We hope you think today’s Wonder of the Day is Golf — Romeo — echo — Alfa — Tango! Can you decipher our code? If you can, you’re already doing G — R — E — A — T!

When airplanes started to fly in the skies, pilots and military officials quickly realized that a special code was needed. This would ensure that radio communications would be clearly understood. As a result, they developed spelling alphabets.

For example, some letters — such as “n” and “m” and “b” and “d” — sound similar. Give it a try. Spell the words “bend” and “dumb” out loud. You’ll see how similar those letters sound.

When communicating via radio, static and interference can make it easy to confuse these letters. Can you imagine flying an airplane with lots of noise around you? It would be hard to concentrate on what’s coming over the radio in addition to paying attention to all the gauges on the airplane!

So instead of saying individual letters to communicate words, pilots would use specific words that begin with those letters — such as “November” and “Mike” and “Bravo” and “Delta” — to make their communications clear.

After World War II, various spelling alphabets in use at the time were combined. It made it easier for all the countries in the North Atlantic treaty Organization (NATO) alliance to use one standard spelling alphabet.

On March 1, 1956, the international Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) finalized the international radiotelephony spelling alphabet (also known as the NATO spelling alphabet). The letters and their corresponding code words are:

A - Alfa
B - Bravo
C - Charlie
D - Delta
E - echo
F - Foxtrot
G - Golf
H - Hotel
I - India
J - Juliett
K - Kilo
L - Lima
M - Mike
N - November
O - Oscar
P- Papa
Q - Quebec
R - Romeo
S - Sierra
T - Tango
U - Uniform
V - Victor
W - Whiskey
X - X-ray
Y - Yankee
Z - Zulu

Sometimes, variations are made to this standard spelling alphabet. For example, “Delta” is often replaced with a different word, such as “Data,” “Dixie” or “David,” at airports in the United States where there are many Delta Air Lines flights.

“Lima” is usually replaced by “London” in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In several languages spoken in those countries, “lima” means “five.” This could definitely lead to confusion in radio transmissions!

Of course, over time, airplane engines have gotten quieter and technology has helped scientists and inventors to improve communications tools greatly. Today, pilots can probably hear much more clearly than they could in the past. Even still, modern pilots continue to use the NATO spelling alphabet to communicate when they’re in the air.

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