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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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:
“I tawt I taw a puddy tat!”
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.
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?
Just 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:
- 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?
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!”
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.
To search for your favorite fix names, try these two resources. The databases include U.S. and oceanic airway fixes:
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
- Flying the North Atlantic Tracks
- Straight Talk on Great Circles
- Come Along as we Cross the Pacific
- How do Pilots Find Their Way?
References and Thanks…
- Special thanks to Louisville air traffic controller Kristofer Violette for his invaluable input.
- Terminal chart images obtained from FAA Digital Terminal Procedures Publication.
- Enroute chart images obtained from FAA IFR Enroute Aeronautical Charts and Planning.
- Brisbane, Queensland, Australia BLAKA arrival chart obtained from Airservices Australia.