Aviation Alphabet

It certain professions, the misinterpretation of letters, words, and numbers by a recipient can be life threatening.  Aviation is probably the field in which precise communication is most essential in order to avoid disaster.  As such, a special aviation alphabet has been created for ensure verbal commands are not misunderstood.

Imagine a scenario in which an air traffic controllers need to provide multiple aircraft pilots with instructions to land on specific runways from various directions and at certain times.   The communications back and forth must be succinct and clear to keep the communication frequency from becoming saturated with chatter.  Any confusion over a call sign, runway number, time, or direction could put aircraft on a collision course with devastating results.

The aviation alphabet is designed to ensure common sounding letters are not heard incorrectly.  Some example letters that are frequently mixed up in voice communications are P&D, F&S, and M&N.  By replacing the traditional pronunciations of all letters with distinct sounding words, the aviation alphabet helps people communicate with a very high level of accuracy.  AviationAlphabet.com has provided this quick guide which shows the words used for each letter:

  • A Alpha
  • B Bravo
  • C Charlie
  • D Delta
  • E Echo
  • F Foxtrot
  • G Golf
  • H Hotel
  • I India
  • J Juliet
  • K Kilo
  • L Lima
  • M Mike
  • N November
  • Oscar
  • P Papa
  • Q Quebec
  • R Romeo
  • S Sierra
  • T Tango
  • U Uniform
  • V Victor
  • W Whiskey
  • X X-Ray
  • Y Yankee
  • Z Zulu

This alphabet is also used by the US military.  Most law enforcement agencies and emergency services use a slight variation of it.  You can use this phonetic alphabet to improve your own communications.  You should be careful about making up your own words however.  Many call center operators will use poor choices of words when they stray from the aviation alphabet.  For example, you may hear someone say “S as in Seed” rather than “S as in Sierra”.  The listener could easily hear that as “F as in Feed” thereby circumventing the distinctiveness of the carefully chosen words of the aviation alphabet.

NOTE – Aviators avoid confusion in the common sounding numbers of 5 and 9 by pronouncing them as “fife” & “niner”.