International Phonetic Alphabet

Aviation has its own unique vocabulary, phraseology, and acronyms. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the controlling agency for worldwide aviation activities. To avoid miscommunications in a worldwide air transportation system, ICAO chose English as the official language of aviation.

Everything pertaining to aviation is controlled and approved by the ICAO. Radio frequencies, runway light colors, runway and taxiway markings, airport and airway identifiers, and navigation aids are ICAO approved.

Letter and numeral pronunciation can be so easily misunderstood (such as hearing an "S" for an "F" or a "B" for a "D"). Because of that, letters and numerals in aviation are spoken using the International Phonetic Alphabet. This alphabet substitutes an entire word to represent one letter. The first letter of the word is the letter of the alphabet it represents. It would be difficult to confuse "Sierra" (the letter "S") for the letter "F" (said as "Foxtrot"). The numeral "nine" is pronounced "niner." The accepted reasoning is that "nein" is a common German word that means no. By eliminating that pronunciation, confusion was to be avoided.

International Phonetic Alphabet
(Accented syllable in bold.)

A - Alpha ( al - fah) N - November (no - vem - ber)
B - Bravo (brah - voh) O - Oscar (oss - car)
C - Charlie (char - lee) P - Papa (pah - pah)
D - Delta (dell - tah) Q - Quebec (keh - beck)
E - Echo (eck - oh) R - Romeo (roh - me - oh)
F - Foxtrot (foks - trot) S - Sierra (see - air - ah)
G - Golf (golf) T - Tango (tang - go)
H - Hotel (hoh - tell) U - Uniform (you - nee - form)
I - India (in - dee - ah) V - Victor (vik - tor)
J - Juliet (jew - lee- ett) W - Whiskey (wiss - key)
K - Kilo (key - loh) X - X ray (ecks - ray)
L - Lima (lee - mah) Y - Yankee (yang - key)
M - Mike (mike) Z - Zulu (zoo - loo)

International Phonetic Alphabet Numerals
(Accented syllable in bold.)

0 - (zee - ro) 5 - (five)
1 - (wun) 6 - (six)
2 - (too) 7 - (sev - en)
3 - (three) 8 - (ait)
4 - (fow - er) 9 - (ni - ner)

Normally questions requiring a "yes" or "no" answer are answered using yes and no. However, in aviation the answers are "affirmative" for yes and "negative" for no.

Verbal communications are possibly more prone to confusion and misunderstanding than those that are written. Whether the person is a controller or pilot, what the sender (or speaker) transmits is not always what the receiver (or listener) receives or hears. When a controller transmits a clearance, the clearance is "read back" by the crewmember receiving the message. The "read-back" is used to confirm that the message received was indeed the message sent. Shorter words are more often misunderstood than longer words. It seems talkers start talking before listeners start listening. Over.