Glossary/Phonetic Alphabet

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The Phonetic Alphabet

Using words instead of letters and numbers to ensure that communications are clearly understood.

By International agreement all communications between aircraft and air traffic control is spoken in English.

Every Pilot, radio operator and air traffic controller learns to use a phonetic alphabet for English letters and numbers.

In a phonetic alphabet each letter and number is replaced by a word with a standard pronunciation.

The phonetic alphabet used in aviation is shown in the tables below:-

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

Note: In some countries Alfa is spelled Alpha and Juliett is spelled Juliet, but the pronunciation is the same.

0   ZeroZe ro
1   OneWun
2   TwoToo
3   ThreeTree
4   FourFow er
5   FiveFife
6   SixSix
7   SevenSe ven
8   EightAte
9   NineNin er
10   TenTen
DecimalDay see mal
100   HundredHundred
1000   ThousandTau sand

Examples from the MH370 Pilot-ATC Radiotelephony Transcript

  1. In the phrase Good morning Charlie One Requesting push and start, Charlie One means C1 which is the Gate number at KLIA
  2. When aircraft registration 9M-MRO is used as a radio call-sign at Kuala Lumpur, MRO is spoken as Mike Romeo Oscar.
  3. Numbers are always spoken as words. Prior to departure the First Officer, speaking to air traffic control, says POB two three niner, which means Persons On Board: two hundred and thirty nine.

References and Further Reading

  1. Source: ICAO Annex 10, Volume II. An extract is online here:
  2. The Phonetic Alphabet for Aviation
  3. ICAO Numbers