing)
  • SLGRR – Slugger (reference to Louisville Slugger bat)
  • PARCL – Parcel (UPS reference)
  • CRRGO – Cargo (UPS reference)
  • CHRCL – Churchill (reference to Churchill Downs)
  • SPYRS – Spires (twin spires of Churchill Downs)
  • PGSUS – Pegasus (Kentucky Derby Festival mascot)

 

Star Wars references in Louisville?

Darth-small2
“Happy Father’s Day!”
© 1980 LucasFilm, Ltd.

Yep! If you’re a Star Wars fan, Louisville has you covered! The FEDRA Departure procedure from Louisville’s runway 29 commemorates one of Darth Vader’s most famous lines (Star Wars Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back):

LUUKE – IAMUR – FADDR
Luke, I am your father!

Click for large chart.
Click for large chart.

Die hard Star Wars fans will recognize the minor misquote. Lord Vader actually says “No, I am your father,” but I’ll let that slide. Kudos to the folks at the Louisville air traffic control facility for being super creative.

Find YOUR OWN Fix

With thousands of combinations in use, there’s bound to be a fix with your name on it (or close to it). Although, my last name, Hoke, is a four letter word 🙂 , I found a few five letter fixes that come close. Two of them sound like my family’s common nickname: HOKES, HOKEY, and HOKEE.

HOKE-Fixes
HOKES in Gadsden. HOKEY near Phoenix. HOKEE Departure in Roanoke (Home of the Virginia Tech Hokies)
Three very HOKEY fixes.

To search for your favorite fix names, try these two resources. The databases include U.S. and oceanic airway fixes:

chat-icon2Your Turn!

Hey pilots, controllers, and AvGeeks, what are your favorite fix names? There are hundreds of good ones out there. Share your favorite fixes in the comments section below.

Further Reading – More stuff about air navigation

References and Thanks…

25 Comments

  1. Capt. Hoke

    Once again you deliver interesting, informative and amusing detail about keeping the big metal thing up in the air. AND not getting lost!

    It is a shame that you fly packages and not human cargo because I would feel very secure knowing that you are the command pilot on the aircraft I was flying in. Oh well, my loss.

    May God watch over you and your air crew when you slip your earthly bonds …. and frustrate ATC people!

    Steve Mandrackie
    Flanders, NJ
    Usually fly from EWR

    • Hi Steve,

      That’s very, very kind of you. Thank you for the comments (and THANKS for reading)!

      I’m flying to EWR tomorrow. I’ll flash the lights for you!

      Ken

  2. Did pilots really refuse to fly a specific procedure or use fixes simply because of what they were called? Especially in the NY airspace, I’d think that would be grounds for a PD. I mean, if you have to deviate from a cleared route or refuse a clearance for operational reasons that’s one thing, but to do it just because you don’t like the person they named the fix after seems a) unprofessional, and b) an unreasonable imposition on the carefully planned and highly congested airspace system in that part of the country. What’s next, avoiding unlucky airway numbers and flight levels with poor feng shui? 🙂

    • That’s the rumor. I didn’t do much digging to verify. Sadly, like any profession, we have a few folks that could improve upon their professionalism. Quick story:

      Many years ago, when I was still a young First Officer, I picked up our flight’s IFR clearance and was issued a transponder code of 4666. After reading back the clearance, the captain informed me that he wouldn’t accept that transponder code because it included the digits “666.” He said it was bad luck and mumbled some religious significance. He told me to call the controller back and ask for a new code. “Uhmm, sorry captain. If you want a new code because of a superstition, you’ll have to ask them yourself.” Miffed that I wouldn’t do his unprofessional dirty work for him, he called the controller and told him he wanted a new code and explained why. The controller chuckled and said “Sorry, that’s your code. You’re stuck with it.” 🙂

      Of course, our flight proceeded without indecent.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

  3. At this point, I’m just glad UPS doesn’t fly to Malpensa LIMC, or I would get really frustrated in the control tower! ?

    Here we have a fix upon which an SID is based that is named IRKED. And given that most pilots don’t get its name at the first (and sometimes even on second and third) try, it’s a pretty good description of how the ATCO working Clearance Delivery feels like…

  4. For Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International, there’s a weird sequence of fixes on the Dirty Three Arrival procedure: KILRR GAASS KLOWD REAKS. First time I saw this I thought, no, that can’t be right.

  5. I have a few from the SF Bay Area where I live and work. I’m not entirely familiar with many of the names, but I did get the gist of most of them:

    SJC RAZRR THREE STAR: GYLET STUBL RAZRR OUCHH NIKKT GOTEE SHIKK
    SJC SLCN THREE STAR: SILCN VLLEY APLLE GGUGL
    That STAR has a bunch of names on it too: GAARY EDMND JESEN GUUYY WLSSN … but too bad none of them are DAVID 🙂
    The SJC ROBIE THREE STAR has my Chief Pilot’s name on it, Robie. Not sure if he was involved with that one.

    OAK EMZOH THREE STAR: MYJAW SKIZM MYRIB MYHIP MYNEE MYSHN FIXME MYCAF BIGPD
    … and it continues into the RWY 30 ILS: … MITOE
    I skipped a couple because I don’t get the references, but it sounds like someone who dropped out of medical school decided to become a TERPS designer for the FAA.

    One more from SFO TRUKN TWO SID: TYDYE TRUKN GRTFL DEDHD COSMC TIPRE SYRAH
    Sounds like a Deadhead got a job as a TERPS designer as well.

  6. First off your blog is very helpful, iv gained a lot of information off of it, But i do have one question that i cant find an answer too anywhere.

    When you flying, with someone else over a long distance flight do u ever talk or chat. Iv always wondered what pilots do when they have to sit for hours watching clouds go by?

    I really respect your profession and you helping people understand the importance of what you do.

    Thanks You Very Much,
    Graham

    • Hi Graham,

      When we are below 18,000 feet after takeoff or before landing, the cockpit is all business. Only essential communication that is necessary to fly the aircraft is allowed. We call it a “sterile cockpit.”

      Once we are above 18,000 feet and cruising along for several hours, we are free to talk about anything we like. We discuss our families, vacations, schedules, company rumors, new procedures, you name it. Talking and sharing stories is one way we stay alert on long flights. When flying at night, I’m often looking out the window trying to spot satellites, meteors, and the Aurora Borealis over Canada (as my first officer stares at me like I’m nuts).

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

  7. Always love reading your stories!

    Check out KLOU RNAV approaches. I don’t have it in front of me. But one translates to “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” and the other is “none of ya business” I saw it a couple days ago and almost fell out! Thanks for entertaining us.

    • Hi Danny,

      You’re absolutely right! The GPS approach to KLOU runway 33 has: IFALN ANDYE CAANT GDUPP.
      KLOU runway 24 has NUNYA BNNUS. Awesome fix names.

      In the article, I only scratched the surface of fun fix names in Louisville. There are many, many more!

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

  8. While I was reading I thought you will mention these ones too!!

    Quoting from https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/snapshots/stories/?slide=16

    “Aircraft flying the Freedom route from the northwest pass through waypoints named “WE” “WILL,” “NEVER,” “FORGET” “SEP11.” Those flying the Troops route from the southwest pass through waypoints named “USA,” “WE DO,” “SUPPORT,” “OUR” and “TROOPS.” Depending on the runway configuration, aircraft might also pass through waypoints named “STAND” and “TOGETHER” or “LET’S,” “ROLL,” “VICTORY” and “HERO.””

    Nice post Captain 🙂 Please don’t take much time to publish new posts :'(

    • Hi Vihanga,

      Those are great examples. As I pointed out in the article, fix names must have 5 letters to keep our computers happy. Here are the 5 letter spellings used to make those navigation fixes work.

      FRDMM (Freedom) arrival: WEWIL NEVVR FORGT SEPII
      TRUPS (Troops) arrival: USAAY WEEDO SUPRT OOURR TRUPS

      There are several other clever references in those two arrival procedures.

      Here are links to the actual charts:

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

  9. Near Nashville, Tennessee (dubbed “Music City USA”) we have:
    GUITR
    ACUFF (for Grand Ole Opry legend Roy Acuff)
    HEHAW (the old TV series)
    VOLLS (Tennessee Volunteers!)
    OPERY (Grand Ole Opry)
    RYYMN (Ryman Auditorium, where Grand Ole Opry was first broadcast)
    PASLY (country artist Brad Paisley)
    PREDS (Nashville Predators hockey team)
    DANLS (country artist Charlie Daniels)
    HGGRD (country artist Merle Haggard)

    Near Hong Kong:

    RAMEN

    And… near Camilla, Texas, USA, (inexplicably):

    SUSHI

    🙂

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