Flight Redemptions

What is QNE in Aviation? (The Q Code For Pressure Altitude)

Updated: March 08, 2024

The QNE Code: Understanding Pressure Altitude in Aviation

In the realm of aviation, pilots and air traffic controllers rely on a variety of codes and terms to communicate effectively and ensure the safety of flights. One such code is the QNE code, which refers to pressure altitude. Understanding pressure altitude is crucial for pilots navigating through different airspaces and for air traffic controllers coordinating aircraft movements. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of pressure altitude, its significance in aviation, and how it is denoted by the QNE code.

What is Pressure Altitude?

Pressure altitude is a term used to describe the altitude above a standard datum plane where the atmospheric pressure is 29.92 inches of mercury (inHg) or 1013.25 hectopascals (hPa). It is important to note that pressure altitude is not the same as true altitude, which is the actual height above mean sea level (MSL). Instead, pressure altitude is a standardized measurement that allows pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate accurately regardless of the actual atmospheric pressure in a given location.

When an aircraft operates at a higher altitude, the air pressure decreases, which affects its performance and the behavior of various systems. By referencing pressure altitude, pilots and controllers can account for these variations and make informed decisions regarding flight operations.

The QNE Code: Denoting Pressure Altitude

In aviation, codes are often used to convey information quickly and efficiently. One such code is the QNE code, which specifically represents pressure altitude. When a pilot receives the QNE code, it means they should adjust their altimeter to indicate the standard atmospheric pressure of 29.92 inHg or 1013.25 hPa. This adjustment ensures that the altimeter reflects the aircraft's pressure altitude rather than the actual atmospheric pressure.

By setting the altimeter to the QNE code, pilots can compare their altitude with other aircraft and terrain features accurately. This standardization is vital for maintaining safe separation between aircraft and avoiding collisions. Additionally, air traffic controllers rely on the QNE code to provide accurate altitude information to pilots, facilitating smooth coordination and efficient airspace management.

Using the QNE Code in Practice

When a pilot receives the QNE code from air traffic control, they must adjust their altimeter accordingly. This adjustment involves setting the altimeter's subscale to the standard pressure value of 29.92 inHg or 1013.25 hPa. Pilots can typically accomplish this adjustment by turning a knob on the altimeter or using electronic controls, depending on the aircraft's equipment.

Once the altimeter is set to the QNE code, the pilot can accurately read their pressure altitude. For example, if the altimeter indicates an altitude of 10,000 feet after the adjustment, it means the aircraft is flying at a pressure altitude of 10,000 feet above the standard datum plane, regardless of the actual atmospheric pressure in that specific location.

It is important to note that the QNE code is typically used in controlled airspace, where air traffic control provides precise altitude instructions to pilots. In uncontrolled airspace or non-radar environments, pilots may rely on the QNH code instead, which represents the local atmospheric pressure at a specific location.


Pressure altitude, denoted by the QNE code, is a vital concept in aviation. By standardizing altitude measurements based on a standard atmospheric pressure, pilots and air traffic controllers can communicate effectively and safely navigate through different airspaces. Understanding pressure altitude and its significance enables pilots to maintain proper separation from other aircraft and terrain, reducing the risk of collisions and ensuring the smooth flow of air traffic. The QNE code plays a crucial role in this process, allowing pilots to adjust their altimeters to accurately reflect pressure altitude and enabling effective coordination with air traffic control.

For more information on aviation terms and concepts, visit FAA's Air Traffic Control Handbook.

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