Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, David …

I flew home from Atlanta by airline this morning. I had been forced to cancel my plan to fly myself down early Monday because of severe mechanical turbulence around Ottawa up to 6,000 feet (confirmed by a PIREP from a Navajo).

Atlanta/Hartsfield, the world’s busiest airport (by passenger traffic), has five concourses designated A, B, C, D, and E, and a mini subway train connecting them. A recorded voice announces each stop:

The next stop will be concourse A, as in alfa.

The next stop will be concourse B, as in bravo.

The next stop will be concourse C, as in charlie.

The next stop will be concourse D, as in david.

The next stop will be concourse E, as in echo.

OK, back up a bit … why does every stop use standard radio phonetics except for D? I’d like to think that it was in honour of my birthday today, but it took me only a moment to think of a better explanation. Atlanta is the major hub for Delta Air Lines, so using the standard radio phonetic delta for the letter D would look like special treatment (though most pilots probably wouldn’t notice). It’s kind-of funny, but I do understand the problem, and appreciate the choice of an alternative — I hope that the Dans, Dorises, Denises, and Dougs of the world don’t mind.

During the flight, I started trying to think of other airlines whose names include radio phonetics. Canada once had Air Canada Tango and Qu├ębecair. Is there a Foxtrot Airlines, or Air Zulu? I imagine that no one would call an airline Charlie, since it’s U.S. military slang for the enemy (especially an enemy aircraft, at least in cheesy war movies), and could cause unfortunate misunderstandings.

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About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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4 Responses to Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, David …

  1. It might also be so that people who are going to fly delta would not get too confused – I dont think all Delta flights arrive and depart from concourse D? :-)

    //T

  2. Philippe says:

    I can think of Gulf Air and Air India.

    I’m pretty sure Whisky is out of the question, though I wouldn’t rule out Yankee Airlines…

  3. Hamish says:

    Last time I was at Atlanta Hartsfield, ground used “dixie” instead of “delta”, presumably for similar reasons (if not also for the usual Southern Thing reasons…).

  4. Mr. Flight says:

    Okay, how about this one? A Beechcraft Sierra, N123SS, flying into Q60 airport (Sierra Sky Park), which is near the Sierra Mountains, in what used to be called Sierra Approach (now called Norcal Approach) grabs ATIS and calls ATC.

    Sierra Approach, november-one-two-three-sierra-sierra is a Sierra, over the Sierras, landing Sierra Sky Park with information Sierra.

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