There are so many great call signs, the top 10 list just wasn’t enough! Here are 15 more of the coolest call signs that can be heard on the aviation airwaves. Keep reading and you’ll also get some call sign trivia – absolutely FREE!
Why are call signs used?
When pilots and air traffic controllers communicate on the radio, the airline’s call sign is always used along with the flight number: “Delta one-three-five.” This helps assure that communications are clear.
Airlines began using call signs back in the 1930’s. Most carriers use their name as a call sign. Delta uses “Delta,” Singapore Airlines is “Singapore,” Southwest is “Southwest.” Occasionally, airlines will use some creativity when selecting a call sign. That’s when things start getting fun…
Don’t miss the original Top 10 Coolest Airline Call Signs! – More call sign goodness, served up hot and fresh!
15. Viking – Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia
Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia has three sister carriers: Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, and Condor. Thomas Cook Scandinavia has hubs in Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslo, making the “Viking” call sign very appropriate!
14. Glacier – Central Mountain Air
Based in Smithers, British Columbia, Central Mountain Air provides scheduled and charter flights to over 18 British Columbia and Alberta communities. They’re a busy carrier operating Dornier 328, Dash 8-300 and Beech 1900-D aircraft. “Glacier” is definitely a cool call sign for a Canadian carrier!
Track Glacier flights LIVE: FlightAware
13. Big Bird – NokScoot Airlines
NokScoot is a new Bangkok, Thailand based low-cost airline. The carrier is a joint venture of Thailand’s Nok Air and Scoot of Singapore. NokScoot’s call sign of “Big Bird” was an easy choice; the airline’s fleet of Boeing 777-200ER aircraft are adorned with a smiling orange bird beak on the nose!
Track Big Bird flights LIVE: FlightAware
12. Polar Bear – Fast Air
Although not an airline, Fast Air’s call sign is too good not to make the list. Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Fast Air is charter company that operates 20 turboprop, helicopter and business jet aircraft. They also operate a 24-hour air ambulance service. It’s fun to hear Polar Bears on the radio in Manitoba!
Track Polar Bear flights LIVE: FlightAware
Hear The Call Signs
Reading about call signs is interesting, but the real fun is on the radio! If you want to listen for these call signs, check out LiveATC.net. LiveATC is a world-wide network of aviation-band radios. Listen to Hong Kong Radar, Atlanta Approach, Chicago Tower… There are over 1200 feeds to choose from.
Want your own air-band radio to listen to the action near you? Check out the AeroSavvy article: Stuff Pilots Say. There’s a short radio buying guide at the bottom of the post. You can even build your own from a kit!
11. Empress – Canadian North
Canadian North’s Empress call sign is well known across the Great White North. The airline is based in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and operates flights as far north as Nunavut and as far south as Miami, Florida! Canadian North has North America covered!
10. Bemidji – Bemidji Airlines
If you’re flying around Minnesota, it isn’t unusual to hear the call sign of Bemidji (pronounced Bem-i-gee). Bemidji Airlines, based in Minneapolis, operates a busy fleet of aircraft providing scheduled cargo, and passenger charter services. Why Bemidji? The airline is headquartered in the small town of Bemidji, Minnesota. It made the top 15 list because it’s fun to say. Try saying it three times fast, then sympathize with the Minneapolis controllers that handle Bemidji flights every night!
9. Blue Streak – PSA Airlines
PSA Airlines (not to be confused with its namesake, the original Pacific Southwest Airlines) is a regional carrier owned by American Airlines Group. PSA is based in Dayton, Ohio and flies routes as American Eagle. In the mid-1980s, PSA was called Jetstream International Airlines and flew routes as a Piedmont Commuter. The airplanes had a long blue stripe (or streak) to match the Piedmont jets. Thus, the call sign Blue Streak!
Track Blue Streak flights LIVE: FlightAware
Heavy Call Signs
When aircraft are near their arrival or departure airports, pilots and controllers will add the word “heavy” to some call signs: “Delta two-three Heavy.” Heavy is used for aircraft that have a maximum takeoff weight of 300,000 pounds or more. Adding Heavy to the call sign is a reminder that the airplane generates a large amount of dangerous wake turbulence on takeoff and landing. Air traffic controllers increase the spacing behind heavies so airplanes that follow them don’t encounter the turbulence.
Examples of a few heavies:
Boeing 747, 757, 767, 777, 787.
Airbus A300, A310, A330, A340, A350, A380
The Boeing 757 is designated a Heavy even though the aircraft’s max takeoff weight is less than 300,000 pounds because it generates a significant amount of wake turbulence.
8. Sasquatch – SeaPort Airlines
Headquartered in Portland, Oregon, SeaPort Airlines flies a fleet of Cessna Caravan turboprops providing Essential Air Service to communities near their hubs: Portland, Memphis, and San Diego. Oregon (and the U.S. Pacific Northwest) is home to the mythical creature “Bigfoot” or “Sasquatch” which makes Sasquatch the perfect call sign for SeaPort.
Track Sasquatch flights LIVE: FlightAware
7. Springbok – South African Airlines
From the formation of the company in 1934 until 1997, South African Airlines used a flying springbok as its official symbol.
Springboks are an antelope-gazelle native to southwestern Africa. They’re extremely fast and can leap high into the air making them an appropriate airline symbol. Although the logo is no longer displayed on South African Airways aircraft, the Springbok lives on as the airline’s call sign and can be heard world-wide.
6. Smart Cat – TigerAir Taiwan
Tigerair Taiwan is a low ca-cost carrier based at Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport. Anytime I fly in Asia I hear the familiar and catchy Smart Cat call sign. It’s definitely one of my favorites. TigerAir Taiwan’s affiliate, TigerAir Australia uses the Tiggoz call sign.
Super Size Call Signs
Two aircraft models are so big that a Heavy call sign just isn’t enough. The Airbus A380 and Antonov An-225 generate so much wake turbulence that these aircraft are classified as Super. Air traffic controllers provide even more spacing behind Supers for safety. If you hear “Speedbird two-eight-two Super,” you know it’s a British Airways Airbus A380.
5. Skylab – LabCorp
LabCorp is not an airline or charter company. You might be familiar with LabCorp if your doctor orders blood work or your employer requires a drug test. They are one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world. LabCorp has a fleet of small aircraft in Burlington, North Carolina that make daily flights transporting medical specimens, freight, and personnel. Being a space geek, a call sign that has a NASA reference flies high on my list.
Track Skylab flights LIVE: FlightAware
4. Xanadu – AirAsia X
AirAsia X is a long-haul, budget airline based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and is a sister airline to Asia’s largest low-cost carrier, AirAsia. I’m not sure if the Xanadu call sign references the capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty in China (called Xanadu) or the 1980 Olivia Newton-John movie. Either way, Xanadu is a real attention getter on the radio.
Call sign doesn’t match flight number?
Once in a while, you’ll hear a call sign that doesn’t match a flight number: Air France flight 83 might have the call sign of “Air France eight-Lima.” This is common in Europe and used to reduce radio confusion when two flights have similar sounding call signs: Air France eight-three might be confused with Air Berlin eight-three, so the Air France call sign is changed to eight-lima. The actual flight number doesn’t change, so passengers aren’t confused.
Sometimes a really late flight will have an alphabet letter added to it’s call sign. If AeroSavvy two-three is delayed until the next morning due to weather, its call sign might be changed to AeroSavvy two-three-alpha so it isn’t confused with the next day’s regularly scheduled flight two-three.
3. Clipper – Pan American World Airways
Juan Trippe’s amazing airline was instrumental in shrinking the globe. If Pan American World Airways were still in business, the Clipper call sign would be #1 on this list. In 1931, Pan Am began operating Sikorsky flying boats. The ships had nicknames like American Clipper, Southern Clipper, and Caribbean Clipper. Pan Am operated a total of 28 “Clippers” until 1946. Those of us flying prior to December, 1991 will always miss hearing Clipper on the airwaves.
2. Velocity – Virgin Australia
Two of my favorite call signs are British Airways’ Speedbird (featured in the first Top Ten List) and Virgin Australia’s Velocity. The call signs just scream on-time performance and efficiency. Virgin Australia is Australia’s second largest carrier and the largest airline under Richard Branson’s “Virgin” brand.
1. Jedi – Jet Story
Number one on the list may come as a surprise. Jet Story (previously named Blue Jet and Jet Service) is a business aircraft management and charter company in Poland. Jet Story currently charters 13 very, very nice business jets and flies to 5 continents. Most importantly, Jet Story has one amazing call sign: Jedi. With the rebirth and excitement of the Star Wars franchise, what’s not to love about a high flying Jedi-in-the-sky?
Track Jedi flights LIVE: FlightAware
Did I miss any good call signs?
There are plenty of other really cool airline call signs. What’s your favorite? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!
If you’d like to learn more about aircraft communication, stream live aviation radio, or even build your own aircraft band receiver, check out these AeroSavvy articles: