Greenville Downtown Airport - GMU
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Air Traffic Control Sign
Air Traffic Control

Over 87,000 flights occur in the United States every day. Air traffic controllers manage the airspace to make sure that the aircraft arrive at their destinations safely.  Some air traffic controllers (ATC) work in control towers where they manage aircraft operations at and near the airport. They make sure that landing and departing aircraft are separated from each other and give instructions to pilots on taxiing, landing and taking off. When the aircraft get a certain distance from the airport (between 3 and 30 miles, depending on the airport), the control of the aircraft is transferred to air traffic controllers that follow aircraft on screens and are able to do their jobs without ever physically seeing the aircraft they track. While the images controllers currently view are provided by radar, they soon will be provided by satellites. In our area, these controllers are located at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP). They are responsible for aircraft from 20 to 50 miles from the airport and up to about 10,000 feet. Above and beyond that the flights are tracked from Charlotte and/or Atlanta, depending on the direction they are headed.

How Do Air Traffic Controllers Talk to Pilots?

Air Traffic Controllers use a special alphabet when talking to pilots in aircraft.  Some letters (such as M and N or B and D) can be misheard, so air traffic controllers and pilots use a “phonetic alphabet” to
avoid confusion. A few of the words are pronounced differently than you would expect and they are indicated below.

A Alpha     
B Bravo     C Charlie     D Delta     E Echo     F Foxtrot     G Golf     H Hotel     I India     J Juliet     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     1 One     2 Two  3 Three (Tree)     4 Four     5 Five (Fife)     6 Six     7 Seven     8 Eight     9 Nine (Niner)     0 Zero

   Click here for audio version of sign content.


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