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Aviation Alphabet: from Alpha to Zulu

The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) phonetic alphabet or the International Alphabet of Radiotelephony Spelling, also known as the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) phonetic alphabet, was developed in the 1950s as part of the International Signal Code (INTERCO). It consists of 26 code words assigned to each letter of the English alphabet. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) released a new official version of the aeronautical alphabet in 1955, so we can say that from 1955, the aeronautical alphabet began to be used truly around the world.

Delta's Pilot Talk mural, photo:

The aeronautical alphabet is used to spell words and names over a radio or telephone to avoid confusion and prevent misunderstandings caused by vaguely pronounced letters of the alphabet. You know how sometimes letters can really sound similar, for example the letters B and P or M and N. It is especially difficult to recognize a spoken letter when there is noise around us or when the connection is broken, or when we have a bad telephone connection. Proper and clear communication is a prerequisite for safe air operations. The importance of the aviation alphabet is especially emphasized in the case of emergencies and stressful situations within a noisy environment.

In addition to pilots and air traffic controllers, the aircraft alphabet is used by other services that are part of aircraft operation procedure, as well as the airlines themselves, or their employees. Maybe you had the opportunity to hear the airline alphabet yourself while talking to the reservation center of an individual airline, as the airline employee may have had to spell your name or flight number or perhaps the reservation code. It should be noted that the NATO phonetic alphabet, in addition to certain variations, is also used in the army, police, naval and other services.

In addition to the aforementioned aviation alphabet, which allows you to replace letters with words, there are also certain rules for pronouncing numbers in aviation. For example, the number three is pronounced as the noun tree. All rules relating to the pronunciation of numbers are established to avoid ambiguity of pronunciation and error in communication, as in the case of the aeronautical alphabet.

Aviation alphabet

Character - Telephony - Phonic (Pronunciation):

  • A Alfa (AL-FAH)

  • B Bravo (BRAH-VOH)

  • C Charlie (CHAR-LEE) or(SHAR-LEE)

  • D Delta (DELL-TAH)

  • E Echo (ECK-OH)

  • F Foxtrot (FOKS-TROT)

  • G Golf (GOLF)

  • H Hotel (HOH-TEL)

  • I India (IN-DEE-AH)

  • J Juliett (JEW-LEE-ETT)

  • K Kilo (KEY-LOH)

  • L Lima (LEE-MAH)

  • M Mike (MIKE)

  • N November (NO-VEM-BER)

  • O Oscar (OSS-CAH)

  • P Papa (PAH-PAH)

  • Q Quebec (KEH-BECK)

  • R Romeo (ROW-ME-OH)

  • S Sierra (SEE-AIR-RAH)

  • T Tango (TANG-GO)

  • U Uniform (YOU-NEE-FORM)or(OO-NEE-FORM)

  • V Victor (VIK-TAH)

  • W Whiskey (WISS-KEY)

  • X Xray (ECKS-RAY)

  • Y Yankee (YANG-KEY)

  • Z Zulu (ZOO-LOO)

  • 1 One (WUN)

  • 2 Two (TOO)

  • 3 Three (TREE)

  • 4 Four (FOW-ER)

  • 5 Five (FIFE)

  • 6 Six (SIX)

  • 7 Seven (SEV-EN)

  • 8 Eight (AIT)

  • 9 Nine (NIN-ER)

  • 0 Zero (ZEE-RO)

Using the aviation alphabet and rules for pronouncing numbers, flight TK 1054 could be pronounced as: “TANG-GO KEY-LOH WUN ​​ZEE-RO FIFE FOW-ER”. We took the TK 1054 flight code because one of the readers will have the opportunity to travel on a Turkish Airlines flight from Zagreb to Istanbul. Read more about the prize competition and the rules of the competition on our website at the link below.

Travel with Turskish Airlines and Croatian Aviation on route Zagreb-Istanbul-Zagreb

All of you who would like to experience how the communication via radio waves between the crew and the air traffic control sound, please go and simply visit and listen to what is happening in the air.

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