Pilot´s alphabet history explained by Captain Joe

  • Published on Apr 17, 2016
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    Back in the early days of aviation radio communication wasn´t as clear as it is today. Antennas picked up all sorts of static noises which made it difficult to understand the transmitter at the receiving end.
    So in the 1950´s, the ICAO (The International Civil Aviation Organization) developed a so called „spelling alphabet“ or „phonetic alphabet“.
    The whole idea of developing this alphabet was to reduce misunderstandings whilst communicating via radio and to standardize one spelling alphabet for the entire aviation industry at the time.
    The final choice of code words for the letters of the alphabet was made after hundreds of thousands of comprehension tests involving many different nationalities to agree on 26 codewords for the 26 letters in the alphabet which are the most least similar to each other when being pronounced.
    I´ll give you an example. When you transmit a message containing letters and numbers, you use the spelling alphabet to avoid confusions, because many letters sound very similar, for example the letter „M“ and „N“ or „B“ and „D“.
    If you would have to read back this clearance, „proceed to beacon MIQ“ you could mistake M for the letter N, so therefore the air traffic controller will say, „proceed to beacon Mike-India-Quebec“ to minimize the chance of misunderstanding.
    Similar solution with numbers.
    For example, the air traffic controllers very often give you clearances like: „Speedbird-125-Hotel climb flight level two five zero, free speed“ you could mix up the „free“ with the english number three, so therefore the three is pronounced as „tree“ like the english word for tree. The same goes for the number „nine“, nine sounds like the german word „nein“, which means „no“, therefore you pronounce the number nine as „niner“.
    Also important, numbers are always pronounced separately, for example, „climb flight level „tree-niner-zero“" instead of „climb flight level three hundred and ninety“.
    Of course exceptions prove the rule, for example Flight level 100/200/300 are pronounced Flight level 100/200/300 and airline callsigns can be „EasyJet one-hundred Xray“ or „Lufthansa Triple-six two“.
    I hope I was able to answer this aviation related question for you, and I´ve uploaded another video where you can practice the spelling alphabet with pictures relating to the coded letter. Make sure to check it out !
  • Science & TechnologyScience & Technology

Comments • 237

  • Cleuza Barros Barros

    Obrigado pela sua visita.Volte sempre, uma ótima semana.

  • ReCoM Sce
    ReCoM Sce 5 days ago

    I was able to learn the alphabet on my own pretty fast and I use it in school although all my classmates lough at me - can someone tell me what to do about it?

  • Sachin Hatkar
    Sachin Hatkar 5 days ago +1

    How to become a line captain

  • Kongping Chang
    Kongping Chang Month ago

    Captain joe how do you read this? N923AN

  • Mugofbrown
    Mugofbrown Month ago

    I use the NATO phonetic alphabet all the time whether I'm using my radio on duty or sorting out something over the phone. I learnt it as a kid in the Red Cross.

  • Noob_Dev
    Noob_Dev 2 months ago

    Delta force is also a game, I have a copy

  • Swiss001 Fan
    Swiss001 Fan 3 months ago

    What does bravo mean?

  • MasterGamer 4677
    MasterGamer 4677 5 months ago +5

    Anyone in 2019?
    I dont remember these german subtitles lol

  • Kresna The Roblox /Minecraft Gamer

    Thank You For The
    Lima Echo Sierra Sierra Oscar November

  • Biswarup DasGupta
    Biswarup DasGupta 5 months ago

    What is callsign?

  • Junita Soesanto
    Junita Soesanto 7 months ago

    I studied the phonetic alphabet while studying travel & tourism 12 years ago hahahaha, it was really fun, and flight codes and city codes too :).

  • Sparky max
    Sparky max 7 months ago

    It's actually named the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet. Created in 1956, it replaced the international telegraph union one from 1927, although the army didn't adopt it till like '65.

  • Adhira Rajesh
    Adhira Rajesh 8 months ago

    Pilot........ gosh tough life

  • Adhira Rajesh
    Adhira Rajesh 8 months ago

    Why don’t they use normal words

  • Nina Ahgase
    Nina Ahgase 8 months ago

    please do a video of reacting to pilot memes



  • Sevi Lay
    Sevi Lay 9 months ago

    I get why 3 is pronounced tree now, but why is the r in it pronounced with a German accent? Does it also make it easier to understand?

  • QU0B3N 9999
    QU0B3N 9999 9 months ago

    The horrible to learn

    phonetic alphabet

  • John Johannson
    John Johannson 9 months ago

    Definitiv nine

  • John Johannson
    John Johannson 9 months ago

    November India Charlie Echo Victor India Delta Echo Oscar

  • Lachlan Feuerherdt
    Lachlan Feuerherdt 9 months ago

    Hi Captain Joe,
    Ich leibe hunchen fleugel
    Like your channel, very informative

  • ExTreMe
    ExTreMe 9 months ago +1

  • Žan Pekošak
    Žan Pekošak 9 months ago

    I used the alphabet to first say a good thing about a teacher in class loud enough for them to hear it. If they didnt have a clue at what I meant we would also invent insults or adjectives for teachers. To this day my favourite is Mike India Lima Foxtrott six niner. Damn that was fun...until we had a teacher who was in the army....🤣sadly he knew what Oscar Lima Delta Foxtrott Alpha Romeo Tango meant 🤦‍♂️

  • Ian McGreevy
    Ian McGreevy 9 months ago

    I learned this as the “NATO” alphabet.
    Also The word “ nought” should never be used because it can confuse with “eight”
    Use “zero” and never “nought” or the letter “o” when you mean zero.

  • Kaspars Sentinels
    Kaspars Sentinels 10 months ago

    Thanks for this one 🙏👌

  • Josip Vrandecic
    Josip Vrandecic Year ago

    Captain Joe..... we all love you.

  • Iesha Shahien
    Iesha Shahien Year ago

    I’m in alpha and used to be in bravo

  • Alex Thoppil
    Alex Thoppil Year ago

    My favorite car brand is AR

  • Alex Thoppil
    Alex Thoppil Year ago

    I bet there was a Shakespeare fan in the ICAO.

  • Judhastian Seba
    Judhastian Seba Year ago

    Captain even i am not educated as well others but i like to learn about flights and thank you Captain for your explanations of l.

  • Melvi Fong
    Melvi Fong Year ago

    Hey Cpt Joe, what are the benefits of anhedral wings? maybe a comparison between anhedral and dihedral wings?

  • Airplane Guy
    Airplane Guy Year ago

    nine er, no wonder why my atc game i was playing said runway zero nine er

  • Dawson Mai
    Dawson Mai Year ago

    Lol Tree=3

  • Dawson Mai
    Dawson Mai Year ago

    Can you show us how to start an A320?

  • Kaloian Darvov
    Kaloian Darvov Year ago

    Joe you still haven't uoaded video how did the engine works

  • searchfortech
    searchfortech Year ago

    Same for the maritime fleet

  • Harsh Jadhav
    Harsh Jadhav Year ago


  • Serhat Yüngül
    Serhat Yüngül Year ago

    Imagine 2 pilots apply for a job. One has for example 5000 flight hours. The other one has for example 3000 flight hours but he/she experianced some failures ( because of things that he/she can’t control like bird strikes ), and he/she successfuly has done what he/she supposed to have done. Which one would the company choose?

    • Donovan
      Donovan 9 months ago

      Serhat Yüngül company’s would chose the one with less hours as they have landed and survived the crash with bird strikes etc but also they might take the higher hour one depending on casualties and damage done to the plane

  • Marie BCFHS
    Marie BCFHS Year ago


  • Marie BCFHS
    Marie BCFHS Year ago +2

    Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein! Nein!

  • David Sanchez Plaza

    I think here is best place for my question. how can u really understand what atc says?most times i can barely distinguish what they say in the videos (e.g. your intro).I assume once u know.what u expect to.hear is easy, but yeah. mistery for me. last "stupid" question: people with glasses CAN OR CANNOT become pilots. I heard no, but want to confirm. Ive seen all your ideos, thanks!

    • Donovan
      Donovan 9 months ago

      David Sanchez Plaza atc comes through a lot clearer then that on videos it can be 100% clear like it is for pilots to atc or atc to pilots

  • Lobzang Dorjay
    Lobzang Dorjay Year ago

    thanks captain juliet oscar echo.

  • Lobzang Dorjay
    Lobzang Dorjay Year ago +3

    that's why i, love the phonetic alphabets of aviation, a lot.

  • vinayak cb
    vinayak cb Year ago

    Captain , please make a detailed video of radio communication types , the frequency changes and intercom on board communication

  • Evan Dickson
    Evan Dickson Year ago

    Just practicing ATC stuff. The "tree" one was very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jeba Maliha
    Jeba Maliha Year ago

    Really,your smile is s❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ cute.i like your channel.....And i also subscribe &share your channel......

  • Agent Smith 007
    Agent Smith 007 Year ago +1

    Hi Joe. I have a question that do every aircraft have an emergency rescue parachute for both pilot and assistant pilot?

    • Jeg Heter
      Jeg Heter 5 months ago

      Quite rare, mostly gliders and military aircraft.

  • 고래밥
    고래밥 Year ago

    Yes!!!! The most curious question was solved by captain joe

  • Samruddha Mane
    Samruddha Mane Year ago

    Sir please give us a basic information of step by step u start for taxi and takeoff full procedure please sir

  • God
    God Year ago +1

    I was always wondering why pilots pronounce 9 and 3 like that, thank you Joe!

  • czesiek77PL
    czesiek77PL Year ago

    @Captain Joe How is the Flight level choosed?

  • Liam O’Donnell
    Liam O’Donnell Year ago

    Omg CaptainJoe I have to be your BIGGEST FAN. All of my aviation experiences and even applying for an RPL, PPL and now the CPL, have been inspired by you. Thankyou so much!

  • Abhinav Yadav
    Abhinav Yadav Year ago +3

    Seems like Joe is also a fan of 16-bit lolitas :)

  • nytom4info
    nytom4info Year ago

    That’s a stupid question!!! ;)

  • Aviator Phantom
    Aviator Phantom 2 years ago

    As a trainee pilot i was not knowing abt this there was many questions why they call the number nine as ninner why they call ZS-KNS as kilo November sierra and many things thank u very much for letting us know and clearing my doubts 👍👍

  • Captain Boeing
    Captain Boeing 2 years ago

    Great vid ..

  • Ian Leitch
    Ian Leitch 2 years ago

    I believe that it is the NATO phonetic alphabet, which was later adopted by ICAO.
    Prior to the NATO version from 1950, there were at least two previous phonetic alphabet versions used by the RAF. The earlier version using words like Ack, Nan etc. and during WW2 Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog etc.
    BT telephone operators, formerly the GPO, in the UK used their own version with domestic words like Sugar.
    Five is Fife.

  • Hannah Apor
    Hannah Apor 2 years ago

    Captain Joe is Air Berlin will end Its flight this month? Because some news said that the company will shutdown this month.
    I hope you can easily find another job if that happen. By the way your video is like an encyclopedia, thanks for all the info in the vid

  • AngloAm
    AngloAm 2 years ago

    Same as the NATO alphabet.
    Isn't "fuenf" in German often read out as "fuen-eff" to make it distinct?

  • Sree lekha
    Sree lekha 2 years ago

    Captain JOE I am a student at grade 9 and I love to become a PILOT in future….....So I would like to know …WHAT ALL QUALITIES DO WE NEED TO BECOME AN AIRLINE PILOT …