Students Practicing Radio Communications
  • Pilots and air traffic controllers use the ICAO alphabet to make sure they understand each other when saying letters in their radio communication.  Saying letters by themselves can often lead to confusion because many of the letters rhyme and radio communications are not always clear.  Instead pilots use the following code words.

    ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) Phonetic Alphabet

    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
    O - Oscar
    P - Papa
    Q - Quebec
    R - Romeo
    S - Sierra
    T - Tango
    U - Uniform
    V - Victor
    W - Whiskey
    X - X-ray
    Y - Yankee
    Z - Zulu

    In addition, come numbers can become confusing over the radio.  Pilots will always say each digit individually and use the following words when saying the numbers 0, 3, and 9.

    0 - zero
    3 - tree
    9 - niner

    If an air traffic controller wants the pilot of an aircraft to change his altitude to 29,000 feet, he may say, "American tree-zero-one, heavy, climb and maintain two-niner thousand feet."  The pilot of the American Airlines flight 301 will respond, "Two-niner thousand, American tree-zero-one, heavy."

    Other communications have standard radio language that all pilots and controllers will recognize:

    "Affirmative" - Yes
    "Negative" - No
    "Say Again" - I didn't understand the last message, please repeat it.
    "Unable" - I cannot comply with the last message.