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Learn the Language

If you have ever heard Air Traffic Control communicating with pilots you may think they are speaking a different language. Follow our guide below to learn more, and pilots do not use over and out.

  • Every pilot must learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. As some letters and numbers sound the same,especially when spoken over aviation radios, or by non-native English speaking pilots.
  • In order to avoid confusion, the Phonetic Alphabet is used to ensure every letter and number has a unique and distinct phonetic pronunciation. By speaking the standardized phonetic word, and not only the individual letter or number, you are more easily understood.
  • English is the International Language of Aviation. Every tower handling international traffic is required to have at least one English speaking controller on duty at all times. Pilots around the globe will use the English language for Airport Identification, Aircraft Registration Numbers (N-Number), Runway Numbers, Taxiway identification, Headings, Altitudes, etc. Numbers 0 – 9 will be used to reference runways, headings and altitudes. Eg. Runway One Six, which we use in Cork.  One Six refers to the Magnetic Heading  as the compass points.
  • Runway numbers are the runway’s heading or direction. This number is rounded off to the nearest 10 degrees. These numbers represent the first two digits of the runway’s actual three digit magnetic direction. For instance, Runway Three Four(34) points in the direction of 340 degrees .
  • Runways are referenced by number. Taxiways are referenced by a letter of the Alphabet to avoid confusion with Runways. Our Taxiway is F (Foxtrot).
  • Example of a call :
  • ATC: Echo India Echo Alpha Mike (plane registration letters- use this for call sign) Line up on and wait runway one six.
  • Pilot reply: Echo India Echo Alpha Mike Line up and wait runway one six.

LetterCodeWord Pronunciation
AAlfaAl Fah
BBravoBrah Voh
CCharlieChar Lee
DDeltaDell Tah
EEchoEck Oh
FFoxtrotFoks Trot
HHotelHoh Tell
IIndiaIn Dee Ah
JJuliettJew Lee Ett
KKiloKey Loh
LLimaLee Mah
NNovemberNo Vem Ber
OOscarOss Cah
PPapaPah Pah
QQuebecKeh Beck
RRomeoRow Me Oh
SSierraSee Air Ah
TTangoTang Go
UUniformYou Nee Form
VVictorVik Tah
WWhiskeyWiss Key
XX-Ray Ecks Ray
YYankeeYang Key
ZZuluZoo Loo

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