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 • 220

  • Junita Soesanto
    Junita Soesanto 15 days 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 20 days 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 28 days ago

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

  • Adhira Rajesh
    Adhira Rajesh 28 days ago

    Why don’t they use normal words

  • Nina Ahgase
    Nina Ahgase Month ago

    please do a video of reacting to pilot memes

    BIG DADDY Month ago


  • Ian McGreevy
    Ian McGreevy 2 months ago

    Captain Joe is an Alpha male

  • Maverick Wolfe
    Maverick Wolfe 2 months ago

    U is also Union Military typically uses Union.

  • Sevi Lay
    Sevi Lay 2 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 2 months ago

    The horrible to learn

    phonetic alphabet

  • John Johannson
    John Johannson 2 months ago

    Definitiv nine

  • John Johannson
    John Johannson 2 months ago

    November India Charlie Echo Victor India Delta Echo Oscar

  • Lachlan Feuerherdt
    Lachlan Feuerherdt 2 months ago

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

  • ExTreMe
    ExTreMe 2 months ago +1

  • AirsoftSlo
    AirsoftSlo 2 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 2 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 3 months ago

    Thanks for this one 🙏👌

  • Josip Vrandecic
    Josip Vrandecic 6 months ago

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

  • Iesha Shahien
    Iesha Shahien 6 months ago

    I’m in alpha and used to be in bravo

  • Alex Thoppil
    Alex Thoppil 6 months ago

    My favorite car brand is AR

  • Alex Thoppil
    Alex Thoppil 6 months ago

    I bet there was a Shakespeare fan in the ICAO.

  • Judhastian Seba
    Judhastian Seba 7 months 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 8 months ago

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

  • lminus niguyen
    lminus niguyen 8 months ago

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

  • Dawson Mai
    Dawson Mai 9 months ago

    Lol Tree=3

  • Dawson Mai
    Dawson Mai 9 months ago

    Can you show us how to start an A320?

  • Kaloian Darvov
    Kaloian Darvov 9 months ago

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

  • searchfortech
    searchfortech 10 months ago

    Same for the maritime fleet

  • Free Movies
    Free Movies 10 months ago


  • Serhat Yüngül
    Serhat Yüngül 11 months 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 2 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 11 months ago


  • Marie BCFHS
    Marie BCFHS 11 months ago +1

    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 2 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 +2

    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.

  • Lavly Akter
    Lavly Akter Year ago

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

  • sandeep chauhan
    sandeep chauhan Year ago +1

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

  • I Live and love dallen

    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 +2

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

  • nytom4info
    nytom4info Year ago

    That’s a stupid question!!! ;)

  • 678 noobie
    678 noobie Year 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 Year ago

    Great vid ..

  • Ian Leitch
    Ian Leitch Year 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 Year 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 Year 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 Year 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 …

  • Tom S.
    Tom S. Year ago

    Also note that the words have similar meanings in English, French, German and Spanish.
    Fun fact: In Atlanta, they will use "Dixie" instead of "delta" for the letter "D" to avoid confusion with Delta Airlines.

    • Allan Richardson
      Allan Richardson Year ago

      Tom S. Wouldn’t it be more consistent to name the airline Dixie, even though some would consider that racially offensive?
      Delta Airlines started in Southern Louisiana, in the delta of the Mississippi River, before growing big enough to move to Atlanta.

  • chaushb
    chaushb Year ago

    Don't like the subtitles

  • HBSurf
    HBSurf Year ago

    I never knew that 3 was pronounced "tree..." lol


    Captian Joe, You are great, respect from Pakistan

  • William Sass
    William Sass Year ago

    Captain Joe, I just love your presentation. You make it real interesting and exciting. Just love your video's.

  • Cinnamon Gaming
    Cinnamon Gaming Year ago +9

    2:52 captain jow said tree in german accent

    • Frank Lippert
      Frank Lippert 2 days ago

      Pronouncing "three" as "tree" is actually correct in the ICAO spelling alphabet to make it differ from "free".

    • Freberg
      Freberg 6 months ago +1

      That's how you pronounce it in Aviation

    • Amogh
      Amogh Year ago

      Cinnamon Gaming Joe*

  • It's Robby
    It's Robby Year ago

    It's not just pilots that use this police use this also

  • Nathan D'souza
    Nathan D'souza Year ago

    Hey Joe, how are flight paths derived? Ive noticed that flights flying from the middle east or Europe take a curved path upto Greenland and then to the US, but on the return they fly straight... Why is that?

    • Shrey Sharma
      Shrey Sharma Year ago

      Nathan D'souza well the earthbound round, so the shortest path, when shown on a flat map wouldn't be a straight line, and thus a flight path on every map will be a curve

  • Ruby Bhatia
    Ruby Bhatia Year ago

    Hello sir.... How you paid for your flying school

  • Elias Pylkkänen
    Elias Pylkkänen Year ago

    Not only pilots use those alfabets. Amateur radio users (commonly known as "HAM"s) use phonetic alfabets.
    But still, this was a great video and best wishes from Finland
    de, OH2EP

  • Aviation TV
    Aviation TV Year ago

    Why are there letters in call signs?

  • Raja Hammad Khalid

    still very difficult

  • Callie Masters
    Callie Masters Year ago

    you're my captain, Joe! ❤

  • Nyck461
    Nyck461 Year ago

    Captain Joe, that is a good explanation about alphabet.
    In aviation language are time (hours) in military format, 13:00 H instead 1:00 H PM?

  • Abhishek sharma
    Abhishek sharma Year ago

    Hii captain...
    I'm really confused about Anti-icing and De-icing....? Can u clear my confusion !!!!!

    • Nii P.
      Nii P. Year ago

      Anti-icing is prevention, de-icing is the removing, when you got icing already.

  • Brad Linsley
    Brad Linsley Year ago

    Joe, Do pilots get bullied over ATC or by other pilots? and are you even able to talk to other pilots?

    • mingchoding
      mingchoding Year ago

      UZA Gaming yeah you can communicate with other pilots with the frequency 123.45

  • Dutchy girl
    Dutchy girl 2 years ago

    I'm honered to give you the 1.300th like! As always great explenation and you're a pleasure to watch, Joe!

  • Mikosch2
    Mikosch2 2 years ago

    Yet when referring to types of aircraft, they mostly seem to pronounced on radio as they are anywhere else, it seems. "Give way to the CRJ from the right", "caution wake turbulence from the A340 ahaed." Not charlie-romeo-juliet or alpha-tree-four-zero. Maybe because there's not that many types to confuse after all?

  • mansoor ramizy
    mansoor ramizy 2 years ago

    funny but very usefull

  • silmarian
    silmarian 2 years ago

    The phonetic alphabet was also super useful for me when I was working tech support. Well, except Foxtrot - people kept typing in the F and then adding a T. I wound up changing it to Frank, which made me die a little on the inside every time I said it.

    • Allan Richardson
      Allan Richardson Year ago

      silmarian Most programmers pronounce the hex digit for fifteen as FOX. That’s what everyone said during the thirty years I was in that field. Of course, anyone who knows how to count in hex knows there is no digit T.
      (For non-tech folks, hexadecimal, or base-16, numbers are used to group binary digits, or bits, into quads, since 4 bits can count from 0 to 15. The usual numbers are used for 0 to 9, ten is A, eleven is B, etc. and fifteen, binary 1111, is F.)

  • Leonardo S. B.
    Leonardo S. B. 2 years ago

    as usual a great video with lots of information. thanks!

  • Zamir Zulharyth
    Zamir Zulharyth 2 years ago

    captain joe what is the difference between tailwind and headwind

    • Nii P.
      Nii P. Year ago

      The direction.

  • Ran Kavik
    Ran Kavik 2 years ago +79

    I GET IT
    You are not Captain Joe, you are Captain Juliet Oscar Echo

    • Aviões e Jogos
      Aviões e Jogos 6 months ago

      Charlie Alpha Papa Tango Alpha India November Juliet Oscar Echo

    • Pedro Magalhaes
      Pedro Magalhaes 9 months ago +2

      Ran Kavik he's not a captain at all...

    • MarEpor
      MarEpor Year ago +2

      idiot, he's called Charlie, Alpha, Papa, Tango, Alpha, India, November, Juliet, Oscar, Echo

    • Matthew Kaai
      Matthew Kaai Year ago

      Adeeb Ighani haha that's funny

    • Adeeb Ighani
      Adeeb Ighani Year ago +2

      Ran Kavik hotel alpha hotel alpha Tango hotel alpha tango sierra Foxtrot uniform November November yankee

  • Crawlerz - Russian Tactical

    Russian THREE is pronounced TRI so exactly like the English Tree

  • tihi
    tihi 2 years ago

    Isn't aviation pronounced a-vee-a-tion?

  • Surya Dream
    Surya Dream 2 years ago

    Joe what are the significant marks do pilot have ?

  • Ray Davis
    Ray Davis 2 years ago

    do you work for air Berlin

  • John Leo
    John Leo 2 years ago +2

    1000th liker!

  • Gordon McCoy
    Gordon McCoy 2 years ago

    Another good one... ! Great Vid...! "Say words twice".... (I'm thinking that's more military than civilian...) Gordon

  • Peter Williams
    Peter Williams 2 years ago

    Thanks again Captain Joe. Always appreciated.

  • RandomnessTv
    RandomnessTv 2 years ago

    Foxtrot uniform Charlie kilo (F-U-C-K)

  • ANU Nelson
    ANU Nelson 2 years ago

    would like to know how the flight engine is able to run on high attitude where there is less oxijen level

  • vinayak sharma
    vinayak sharma 2 years ago

    Captain Joe can U plz explain the role of ILS.

  • kephas57
    kephas57 2 years ago

    The sailors use the same alphabet on their radios as well. So who copied from whom? The sailors from the pilots or the pilots from the sailors?

    • Allan Richardson
      Allan Richardson Year ago

      kephas57 Military started it, but different countries and services used different lists. US Army used Able, Baker, Charlie, etc. (in postwar Berlin, the guard station between the American and Russian sectors was the famous Checkpoint Charlie; the other two being US-UK and US-France, one of them being Able and the other being Baker).
      The US Air Force, when it became a separate branch in 1947, changed a few letters to what civilian pilots were already using (just to be different from the Army), and NATO and ICAO later copied the USAF.
      The first two chimps launched into space by the US were named Able and Baker because Explorer was an Army project.

  • Anthony's Trains
    Anthony's Trains 2 years ago

    What airline do you work for?

  • Cristian Portillo
    Cristian Portillo 2 years ago

    Hi captain Joe. My question is I want to became a pilot, how do I start, or what are re requirements to enroll in a flying School.

  • BlueRaiderFlyer
    BlueRaiderFlyer 2 years ago +45

    I think niner is because nine sounds close to five.

  • Phil Stinton
    Phil Stinton 2 years ago

    Is of course NATO standard

  • Ur boi
    Ur boi 2 years ago

    EDIT: the military uses the same alphabet for the drill instructor company (company a would be company alpha.)

  • Quiet Please
    Quiet Please 2 years ago

    Captain Joe, are wind directions given in the direction the wind is traveling, or the direction from which the wind is coming? If the wind direction was given as 270, would that mean it's traveling east or west?

    • kephas57
      kephas57 2 years ago

      Yes, it is coming from the west. So if the plane is landing on runway 27 it is heading 270 degrees west and if the wind at that time is 270 degrees the pilot knows, that he has pure headwind.

    • Carl Vogt
      Carl Vogt 2 years ago

      Quiet Please it means the wind ia coming from the west ;D

    SAFIKUL ISLAM 2 years ago +24

    your smile is so cute like a baby 😃...good job CAPTAIN JOE..i really enjoyed watching your channel..love it..THUMS UP FOR CAPTAIN JOE..see you on next video

    BLACK WATER 2 years ago

    i love german people they are always nice thanks captain joe

  • Harrison Segal-Kelly
    Harrison Segal-Kelly 2 years ago

    Captain joe why do u have 3 stripes. That's not a captain ranking.

    • Harrison Segal-Kelly
      Harrison Segal-Kelly 2 years ago

      Well I mean he calls himself a captain... 3 stripes is a FO not a captain

    • Dane Roje
      Dane Roje 2 years ago

      Harrison Segal-Kelly He is a co-pilot

  • Daniell Bondad
    Daniell Bondad 2 years ago

    In an investigation documentary,I already learned Bravo,Oscar,Mike,Bravo.
    Other examples:Runway niner.
    Cool code that pilots have.

    • Keg
      Keg 2 years ago


  • David Poon King
    David Poon King 2 years ago

    From Alpha to Zulu

  • Dogo
    Dogo 2 years ago

    Hey Joe,
    ich hab nun alle Videos durchgeschaut und bin begeistert! Wirklich tolle Arbeit!
    Was ich mich immer frage ist, ob es nur für mich so schwer ist oder ob jeder am Anfang noch etwas hapert mit dem Funkverkehr. Ich kann auf jedenfall problemlos Englisch auch wenn es sicher nicht das beste ist. Trotzdem verstehe ich nicht immer 100% alles vom Funk. (z. B. in deinen Videos).

  • PalmaKotStube :D
    PalmaKotStube :D 2 years ago

    Greeting from EDRW

  • Sam Haddad
    Sam Haddad 2 years ago +62

    captain joe, how do you communicate with ground ATC while in flight? Airbus or Boeing, is there a red button you push on the yoke or joystick to talk to ATC? please unlock this mystery for me.

    • QU0B3N 9999
      QU0B3N 9999 2 months ago


    • zafar iqbal
      zafar iqbal 4 months ago

      Untill Captain joe have no time for reply of your question

    • The Aviator KDLC
      The Aviator KDLC 9 months ago

      911gp and deactivating the opposite side stick by holding the button for 40 seconds.

    • M.J. Leger
      M.J. Leger 10 months ago

      YES, Sam, there is usually a button on the yoke!! And usually one on the joystick; either one can usually be programmed.

    • Pedro Magalhaes
      Pedro Magalhaes Year ago

      Sam Haddad its NOT A JOYSTICK! its a sidestick!