Air Traffic Controllers Assign Call Signs to Airplanes?!

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Fighter jets 🛩that soar through the sky! The movie that followed up the original hit 36 years later,“Top Gun: Maverick”, has been playing in theatres for who knows how long now. It’s been receiving a lot of love to say the least. “Maverick” means “an independent-minded person” and is also the call sign for Tom Cruise’s character, Pete Mitchell. If you look at the call signs for all the characters in the movie, you can get an idea of each of their personal stories.😀

Incheon Airport ✈ brings you the 11th addition to the “Aviation Fun Facts” series! Can you guess the topic? Today, we’re going to learn more about the cute nicknames, or call signs, that controllers use for airplanes.

Call Signs, a Pilot’s Second Name

Though it can vary from case to case, call signs are basically an identification code to let others know who the pilot is or the aircraft’s affiliation.

As seen in the movie “Top Gun: Maverick”, military aircraft pilots often use unique nicknames as their call signs rather than their flight numbers. In these cases, call signs refer to a second name the pilot goes by to communicate when flying a fighter jet. This is why it’s common for call signs to capture the pilot’s unique personality and story.

So, what do you think about Maverick? It’s a great call sign that clearly reflects how the main character acts boldly, freely, and according to his values rather than orders.☺

Call Signs, a Clear Indicator of an Aircraft’s Affiliation

All airlines also have their own call signs. In this case, call signs are more of a practical nickname given to aircrafts rather than the pilots themselves. Call signs are used during communication between aircrafts and control centers to clearly identify which airline an aircraft is affiliated with.

Most of the airlines in Korea often match their call signs to the airline’s name. For example, Korean Air’s call sign is “Korean Air” and Asiana Airlines’ call sign is “Asiana”. However, many international airline companies have very special call signs that are more like fond nicknames given to planes.

Which Airline Has a Unique Call Sign?

The most representative example would be British Airways using the call sign “Speed Bird”. British Airways merged with Imperial Airlines in 1939, when Imperial Airlines’ logo was that of a bird. This inspired the call sign and it’s been used ever since.

Some other examples include Tigerair Taiwan going by “Smart Cat”, Neos going by “Moonflower”, and Qingdao Airlines going by “Sky Legend”.

Don’t these call signs give you a sense of what each airline company is like? If you’re planning to go on any trips abroad this year, try looking up the call sign of the airlines you’ll be riding with! It may help to make even the longest of flights a little more enjoyable. ☺

We hope that this round of Incheon Airport’s ✈ Aviation Fun Facts helped to answer any questions you had about call signs. We’ll be back with more unusual and uncommon aviation and airport-related fun facts to share with you next time! ☺

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