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kann123air
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BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:41 am

Hi everyone,

While listening to LiveATC lately, I've noticed that the flight number used for communication with air traffic control differs from the actual flight number on BA flights. For example, BA296 (ORD-LHR) is "Speedbird two-four-romeo heavy" instead of "Speedbird two-niner-six heavy". Also, BA67 (LHR-PHL) is "Speedbird sixty-seven-victor heavy" instead of "Speedbird sixty-seven heavy". Does anyone know why this is the case?

Thanks,
Amrit
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JAGflyer
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 2:54 am

I have noticed similar alpha-numeric flight numbers for EI flights as well. My guess is perhaps the amount of flights in/out of the UK require a method to differentiate different flights apart. For example, there may be a BA231, EI231, and a BA2231 all operating in/out of the UK within an hour so to reduce confusion the flights are assigned more individualized ATC callsigns.
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CXfirst
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 7:46 am

If you go on flightradar24, you will see lots of flights using different callsigns than flight numbers. For instance, Norwegian Air Shuttle does it qutie a bit as well. Ryanair as well.

I'm assuming it is done due to similar callsigns in similar areas at similar times.

Edit: Also, a lot of their flight numbers are 4 digits long. In busy areas, trying to listen to four digits in a callsign can become a bit of a strain, and lead to some confusion. Easier when callsign is changed into 2 digits then 2 letters.

-CXfirst

[Edited 2015-08-09 00:50:11]
 
musang
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:11 am

Indeed.

Sometimes we'll have the actual flight number on the outbound, and an alpha-numeric on the inbound. If we hear a similar call sign which could cause confusion, we are required to report it.

You will also notice that the UK domestics use the "Shuttle" call sign, with either the flight number or alpha-numerics.

Regards - musang
 
phunc
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 12:51 pm

Exactly right - it's for callsign confusion issues which can be a major problem.

For example, the number "1" is fairly common on flagship routes around London or New York.

Virgin 1 (LHR-EWR)
Emirates 1 (DXB-LHR)
Air New Zealand 1 (LHR-LAX)
Qatar 1 (DOH-LHR)
Speedbird 1 (LCY-JFK)

Additionally, two flights may have similar callsign in the same area such as the Omani 101 and Virgin 301.

If two flights have a similar callsign then there's a risk of a similar flight picking it up. One way to mitigate that is to generate an alpha-numeric which increases the callsign combinations in the sky.

Lots of airlines do it; Thomas Cook, BA, Easy J, Ryanair, FlyBe, Lufthansa...
 
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kann123air
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 6:32 pm

Makes perfect sense now, thanks so much for the explanations everyone!

Quoting musang (Reply 3):
If we hear a similar call sign which could cause confusion, we are required to report it.

Interesting. I've heard such a report while listening to LAX ATC, but I feel like it would be more common in the more congested airspace above Europe.

Quoting phunc (Reply 4):
For example, the number "1" is fairly common on flagship routes around London or New York.

Not to mention DAL1 and AAL1 (LHR-JFK and JFK-LAX, respectively).

Amrit
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BMI727
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 09, 2015 7:32 pm

Once or twice I've even heard controllers refer to similarly numbered flights by destination, e.g. "Skywest 4431 to Buffalo", to avoid confusion.
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Viscount724
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 1:36 am

That's very common with European carriers. When I listen to GVA ATC which handles hundreds of daily flights overflying the GVA area apart from those arriving/departing GVA, some carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet seem to use alpha-numeric flight numbers for almost all their flights (I'm not sure I've ever heard a Ryanair flight using its normal numeric flight number). It's also very common for other carriers like LH/BA/LX, among others, but not for all their flights.

I've always wondered why it's only European carriers. I often hear flights of airlines outside Europe and they always seem to use their regular flight number as used for reservations.

Who decides on the use of the alpha-numeric numbers? Is it the airline or the ATC authority? Is this unique to Europe or does this happen in any other parts of the world?

Is there an easy way to cross-reference a flight using an alpha-numeric number with it's normal flight number that would appear in their published schedules?
 
Luftfahrer
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 7:39 am

If some of you would like to check out the (alphanumeric) callsign of a flight, please refer to

http://planefinder.net/data/flight/LH225

LH flight 225 from MUC to FRA is "Lufhansa Seven Victor Yankee". It should be noted that most longrange flights use an ATC callsign that equals the flight number, e.g. LH 411 from JFK to MUC.
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77west
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:03 am

Quoting kann123air (Thread starter):
For example, BA296 (ORD-LHR)

Technically that is BAW296, not BA, where flight ops are concerned. So yes BA296 ORD-LHR is fine for passengers, but for operations it would be BAW296 KORD-EGLL, or whatever callsign BAW assigns to that flight.
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Starlionblue
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:23 am

Quoting 77west (Reply 9):

Quoting kann123air (Thread starter):
For example, BA296 (ORD-LHR)

Technically that is BAW296, not BA, where flight ops are concerned. So yes BA296 ORD-LHR is fine for passengers, but for operations it would be BAW296 KORD-EGLL, or whatever callsign BAW assigns to that flight.

On a sidenote, the acronym BAW is a useful way to remember the sequence of marker lights. Blue, Amber, White. 

We now return to your regularly scheduled thread.
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phunc
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 3:51 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 7):
Who decides on the use of the alpha-numeric numbers? Is it the airline or the ATC authority? Is this unique to Europe or does this happen in any other parts of the world?

Could be initiated by anyone; flight operations / flight safety departments in the airline driven by ATC or pilot reports typically. ATC can deal with conflicting callsigns on the day for the purposes of flight safety. For example, if a controller has the American 1 and the Speedbird 1 on the same frequency then they may say to the Speedbird that their callsign whilst on frequency is the Speedbird 1 Bravo.

If it's bad enough then ATC may request that the airline does something.

I haven't seen it outside of Europe. Bear in mind that Europe is very dense with air traffic. In the states, they don't strictly follow the guidelines in that they split numbers apart. For example, the Delta 1234 is said as Delta twelve thirty four. This helps a little with confusion.
 
CO764
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:34 pm

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 7):
I've always wondered why it's only European carriers.

Several American carriers have recently adopted this technique as well. While listening to Liveatc at DCA in July, I heard various alphanumeric callsigns. For example, United used UAL624T (United 6 2 4 Tango) for UA624 from ORD (although it appears the flight now runs as UAL624). Air Wisconsin used AWI16A for US4016 from GSO... etc.

Pretty sure I also saw SKW808V on FR24 some time ago.

CO764  
 
Mir
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 10, 2015 11:50 pm

Quoting phunc (Reply 11):
In the states, they don't strictly follow the guidelines in that they split numbers apart. For example, the Delta 1234 is said as Delta twelve thirty four. This helps a little with confusion.

On the other hand, you have callsign confusion between Delta 1328 and Southwest 3828 and they almost collide on a runway at MDW. That wouldn't happen were the numbers read out individually. So it can add to confusion as well.

-Mir
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BMI727
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Tue Aug 11, 2015 12:35 am

Quoting CO764 (Reply 12):
Pretty sure I also saw SKW808V on FR24 some time ago.

Skywest seems to do it a lot but seemingly without any rhyme or reason.

But something just occurred to me, would it be useful for American regional carriers to append callsigns based on which airline they are operating for so controllers know what to look for? Similar for carriers that may be in the middle of a merger.
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speedbird128
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:17 am

Quoting CO764 (Reply 12):
Pretty sure I also saw SKW808V

In my airspace in Europe I quite commonly have 3 numbers 1 letter callsign... We have a fair mix of ABC123, ABC1234, ABC12D, ABC123D, ABC12DE style callsigns.
A306, A313, A319, A320, A321, A332, A343, A345, A346 A388, AC90, B06, B722, B732, B733, B735, B738, B744, B762, B772, B7
 
blueflyer
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:21 am

Am I wrong in thinking that some British charter airlines also use a letter to identify inbound and outbound legs of a round-trip route that has a single flight number?
 
MSJYOP28Apilot
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Wed Aug 12, 2015 5:20 pm

This is called stubbing in the airline business. ATC will call the airline dispatch department and ask them to stub certain flights and tell them. ATC also regularly calls airlines up to complain in general about the hundreds of callsigns that are similar that can cause confusion. Only the biggest conflict flights get stubbed. It would be a logistical nature from an airline point of view to stub everything or change all the flight numbers.

One interesting point is that certain countries like China and even in Europe you can have issues with stubbing flights especially ones that are delayed beyond the original calendar date of flight.
 
phunc
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Wed Aug 12, 2015 5:37 pm

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 16):

Am I wrong in thinking that some British charter airlines also use a letter to identify inbound and outbound legs of a round-trip route that has a single flight number?

Years ago. JMC/TCX had K's for outbound and L's for inbound. AMM/TOM had C's for outbound and D's for inbound. For example, the TOM123C may have been a LGW-PMI and the PMI-LGW would have been the TOM123D.

Not a great idea but defunct now anyway.
 
blueflyer
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Wed Aug 12, 2015 8:35 pm

Quoting phunc (Reply 18):
Not a great idea but defunct now anyway.

Do you know why they stopped? Just curious. Thanks.
 
TUGMASTER
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Aug 16, 2015 7:58 pm

Quoting blueflyer (Reply 16):
Am I wrong in thinking that some British charter airlines also use a letter to identify inbound and outbound legs of a round-trip route that has a single flight number?
Quoting phunc (Reply 18):
Years ago. JMC/TCX had K's for outbound and L's for inbound. AMM/TOM had C's for outbound and D's for inbound. For example, the TOM123C may have been a LGW-PMI and the PMI-LGW would have been the TOM123D.
Quoting blueflyer (Reply 19):
Do you know why they stopped? Just curious. Thanks.

Years ago. Britannia also had different letters for outbounds/inbounds....not to difficult mind you BY123Alpha or BY123Bravo

No idea why it stopped...
Also airlines used to use Odd numbers for westbounds, and even for eastbounds....
think that's go a bit "south" now too

As for calling an aircraft "heavy".... think that's only a sceptic trait......
as in .."look I'm bigger than you...!!!
 
alasizon
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 17, 2015 2:00 am

It may just be coincidence but in PHX many times the callsign for BA has been whatever the ship ID is (for instance British four Charlie golf when the plane was 4CG).
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Pihero
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Mon Aug 17, 2015 7:59 am

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 7):
That's very common with European carriers.

You have *alpha numeric* call signs... and it's due to the repetitive flight plan.
One airline can file an RPL as "BozoAir 123" and at the flight initiation, the computer comes out with "BZ 23 AB".
On first contact, it is "BZ Two Three Alpha Bravo", and the controller will respond, for instance with "BZ Alpha Bravo" or BZ 2 A B"...
That will be the call sign for that flight.

The case of different flighyt numbers, for instance adding a letter to the *normal* call sign happens when there is a difference between the filed flight plan and a change :
UA 624 is the generic flight and call sign.
If that flight has had a long delayed departure, a re-filing from an alternate, a type change.... ATC will give it a suffix. There is a code for that suffix...
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Auchmithie
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sat Jan 09, 2016 5:18 pm

Quoting Alasizon (Reply 21):
It may just be coincidence but in PHX many times the callsign for BA has been whatever the ship ID is (for instance British four Charlie golf when the plane was 4CG).

BA289 LHR-PHX always uses alpha numeric callsign BAW9CG.

British Airways do not have individual ship ID's other than the G-**** registration.
 
e38
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Fri Jan 15, 2016 1:10 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 10), "the acronym BAW is a useful way to remember the sequence of marker lights. Blue, Amber, White."

Thank you. I had not thought of that before. I'll use it the next time I'm teaching instrument ground school! Excellent memory tool.

e38
 
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CARST
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Fri Jan 15, 2016 7:32 am

Quoting TUGMASTER (Reply 20):
As for calling an aircraft "heavy".... think that's only a sceptic trait......
as in .."look I'm bigger than you...!!!

Far off mate, very far off... it's all about wake turbulence separation... read more at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavy_%28aeronautics%29

or

ATC 'heavies' (by ScottishLaddie Jan 7 2004 in Civil Aviation)

or

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wake_turbulence
 
TUGMASTER
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Jan 24, 2016 4:30 pm

Quoting CARST (Reply 25):

Of course it is ..., I was just taking the piss out of the Yanks.

 
DualQual
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Sun Jan 24, 2016 9:06 pm

Quoting CO764 (Reply 12):

UA will add a letter when the flight number continues on and the first segment is delayed. Say UAL123 routes from PDX to ORD to BOS. The flight is delayed from PDX so is late to ORD. the continuation to BOS departs as scheduled either due to a scheduled tail/equipment change or ops has a spare plane and crew as needed and can protect the on time of the ORD BOS segment. Because two airplanes will now be airborne with the UAL123 call sign at the same time, dispatch will add a letter to the callsign of the second segment. So UAL123 from ORD BOS now is filed as UAL123T. If it's a 4 digit flight number, UAL1234, it might change to UAL6234 since adding a letter would exceed the allowed length for an ATC identifier.
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atct
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Tue Jan 26, 2016 3:53 pm

From the US 7110.65;

2−4−9. ABBREVIATED TRANSMISSIONS
Transmissions may be abbreviated as follows:
a. Use the identification prefix and the last 3 digits
or letters of the aircraft identification after
communications have been established. Do not
abbreviate similar sounding aircraft identifications or
the identification of an air carrier or other civil aircraft
having an FAA authorized call sign.

2−4−15. EMPHASIS FOR CLARITY
Emphasize appropriate digits, letters, or similar
sounding words to aid in distinguishing between
similar sounding aircraft identifications.
Additionally:
a. Notify each pilot concerned when communicating
with aircraft having similar sounding
identifications.
EXAMPLE−
“United Thirty−one United, Miami Center, U.S. Air
Thirty−one is also on this frequency, acknowledge.”
“U.S. Air Thirty−one U.S. Air, Miami Center, United
Thirty−one is also on this frequency, acknowledge.”
REFERENCE−
FAAO JO 7110.65, Para 2−4−20, Aircraft Identification.
FAAO JO 7210.3, Para 2−1−13, Aircraft Identification Problems.
b. Notify the operations supervisor−in-charge of
any duplicate flight identification numbers or
phonetically similar-sounding call signs when the
aircraft are operating simultaneously within the same
sector.
REFERENCE−
FAAO JO 7210.3, Para 2−1−13, Aircraft Identification Problems.
NOTE−
This is especially important when this occurs on a
repetitive, rather than an isolated, basis.

This is what we do in the states. I, personally, have changed a call sign a couple times to something like "Continental 265A" because 265 inbound was also in the area (delayed, etc) . This adds a differentiating numeric as well as allows our flight plan computers to sync correctly to the right flight plan.
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Ideekay
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RE: BA Flight Numbers During ATC Communication

Tue Jan 26, 2016 6:38 pm

If you take a look at finnair, they've got alphanummeric callsigns on almost every flight, except for long haul/russian flights.

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