2.8 min readBy Published On: February 11, 2021Categories: Technical Tips

Spelling out device codes and passwords over the phone is never easy.

“Charlie Foxtrot Yankee Papa Kilo, over.” 

That’s how the enthusiastic pilot of the aeroplane pictured will identify his craft to air traffic control. He will repeat those words multiple times during every liftoff and every landing he performs.

One of the most remarkable things about how pilots communicate with one another is the Phonetic Alphabet they use to spell out flight codes. This tool, called the Phonetic Alphabet, has its origins in coded telephone spelling used by military service members as early as World War I.

The distinctive code – which replaces the letter A with Alpha, and the letter Z with Zulu – serves several purposes that are hugely important for commercial and military pilots:

  • Each codeword clearly references a single letter and does not sound like any other letter.
  • Every codeword is recognizable regardless of the speaker’s accent, dialect, or English language proficiency.
  • Each codeword is spelled roughly the same way in many different languages.

In 1956, NATO adopted the phonetic alphabet as its official communication system for airline pilots and military personnel around the world. It replaced the earlier “Able-Baker” system developed by the United States Army and Navy in 1946. For a quick look into why that system needed replacing, consider that “Able” was the code for “A” and “Oboe” was the code for “O”. Even a slight accent or interference could make the two terms indistinguishable. 

Why Is the Phonetic Alphabet Important for IT Professionals?

Imagine a common scenario: you suddenly find yourself locked out of your system and need help from your IT support team. You need to read out a 16-digit device code for your helpful support technician to solve your problem.

Getting the code wrong will only make you both frustrated, so you must be as clear as possible. You don’t know where your support agent is located, you don’t know how familiar they are with Australian pronunciation, and you don’t know how clear your audio connection is. In short, you have all the same problems that pilots do when communicating with Air Traffic Control.

Taking the time to spell out codes using the Phonetic Alphabet will help you and your support team get tickets resolved faster and more effectively. It will reduce frustration, improve support outcomes, and make your life easier whenever you need to communicate by phone. This tool is also useful if you find yourself on the other side, delivering support to frustrated customers. You can use this spelling alphabet to reset passwords, spell out complicated error codes, and more.

Go ahead and print out the alphabet as written below. Put it up somewhere clearly visible and simplify your most complicated calls with ease.

The Phonetic Alphabet from Alpha to Zulu:

  • 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 – X-ray
  • Y – Yankee
  • Z – Zulu

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