Roger, Roger that and Wilco

This time we want to represent to you "Roger" and "Roger that" as two very popular terms that you could certainly hear many times in movies. Along with them, we will also look at the term "Wilco", which has been less used compared to term "Roger", both in the real world of aviation and on TV screens.


First of all, as it is a characteristic of aviation history, technology and its advances have also had a key impact on the way how pilots and personnel on the ground communicate. In the very beginnings of aviation, in the era of the Wright brothers and their first successful flight, that lasted only twelve seconds, there was no communication by radio. The only way to communicate with the pilots was visual signals with the help of torches, hand signals and colored paddles.

Thanks to advanced technology, mutual communication with the use of the Morse code was soon introduced. The pilots used the .-. signal as a sign that message was received which in the Morse code was the letter R, or the word "Received".

After radio communication was introduced, the letter R and the word "Received" were still used as an affirmative response that the message had been received. Because a large number of pilots were not native English speakers and therefore they had difficulty with certain English words, the International Radiotelegraph Union introduced the term "Roger" as a replacement for "Received". The term "Roger" was used until 1957, when the International Radiotelegraphic Union introduced a new edition of the phonetic alphabet. "Roger" was replaced by a new actor "Romeo".

It should be noted that the "Roger" probably gave way to the "Romeo", since pilots today are required to use the so-called "Read-back" in communication, or repetition of approvals or instructions obtained by air traffic control. Despite this fact, the terms "Roger" and "Roger that" continued to be used in communication as an affirmative response to a received message when "Read-back" was not required.

"Roger" and "Roger that" certainly owe their popularity and longevity to the military, as their application was significant there. In the military context, "Roger" also became an acronym, i.e. an abbreviation for the term "Received Order Given, Expect Results".

Photo: Corbis - Getty

We will conclude the story of the expression "Roger" and "Roger that" with one of the theories that certainly belongs to the sphere of funny jokes and products of imagination. Namely, there is a story that in the very beginning of aviation there really was a pilot named Roger That who heard some of his colleagues struggling to pronounce the word "Received" and suggested that they use the term "Roger" instead. Of course, we believe that you can see the incredibleness of this story, but also its humorous note.

Finally, it is time to explain "Wilco". This term also belongs to the category of affirmative terms, so we present it with the better known term "Roger". "Wilco" is an abbreviation derived from the term "Will comply". In any case, unlike the term "Roger" which is just a confirmation receipt of information, "Wilco" means that we have heard, understood and will act in accordance with the information. Although not as popular, this term can still be heard today in certain situations in aviation, just like the more frequently used and much more popular term "Roger".