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Aviate, Navigate, Enunciate!
Airtime on aviation frequencies, whether you are communicating on a clearance, ground, tower, departure, en route, arrival or CTAF frequency, should be kept to a minimum. You need to make yourself understood in a quick, concise manner. You do this by using certain wording that all pilots should be accustomed with. But if you speak too quickly or not clearly enough, the controller may perceive a word as something completely different. Take the time to enunciate each number and word fully. You should also make sure to use ICAO’s recommended pronunciation of letters and numbers.
ICAO’s guide for pronunciation of letters is well known and widely used. It is extremely rare to hear a pilot use anything but the correct language to identify the letters in their N-number. I’ve never heard anyone say Bob instead of Bravo or Sam instead of Sierra. But I rarely hear pilots or even controllers use the proper pronunciation for numbers. How many times have you said nine instead of niner?
There are three numbers that have distinct sounds in aviation: three is tree, five is fife and nine is niner. These distinct ways to pronounce numbers were created for a reason. For example, if you say five on a scratchy radio it could easily sound as nine. If you are not already using the recommended pronunciation, it is time to start.
While you should always make an effort to speak clearly and concisely, it is particularly important if you are flying an older airplane with radio equipment that does not have the crispest sound. Don’t talk too slowly, but make sure that you articulate each word fully, emphasizing sounds that don’t come through very easily, such as p-sounds and t-sounds at the end of a word. Clear communication eliminates the need for the controller to use the avoidable request: Say again?