Losses and Aviation Safety

SQUAWK, NO JOY, TALLY HO: commercial pilot explains some colorful expressions used by flight crews

SQUAWK, NO JOY, TALLY HO: colorful phrases that pilots say were conceived of in the sky and shared widely among staffers.

If you’ve ever passed the cockpit while boarding a flight and tried to pick up bits from your pilots’ conversation, you probably didn’t glean much from them.

Pilot-speak can sound like its own language.

Pilots’ own language

While, according to an interesting article appeared on Time, most of the phrases flight crews use were borne out of a need for clear and succinct communication over an occasionally fuzzy radio transmission, there are also more colorful phrases that pilots say were conceived of in the sky and shared widely among staffers.

Former commercial pilot Robert Perry explains some of them on Quora.


SQUAWK – ‘The code assigned by Air Traffic Control (ATC) to tune on the aircraft’s radar transponder so the aircraft has a discrete code and is identifiable on primary radar.


“NO JOY” – ‘The non-standard response a pilot gives to a controller when traffic is identified to the pilot and the pilot does not see the traffic visually. Controller, “Cessna 12345, Traffic 1 o’clock, three miles, 1,000 feet above you, a twin Cessna, opposite direction”. You, in Cessna 12345 respond, “LA Center, Cessna 12345, NO JOY on the twin Cessna”. This means that the twin Cessna is NOT seen by Cessna 12345.



“TALLY HO” – ‘The non-standard response a pilot gives when called traffic is seen. In above exchange the pilot of Cessna 12345 would respond with, “TALLY HO on the twin Cessna, Cessna 12345”.’

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Photo credit: Hansueli Krapf Own work: Hansueli Krapf via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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