It's all in the name

Aero India

It's all in  the name

Every pilot that one bumps into at the ongoing ‘Aero India 2017’ sports on his or her flying suit a shorter name, besides his or her original name. This shorter name may not match with the original name but is actually the call sign by which the pilot is known throughout his or her career.

The pilots wear these shorter names with much pride. Although believed by many to be a friendly way of addressing each other, Air Cmde Kallanda Appaya Muthana, who has served in the Indian Air Force is various capacities explains that there’s a larger intention behind the culture of call signs. 

“All test pilots have call signs starting with tester. Formation call signs are an operational squadron concept and the leader of the commanding squadron has a call sign that blends with the name of his entire team. For instance, if it is Cobra, then their call signs will be Cobra 1, 2 3 and so on,” he says. He adds, “Each squadron has a family of call signs that are allocated and care is taken to make sure that there is no conflict or repetition of these call sign anywhere in the Indian Air Force.”
 There’s a massive air traffic control system in this country, both civilian and military, so call signs hold a sanctity in this aspect as well. 

“The most important thing when a single aircraft or a formation is airborne, is to have a flight plan in place. This flight plan will contain what aircraft, who the pilot is and what mission is on air and here too, call signs are given. Every flight pilot who is airborne is tracked by his or her call sign,” adds Muthana.

 Even the foreign pilots have very quirky names as call signs. They enjoy being called by their call signs and look at it as a friendly gesture. Pichon Ismael, with the solo display team of the Rafale aircraft, says that he goes by the call sign of ‘Pich’.

“We get serious when calling each other by our call signs only when we are flying but otherwise, under normal conditions, we pull each other’s leg using these call signs. With these call signs, you feel like you belong somewhere,” explains Pichon Ismael.

  Test pilot with Eurofighter Typhoon, Raffael Klaschka, says that he goes by the call sign of ‘Klacx’ because people are never able to pronounce his surname correctly. “People call me anything but Klaschka, so the shorter version has been working well for me. Call signs are trademark names for us and it is also a friendly way of reaching out to your copilot,” says Raffael. He says that he finds the call signs here in India of a more serious nature.

“We play around with words a lot and usually come up with a name that is either a shorter version of the pilot’s real name or a call sign that actually describes the person’s character,” adds Raffael. 

  The younger lot of pilots from the Indian Air Force feel that call signs are a safer bet when addressing their superiors.

Flt Lt Prashant Dagur is addressed by the call sign of ‘Dagger’. “You can’t call your senior officers by the names and we use call signs to communicate with them. There’s also a lot of respect attached to the culture of call signs, especially for juniors,” feels Prashant.

Flight Lieutenant Nitesh Yadav, who flies the Sukhoi aircraft, says his call sign goes by the name of ‘Neo’.

“People barely address me by my real name and call ‘Neo’ and now, I am so used to responding to my call sign that I find it a little absurd when people call me by my real name,” he shares.
 

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