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New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:22 am

Just got back on LiveATC.net feed, and heard exchange between departure and a Jazz flight. Jazz called in with "Jazz eighty-six sixty-six" and ATC corrected him, using "Jazz eight six, six six". (controller was very good about how he handled it). They talked briefly about how the new rule was ridiculous, pilot sounded pissed off about it.
I presume that Canada's Department of Transportation has mandated that all callsigns be voiced as single digits rather than double digits: six six rather than sixty-six. Anyone know if this rule is continent- or worldwide, and when it was put into enforcement?
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:26 am

I was listening to the LGA ATC and Tower this morning. It seemed that everything was in single digits.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:36 am

Sounds like an anal air traffic controller, but it could be a legitimate request if necessary.

Single digits are supposed to be used, but sometimes people fudge them a little:

"Eleven thousand feet"
"November triple six delta"
"November twenty-one twenty-one"

How many people say "Fox" instead of "Foxtrot?" Some controllers hate that! I guess they think some military jet is opening fire on them.

Also, some controllers get indignant if you don't say "November" on initial call up.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:37 am

Maybe it's only certain airlines. I'm hearing double digit callsigns for some and singles for others.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 11:52 am

My experience with ATC is limited to GRR and Lansing, but they ALWAYS use "double digits" for flight numbers. It's not "Comair 6-1-7-9", it's "Comair Sixty-One Seventy-Nine"... In fact, I don't remember the last time I heard someone say "Northwest 4-7-3-6" or something like that.

That being said, it's usually limited to flight numbers. A common occurrence on GRR ATC is "expect flight level one-zero thousand one-zero minutes after departure..."

[Edited 2004-12-31 03:54:08]

[Edited 2004-12-31 03:54:42]
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 12:00 pm

I've never heard of anyone having a beef with the laziness of pilots or controllers on this subject. This is either something really new, or that particular controller had some official hovering over his workstation (or a 4 foot pole rammed up his arse).

Certainly in the US, I have not been chastised, saying Eighty Fifty Five instead of Eight Zero Five Five.

When there are two similar callsigns on frequency, I have heard the controller enunciate clearly, the numbers he is trying to convey... "Waterski Seven Nine Six Five..." Never just for the sake of it though.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 12:04 pm


Don't think this was the controller being anal. After Jazz 8666 called in, the controller said "I don't want you in trouble and I don't want to be in trouble either, so Jazz eight six six six,.......". Jazz came back with the readback and ended with "...Jazz EIGHT, SIX, SIX, SIX." Then some friendly chatter between the two on the new "stupid" rule, and how someone in government must have too much idle time on their hands.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:14 pm

I was taught in ATC class that standard terminology for flight numbers was to read them in groups of 2 digits, such as thirty-five forty-three (3543) or five seventy-one (571). Anything other than that and we got yelled at for using the wrong terminology. They were very clear on that, and that was less than a year ago.

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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:18 pm

At EWR, I frequently hear the double-digit flight numbers. With the frequent CO Express flights coming in all the time, and all with 4 digit flight numbers, it would probably be very tedious to say each one in single digits.

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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:45 pm

I thought that I had read somewhere (NTSB/FAA document or something) that the "grouping" of digits was strongly prefered for speed and comprehension vs. single digits, especilly in congested airspace.

Time how long it takes to say (clearly), for example:
Northwest Twelve Thirty-Four
United Eighty-Seven Seventy-Seven
Delta Five Thirty-Five


Northwest One Two Three Four
United Eight Seven Seven Seven
Delta Five Three Five

... And also notice that the comprehension of the first set is higher (and time taken to comprehend is less) than the second (especially with something like "United 8666" where you have a digit repeated several times). The other advantage is that it's much harder to "loose" a digit:

If someone was busy and heard "United Eight Seven Seven Seven" plus some static or other noise on the transmission it's quite possible that one of those "Seven"s would disappear and they would hear it as "United Eight Seven Seven"... Not so easy with "Eighty-Seven Seventy-Seven"

... But there's probably a good reason for it (or maybe the controller was undergoing an evaluation and didn't want to be seen as "cutting corners" or something)
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:08 pm

It's gotta be a Canadian thing... everytime we go to Canada they're doing that stuff. The funny thing is it is so inconsistent between pilots and ATC. We don't do it that way in the US and haven't heard of any new rules in phrasology.

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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 4:57 pm

I'm sure I remember reading in the study guide for my radio license that you were supposed to pronouce numbers singly. That is something I will have to check on now as it will bug me till I know for sure.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 5:29 pm

Well, this is pretty close to what I remember reading. Its out of the AIP though. Com 5-4 is the page you will want. This will be my first link so I hope it works.

P.S. Its a fairly big file (2mb-ish)

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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 5:35 pm

In English it is better and more eligible to separate each number saying two-two-seven-nin'a for example where as in French it is easier to say Quarante-Six Quatre-Vingts instead of separating each digit...
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Fri Dec 31, 2004 5:43 pm

Out here its clearly Single digits.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Sat Jan 01, 2005 1:01 am

The FAA's guidance for numbers is set out in the Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 4, Section 2.


Airline callsigns are grouped - eg Skywest ninety five thrity five
N number callsigns are single digits - eg Boeing seven seven seven uniform alpha, which may be abbreviated when initiated by the controller to the perfix and the last 3 numbers/letters, eg Boeing seven uniform alpha.

This applies to the US, though, and most other countries, possibly with a few exceptions, use single digits.

Go to Mexico and it's even more confusing. Sometime they'll use grouped numbers, sometimes single digits and sometimes a combo - eg FedEx two seven thrity six.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Sat Jan 01, 2005 6:53 am

ATC worldwide needs to go to one standard. ICAO. It would especially help pilots who's first language is not english. In the US it would reduce verbiage.
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RE: New A/C Callsign Rules?

Sat Jan 01, 2005 8:34 am

Excerpt from the FAA Air Traffic Controller Handbook 7110.65:

2-4-20 Aircraft Identification:

2. Air carriers and other civil aircraft having FAA-authorized callsigns. State the call sign followed by the flight number in group form.

"Group Form" is the pronunciation of a series of numbers as the whole number, or pairs of numbers they represent rather than pronouncing each separate digit. The use of group form may, however, be negated by four-digit identifiers or the placement of zeros in the identifier.

"American Fifty-Two"
"Delta One-Hundred"
"Eastern Metro One Ten"
"General Motors Thirty Fifteen"

Air carriers and other civil aircraft having FAA authorized call signs may be pronounced using single digits if necessary for clarity.

"United Five One Seven"
"United Five Seven Zero"
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