Dictionary Review


Dizionario Aeronautico Illustrato (English-Italian / Italian-English)

Author: ¾

Publisher: IBN Editore, via Mingazzini 7, 00161 Roma - Italy
Publication date: 2001
Price: €18.10 (431 pages, about 20,000 terms)


Dizionario Aeronautico (English-Italian / Italian-English)

Author: R. Trebbi
Publisher: AVIABOOKS, c.so Duca degli Abruzzi 12, 10128 Torino - Italy · +011 531341
Publication date: ¾
Price: €21.50 (501 pages, about 30,000 terms)


The splendid Libreria Goldoni (calle dei Fabbri 4742 · 30125 Venezia - Italy · +041 5222384) has recently sent me two new Italian/English dictionaries in the field of aviation. They had to be hunted down because sometimes authors and publishers seem to band together and conspire against themselves in an apparently absurd quest for anonymity.

The address of Trebbi's publisher is the only data in the colophon. The author's first name shall remain forever unknown beyond the initial "R", and the year of publication is equally undeclared, although 2001 seems probable. Not to be undone, the IBN illustrated dictionary hides its chief editors Angelo Bibbo, Sergio Colagrossi and Angelo Napoleone on page 6, after the index and within the preface text.

No ISBN number can be found in either reference and only the IBN work has a standard copyright notice, with IBN full name (Istituto Bibliografico Napoleone) and address.

This approach is quite vexing in light of the paucity of references in the field. Aeronautics has been often ignored by lexicographers, in Italy and beyond, perhaps due to English status as lingua franca. As far as I can tell, in over a century of aviation progress, only two other multilingual references which include Italian and English have been produced, some 40 and 70 years ago respectively: Terminologia aeronautica (I-E-F-D-S*. Registro Aeronautico Italiano, v. del Tritone 169, Roma 00187. 1964/ii), and the Illustrierte Technische Wörterbücher: Luftfahrt by Alfred Scholomann (D-F-E-R-I-S*. München/Berlin: Verlag von R.Oldenbourg, 1932/1957). Strangely enough, the more recent of the two is the most obsolete, because current blimp technology, the main focus of Scholomann's venerated work, has not changed much since the Zeppelins sailed over the Atlantic, with the exception of gases and engines (see the contemporary Ansaldo production).

Even the Web offers no succor. There are Italian/English glossaries and acronym listings aplenty, but they have uneven quality, narrow focus (the most common subjects are models, communications and weather forecasting), and limited scope, with the largest including only about 200 lemmata. Among the most useful if not fully reliable WWW sources, I would suggest the following:









In any case, our two references do not have much competition.

Reading them side-by-side, their profound differences are immediately evident.

To start, Trebbi is sound-oriented and IBN is visual. Thus the former peppers the entries with a significant amount of tonal signs, often complemented by phonetic pronunciation, and the latter offers some 86 black & white illustrations, many full page and several full spread.

Trebbi is richer by about 10.000 headwords and secondary listings, but IBN often has a diverging slant, showing a significant lack of overlap.

For example, Trebbi offers 10 usages of to take, but not the relevant to take off o decollare indicated IBN, whereas the noun takeoff produces the following:













takeoff area

area di decollo



takeoff distance

spazio di decollo



takeoff power

potenza di decollo



takeoff run

corsa di decollo



takeoff thrust

spinta al decollo



backward takeoff

decollo all'indietro (in elicottero)



jet assisted takeoff (JAT)

decollo assistito da razzi



short takeoff

decollo corto


a [Under Short]

short field takeoff

decollo da campo corto



soft field takeoff

decollo da campo soffice [sic!]



vertical takeoff

decollo verticale



involo verticale


a [under Vertical]

On the same pages, from "tab" to "tap", Trebbi presents 86 lemmata and IBN 56, but the items in common are only 33/86 and 40/56 or 38% and 71%, respectively. These values are particularly high, but the average discrepancy seems to be the expected 30+% for Trebbi and interestingly enough about 20% for IBN.

To further explore this random comparison, Trebbi has fiber (fibra) and 4 variants: Carbon, glass optical and polyester fiber (fibra di carbonio, vetroresina, fibra ottica e fibra poliestere), but IBN is silent on the matter. In exchange, it reminds us that fighting means combattimento o lotta, a task ignored by Trebbi. Reversing the roles, IBN does not include SAC or Strategic Air Command, but Trebbi does.

Furthermore, the text itself is differently organized, beyond the similar bicolumnar layout with bolded headwords. Trebbi bolds infinitive, past tense and past participle of the irregular verbs within the text body. IBN offers instead a separate listing, including the present participle, without Italian pairings. It appears in appendix at the end of the volume, after several other sections of acronyms and abbreviations used in technical English; meteorological communications; meteorological aeronautical communications; and flight messages. The weather-related acronyms are preceded by several tables: ICAO air typology (altitude, temperature, speed of sound, etc. both in metric and imperial units); weather graphic symbols; mathematical signs; ICAO phonetic alphabet and numbers with their Morse equivalents. The list of irregular verbs already mentioned is followed by a comparison of military ranks (I/UK/USA); conversion tables of all main units of measurement; a badly concocted table of unit multiples and submultiples (UK/metric equivalencies only); and a list of SI units.

In net contrast, Trebbi has only one 6 page section in the middle, with about 450 English acronyms without Italian translation, compared to IBN's 500+ I-E abbreviation in five listings.

Lastly, where Trebbi offers sound encyclopedic definitions for about 10% of its headwords, IBN relies on a wealth of illustrations, both with mixed results.

A quick example should suffice: Trebbi's description of pirep, or pilot weather report, offers important information on the report itself, but his definition of the UK placard o targa, targhetta is "Any signal or message shown in the cockpit, reminding the pilot of parameters or actions not to be taken [my translation and underscore]". Such a wording is both winded and contradicted by the subheading specification placard or targhetta di specifica, our specification plate, which does not seem to require any action by the perplexed aviator.

Figures and captions of illustrated dictionaries are easier to evaluate, thanks to Alfred Scholoman's golden standard. The king of lexicographers does not include a picture nor write a caption without clearly indicating all related headwords and subsets. IBN ignores this sound policy and offers instead only English captions, even when the source is as indigenous as the old Officine Galileo. Worse, no attempt is made to provide Italian equivalents, nor to work the captions within the text. Thus the Tornado EPS system is shown on page 76 after its logical association emergency, but EPS, EPS switch and emergency power system are not present in the acronym section of the appendix, nor under any combination of their constituent elements. Poor Tornado is treated even worse on page 212, when it's time to talk about tanks. There, the caption "Both bag and integral tanks are used to give Tornado a high internal fuel capacity" presents a double problem: The callouts do not indicate any bag nor integral tank and the reader cannot find the UK string "bag tank" (our bladder tank or serbatoio flessibile) anywhere else in the whole dictionary. These are not isolated cases, limited to the European multi-role fighter produced by BAE, Daimler-Chrysler and Alenia. A Clear vinyl tubing is shown on page 220 after tubing, but the string tubo trasparente in vinile is not offered. Similarly, the callout torque tube graces both page 106 under Gyroplane and page 202 under Stabilator, but its association to tubo di torsione cannot be established. An illustrated butt joint on page 129 would not be properly translated as giunto di testa on the basis of the offered meanings of butt [ie.: estremità, raccordo (or end, joint)], and the scarf joint represented on page 130 is defined erroneously on page 187 as giunto a incastro, whereas the obvious absence of daps makes it a simple giunto ad ammorsatura.

A few more dyads are questionable in both works. Trebbi ignores butt and scarf joints and offers the quoted atterraggio su campo soffice for soft field landing, casting aside the more common atterraggio su campo molle o allentato. IBN calls unità motore a power unit [the common gruppo motore], and trave di coda a tail boom, ignoring the standard longherone di coda. Similarly, Trebbi has tavolo rotante for rotary table, although the implement is better known as carosello.

Finally, as far as I can tell, Trebbi is free of typos and IBN seems to concentrate its mistakes within the captions. See butt joints instead of butt joint on the above- mentioned page 130, cabel assy instead of cable assy on page 102, and braket - timer instead of Bracket- timer on page 64.

These sins are clearly venial, and the overall reliability of both works is extremely high. This achievement is further magnified by a near total absence of filler and an extremely contained price. What a sad irony that sound references such as these be finally available after so long a wait, during the worst crisis of aviation history.

Final note

Daniela O'Donnell has kindly indicated that a third reference is currently available. Paris Pernazza and Giorgio Lucarelli are the authors of L'inglese aeronautico per naviganti e tecnici, published by Aviolibri, via dei Marsi 53, 00185 Roma, year unknown.