Flight Redemptions

What is HAT in Aviation? (Height Above Touchdown)

Updated: February 27, 2024

Understanding Height Above Touchdown (HAT) in Aviation

In the world of aviation, there are numerous terms and acronyms that pilots, air traffic controllers, and aviation enthusiasts use to communicate and navigate through the skies. One such term is Height Above Touchdown (HAT), which plays a crucial role in ensuring safe and accurate landings. In this article, we will delve into the meaning of HAT, its significance in aviation operations, and how it affects pilots' decision-making processes.

What is Height Above Touchdown (HAT)?

Height Above Touchdown (HAT) refers to the vertical distance between an aircraft's altitude and the designated touchdown zone elevation on a runway. It is typically measured in feet and is used as a reference point to determine the aircraft's height above the runway during the final stages of landing.

During an approach and landing, pilots rely on various instruments and visual cues to ensure a safe touchdown. These cues include runway lights, approach slope indicators, and the aircraft's altimeter. The HAT value provides pilots with an accurate measure of their altitude above the touchdown zone, allowing them to make precise adjustments during the landing phase.

It is important to note that the HAT value may differ from the aircraft's altitude above mean sea level (AMSL) due to variations in runway elevation. Runways can be built on varying terrains, which may result in uphill or downhill slopes. Therefore, pilots must take into account the HAT value to ensure a smooth and safe landing.

The Significance of Height Above Touchdown (HAT) in Aviation

HAT plays a significant role in aviation operations, particularly during the landing phase. It provides pilots with critical information to ensure a safe touchdown and minimize the risk of runway incursions or accidents. Understanding and utilizing the HAT value effectively can enhance situational awareness and decision-making capabilities.

1. Safe Landing Determination: The HAT value allows pilots to determine their precise height above the runway during the final stages of landing. This information is crucial in ensuring a safe touchdown within the designated touchdown zone. By monitoring the HAT value, pilots can make real-time adjustments to their approach and landing techniques, such as adjusting the aircraft's pitch or rate of descent, to achieve a smooth and controlled landing.

2. Obstacle Clearance: Another important aspect of HAT is its role in ensuring obstacle clearance during the landing phase. In aviation, obstacles such as buildings, trees, or antennas near the runway can pose a significant threat to aircraft safety. The HAT value helps pilots assess whether there is sufficient vertical clearance between their aircraft and any obstacles in the vicinity of the touchdown zone. This information allows pilots to make informed decisions regarding their approach path and landing techniques to avoid any potential hazards.

3. Visual Reference Point: The HAT value also serves as a visual reference point for pilots during the landing phase. Runway lights and markings are designed to assist pilots in aligning their aircraft with the runway and ensuring a safe touchdown. The HAT value helps pilots gauge their position relative to the touchdown zone and provides them with an additional reference point to ensure accurate alignment and positioning.

To further understand the significance of HAT, let's consider a scenario where an aircraft is landing on a runway with a steep slope. Without considering the HAT value, the pilot may misjudge the aircraft's altitude above the runway, leading to a hard landing or even a runway overrun. By utilizing the HAT value, the pilot can accurately assess the aircraft's height above the touchdown zone and make appropriate adjustments to ensure a safe landing.


Height Above Touchdown (HAT) is a critical parameter in aviation that provides pilots with essential information during the landing phase. It determines the aircraft's altitude above the designated touchdown zone on a runway and helps pilots make precise adjustments to ensure a safe and controlled landing. By understanding the significance of HAT and incorporating it into their decision-making processes, pilots can enhance situational awareness, minimize the risk of accidents, and ensure a smooth landing.

Recent Posts