Stein Mjåtveit

Learn to talk like a pilot: Alpha to Zulu

Stein Mjåtveit

01. Talk like a pilot - Phonetic alphabet.png

If you have ever had the pleasure of riding jumpseat in the cockpit, meaning that you get to sit upfront with the pilots, you know how complex the communication between pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) sound to the untrained ear (unless you are a pilot/ATC yourself of course). 

In this blog series you will learn to talk like a pilot and get to know the most common phrases exchanged between pilots and ATC. Along with an explanation of what the different phrases mean. The series will consist of three parts that will be published with one week intervals:

  1. Phonetic Alphabet
  2. Phraseology
  3. Clearances


Phonetic Alphabet

Let's get the basics down first, every letter has its own name in aviation. This is to avoid the possible confusion between letters if you would simply say the letter itself. For example, the letter B and V could easily be confused with each other when spoken on the radio. If we instead say "Bravo" or "Victor" it is almost impossible to confuse the two.

Here comes the full list:



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



Numbers are pronounced in a different way on the radio to make them more distinct. You probably know how to count to ten, so we included the slightly different pronunciation next to each number. 

  • 0 - "Zero"
  • 1 - "Wun"
  • 2 - "Two"
  • 3 - "Tree" (pronounced like a Scandinavian)
  • 4 - "Fower"
  • 5 - "Fife"
  • 6 - "Six"
  • 7 - "Seven"
  • 8 - "Eight"
  • 9 - "Niner"
  • 100 - "Wun hundred"
  • 1000 - "Wun thousand"
  • 10 000 - "Wun, zero thousand"
  • FL330 - "Flight level tree, tree, zero"

Sweden even has three additional letters in their phonetic alphabet, Ä, Ö and Å. We will leave them out in this blogpost, check the Swedish translation if you want to learn them as well. 

Bookmark this page to come back and practice later on. Another great resource where you can familiarize yourself with the words travelling across our radiowaves is - Where you can listen in on most airports around the world.


Tune in on OSMAA's frequencies

Want to listen to what is going on around our bases? Check out the feed from Västerås and San Diego below! Remember that if you are in Europe listening to the San Diego feed at 10:00 CET it will be nighttime and not much activity in San Diego. 

Live ATC feed from Västerås (Västerås is UTC +1 hour from 30th of October to the 27th of March and UTC +2 for the rest of the year)

Live ATC feed from San Diego (San Diego is UTC -8 hours between 6th of November and 13th of March and UTC -7 for the rest of the year)

If the links above are not working you can search for the ICAO codes of the airports we operate from and around:


Airport Name ICAO Code
Stockholm, Västerås Airport ESOW
Eskilstuna Airport ESSU



Airport Name ICAO Code
Gillespie Field KSEE
Montgomery Field



We operate to many other airports in both Sweden and the US as well, but the ones above allows you to listen into the flights departing from and flying around our bases. All OSMAA flights in Sweden use the callsign "Scavac", so if you hear "Scavac" followed by two numbers you know that it is one of us!


If you want to read more about how life at a flight school really is like for student pilots - continue to read:  How is it to be a student pilot at OSM Aviation Academy?

Life as a student pilot at OSM Aviation Academy


The OSM Aviation Academy blog is your destination for everything related to aviation and flight training. If you are wondering if you should become a pilot, this blog will give you insight and inspiration to fuel your decision making process. Choose your frequency down below.

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