Funny Fix Names

June 20th, 2009


If you’re an instrument pilot, you’ve definitely got to have a sense of humor when you look at the approach plates and notice the different names for fix points at airports across the United States. If you’re not a pilot that statement may sound like geeky humor. And perhaps it is. But since I hope to both educate and entertain the folks who read this blog, here’s a little dose of both.

For my non-pilot readers out there, let me first give you a crash course on what a fix is and why they give them names. *Don’t worry, there won’t be a test*

Without turning this post into a lesson on instrument approaches, (especially since I’m not a CFII) I’ll just focus on the basics.

Aircraft have equipment that provide the pilots aid in navigation by measuring the distance away from airports and more specifically the runways allowing them to land. Instrument landing system (ILS) published approaches allow pilots to remain clear of each others aircraft (in coordination with ATC), fixed obstacles (like terrain and radio antennas) and ultimately aid in navigating to the touchdown zone on a runway. Along the glide path to land, pilots use fix points or ‘fixes’ to measure that they are at the correct decent rate, heading and course to land on the runway. The fixes are about 3 nautical miles apart and the last fix (called the final approach fix) is typically around 3.9NM from the threshold of the runway.

So now that you’ve sort of got an understanding on what they are, I know you’re asking “so what’s so funny about that, it just sounds complicated?” Well that’s the point. Pilots like things to be as simple as possible. Fixes are given five letter names to make keeping track of which one the aircraft is going to be at next very easy to remember. If they were assigned numbers that would be confusing, but instead they are given names that are simple and sound different enough from each other to avoid confusion. This is where the humor comes in.

As an example, at the Kansas City International Airport, the ILS approach to runway 1R has a bunch of fixes that definitely remind you you’re landing at Kansas City (known around the world for having some of the best barbecue *sorry Texas*).

ILS for 1R at MCI

ILS for 1R at MCI

If you look at the approach plate above you will see SPICY, BARBQ, TERKY, SMOKE and RIBBS are the fix points when on a ILS approach to 1R in MCI. There are so many more.

BOS Fixes

Some fixes out of Boston

Outside of Boston’s Logan International (BOS) there are several that are funny ones, DRUNK (allegedly in honor of Senator Ted Kennedy), CELTS, and BOSOX.

GIJOE going into Ft. Leonardwood, MO

GIJOE going into Ft. Leonardwood, MO

Or one that always makes me laugh, GIJOE going into Ft. Leonardwood, MO.

Others that I’ve seen are CRAZY, MEEOW, TEXAN, HUMPP, WOODI, etc…I hear them, laugh and forget to write down where I heard them.

So here’s where I’d like to get feedback from my pilot readers out there. What are some of the funniest ones you’ve heard?

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