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FAA Glossaries

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Phonetic Alphabet

Communication between ATC and aircraft is facilitated by the use of a phonetic alphabet to refer to numbers and letters. This avoids confusion between similar sounding letters (p/b, t/d, m/n) and numbers (3/t, 9/5).

From the FAA site.

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

 

Phonetic Numbers
Number Name Pronunciation
0 Zero ZE-RO
1 One WUN
2 Two TOO
3 Three TREE
4 Four FOW-ER
5 Five FIFE
6 Six SIX
7 Seven SEV-EN
8 Eight AIT
9 Nine NIN-ER

There is also a good reference in the AIM.

Wikipedia has a good entry on the history of the phonetic alphabet.

Ken Jenks has a post on the Radio Alphabet that includes sound files.

The International Telecommunications Union site has a version as well. Note that they use different pronunciations for the numbers.

If you listen carefully for a while, you’ll find that most pilots mispronounce “Papa” by placing the emphasis on the first syllable. They also mispronounce “Quebec” by pronouncing it as the city (kwa BECK) rather than (keh BECK). Usage is split on 9 (NINE) vs. (NINE er). I have never heard anyone say 3 correctly (TREE).

There is a page here that you can use to practice the names of the phonetic alphabet letters.

2 Responses to “Phonetic Alphabet”

  1. MadDog Says:

    I believe all forms of the word “quebec” are pronounced “kwa BECK” in english and “keh BECK” in french. Therefore I guess the pronunciation would depend on the language, no?

  2. JScarry Says:

    The pronunciation of the letters and numbers is based on English, but certain sounds are emphasized to avoid confusion. So it doesn’t really matter which language the person speaks, we’re supposed to pronounce the sounds like in the examples.

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