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Do You Speak Aviation? ABCs Explained!

How many languages do you know to become a part of the aviation world? Your native language, English…!! These are really important, especially English, but do you know that we aviators, know another unique language too. That is the “We Speak Aviation” language. 

There are a lot of people who always ask me what, for instance, ALPHA, CHARLIE, BRAVO, and so many other words or expressions mean. And today, I want to help you to understand somehow these words and phrases and also how to use them. 

But before we start learning the phrases, you have to know that this phonetic alphabet is used to avoid confusion, as the efficiency and clarity in aviation communication is a priority. 

Now, here is some short-list of pilot terminology you would probably like to be familiar with.

  1. The ICAO phonetic alphabet – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu. This alphabet system eliminates confusion over whether someone said “B or V” “M or N” and it can also address interruptions in radio communications, like “was that an ‘S’ or ‘Yes?’ There are standard pronunciations for the numbers too, for example- ZE-RO, WUN instead of ONE, TOO instead of TWO, TREE instead of THREE, FOW-ER instead of FOUR, FIFE instead of FIVE, SIX, SEV-EN, AIT instead of EIGHT, NIN-ER instead of NINE.
  2. George – Pilot slang for the autopilot.
  3. Mayday – This is a common international call for help. It’s not used only in aviation — it can also be used in marine. The word is related to the French phrase “m’aidez” or “m’aider” which means ‘help me.’ 
  4. Met – Short for meteorological conditions or, in other words, “How is the weather?”
  5. Vector – That is the direction of the plane — and the speed of the aircraft formally referred to as “magnitude.”
  6. Gone tech – The technical failure on the plane which will prevent it from flying.
  7. Crosscheck – Pilots and crew check on each other’s duties. There are standard procedures for all phases of flight, and pilots need to know that the crew has accomplished these.
  8. Go-around – Sometimes, there are some conditions that don’t allow the plane to land, and pilots have to coordinate with ATC for another approach. So they “go around” in the sky to try to land again.
  9. Zulu time – This term is originated from the military. It refers to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), the baseline of international time zones. It’s “Zero-hours,” and “Zero” starts with “Z,” which is “Zulu” in the international phonetic alphabet.
  10. Wilco – “I will comply.” This means that the speaker will follow the instructions to which they are replying

So now, you already know some of the words and phrases of the aviation language, and how the pilots basically talk. But there are a lot of other terms and expressions that I didn’t mention in my article to let you search, explore, and then leave it below in a comment section of my article.

Until next time, and as always, “We Speak Aviation.”

3 Comments

  • Elaine Bosvik
    Posted February 4, 2020 at 3:53 am
    Reply

    I wonder if people realize just how much conversation there is between the pilot and controllers.

  • Emmy Varvia
    Posted February 10, 2021 at 11:16 am
    Reply

    Hi Captain, hope you are well!
    Another expression could be
    \”We\’re flying through an air pocket\”
    when it comes to turbulance, isn\’t it ?
    Best regards
    Take care

  • Evmorfia Varvia
    Posted February 10, 2021 at 11:23 am
    Reply

    Hi Captain,
    The message PAN-PAN for an urgent situation but not with immediate danger for someone\’s life on board, slight differentiated from mayday, is this valid Sir?
    Stay safe!

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