Where did the Phrase “On the Beam” Come From and What does it Mean in Aviation?

Early aviators had a system of radio signals to guide pilots through fog and bad weather.

Dots and dashes were beamed out from a landing field and picked up in the pilot’s earphones.

If he heard dot-dashes, he was too far left, and dash-dots meant he was too far right.

But when the signals converged into a continuous buzzing sound, the pilot was “on the beam,” or safely on course.

An instrument landing system, or ILS, is a ground-based instrument system that provides precision guidance to an aircraft landing on a runway, and uses a combination of radio signals and lighting in low visibility.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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