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A history of the phonetic alphabet from Jet Linx, Your Personal Jet Company

Oct 21, 2014 | Private Jet Travel

When clear and exact communication is vital to the success of a mission, the universal phonetic alphabet has proven the most effective strategy to communicate over feedback or interference. Operators in the aviation industry, including private jet aviation, rely on this alphabet for safety and clarity in communication on a daily basis.

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The earliest citations of the phonetic alphabet appeared in the 1913 edition of The Bluejackets’ Manual, the handbook for US Navy personnel. After World War II, the “Able Baker” alphabet continued to be heavily used among civilian aviators. Some sounds did not translate clearly; deficiency in understanding came from words like nectar and extra. These frustrations led different countries to begin adopting their own alphabets. Lack of uniformity created additional headaches.

To accommodate international interpretation and cut down on ambiguity, the NATO allies adopted a standard alphabet in 1956 – one that would be intelligible and pronounceable to all NATO nations in the heat of battle. This alphabet – also known as the radiotelephony spelling, or phonetic alphabet – is the most widely used alphabet today. Some letters have not changed since the inception of the system, while others have tried on a few words for size. “Q” has gone from Quack to Queen to Quebec since 1913, while “M” has been represented by Mike since the first listing.

Alphabets have come and gone, but thanks to many revisions, clear communication is easier than Alpha Bravo Charlie.