Alpha Bravo Charlie and Z as in Zulu, not Zebra!

Alpha Bravo Charlie and the Gang

Alpha Bravo and Charlie represent A, B and C when we refer to flight numbers, aircraft tail numbers and a host of other information in aviation. We do this to avoid misunderstanding.

“Yes, Ma’am, hold on… it’s D, as in doctor — O, as in Ostrich — R as in—…”

Stop! Ooof. 

Sorry. But could you stop right there? Please, before I have a nervous breakdown. It doesn’t matter if you’re in pharma, finance, mink farming or any other non-aviation-related business. You need to use the Phonetic Alphabet.

Ok, here it is friends. Drink it in. These are the correct phonetic descriptors for the letters of the alphabet worldwide. It is also used in Aviation movies!

phonetic alphabet

The correct one. And no, it’s not Z as in Zebra. It’s Z as in Zulu.

Sure, you’re using a word with the right initial letter. And yes, you know Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. But things get squirrelly the further down the alphabet you go. Ok, you may not work on an aircraft carrier or answer to the American Federal Aviation Administration, but wouldn’t the world be great if we all used the same words?

Radio Alphabet

And not just the Letters. Numbers too! It’s the best (and coolest) way to speak clearly without risk of error for anyone at an aerodrome over the VHF radio. And on all other devices for that matter. Those poor people on the other end of that call will thank you! (me).

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Radio Transmission

You may have noticed, but we demand perfection here at WT towers. Nothing less. Plus, we like to give you the tools to…

a) Stop being wrong and

b) Do what you love best – Correcting others.

Here are the numbers! With specific requirements as they get larger! So, if the English Alphabet is new to you, you will need to practice these. 

Here they are…


Alpha Bravo Charlie - Phonetic Alphabet

The airport is where you will recognize the use of the phonetic alphabet the most. On the ramp, the last two letters of the aircraft registration are how that aircraft is referred to.

If you are involved in some aviation activity at the airport, and are going from gate to gate, this is how you will refer to them. Same goes for the U.S. Army and most other military organizations worldwide. 

Practical example. See the aircraft below? This aircraft will be referred to as LIMAALPHA.

Call Signs

These are something else used by ATC (Air Traffic Control) and some are nicknames for some airlines. Some are straightforward like Delta 448, or United 123. But some are cool…

British Airways is SPEEDBIRD

Aer Lingus is SHAMROCK

If you’d like- You can see the callsign list of the world’s airlines here.

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