Top 10 Coolest Airline Call Signs!

Top 10 Airline Call Signs

When pilots and air traffic controllers communicate on the radio, the airline’s call sign is always used along with the flight number; ex: “Delta 135.”  This helps assure our communications are clear.

Airlines began using call signs back in the 1930’s.  Most carriers use their name as their call sign. Delta uses “Delta,” Singapore Airlines is “Singapore,” Southwest is “Southwest.” Occasionally, airlines will use some creativity when selecting a call sign. Here are AeroSavvy’s Top 10 Coolest Airline Call Signs

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After counting down the Top 10, be sure to check out 15 MORE Top 10 Coolest Call Signs! – More call sign goodness, served up hot and fresh!

10. Citrus – AirTran Airways

AirTran4Orlando based AirTran Airways uses the Florida orange grove inspired call sign of “Citrus.” Sadly, “Citrus” will soon be disappearing from the airwaves as Southwest Airlines finalizes it’s acquisition of AirTran. “Citrus” is one of many fun call signs that will vanish as progress marches on.

9. Waterski – Trans States Airlines

TransStates1US regional carrier, Trans States Airlines, operates as United Express and US Airways Express (soon to be American Eagle). The call sign “Waterski” originated in the early 1980’s. Trans States, then called Resort Air, flew passengers to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. The area is noted for its recreation, especially water skiing.

8.  Dynasty– China Airlines

chinaAirYou can’t miss the beautiful plum blossom than adorns the tails of China Airlines jets. The call sign of “Dynasty” stands out as well. China Airlines is the largest carrier in Taiwan, Republic of China. Based in Taipei, “Dynasty” flights can be seen and heard at over 90 cities around the world.

7.  Jazz – Jazz Aviation LP

JazzSeveral Canadian carriers have cool call signs; “Rouge”, “Flair”, and “Bearskin” are a few of my favorites. But none are quite as cool as the simple “Jazz” call sign. What’s cooler than cool Jazz? Jazz Aviation is Canada’s 2nd largest airline in terms of fleet size. They operate under the brand name of Air Canada Express and their aircraft are painted with the unmistakable Jazz logo.

6.  Cactus – US Airways

USAirThe “Cactus” call sign originated with America West Airlines back in 1983. America West was based in Phoenix, Arizona near the Sonoran Desert – home of the giant Saguaro cactus. In 2006, America West merged with US Airways. The Cactus call sign survived the merger and all US Airways flights were soon known as “Cactus” on the radio. Sadly, now that US Airways has merged with American Airlines, “Cactus” will likely be retired.

5.  Redwood – Virgin America

VirginVirgin America is based in the San Francisco bay area. The airline’s proximity to the famous California redwood forests and its red logo make “Redwood” the perfect call sign. Virgin America flies to over twenty destinations in the US and Mexico. The airline has quickly earned a reputation for high quality service.

4.  Brickyard – Republic Airlines

RepubRepublic Airlines is an Indianapolis, Indiana based carrier that flies routes as American Eagle, US Airways Express, and United Express. The airline takes its call sign from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500 race. In 1909, when the speedway was paved with 3 million bricks, locals nicknamed it “The Brickyard.”  With over 130 aircraft in service, the Republic Airlines “Brickyard” call sign can be heard coast to coast.

3.  Dragon – Hong Kong Dragon Airlines (Dragonair)

dragonairListen to aircraft frequencies in Asia, and you’re bound to hear a flying “Dragon.” Hong Kong based Dragonair began operations in 1985 and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Cathay Pacific Airlines. Dragonair flies to 13 countries across Asia. Its all-Airbus fleet of A320s, A321s and A330s are adorned with a mythical red dragon from Chinese folklore.

2.  Shamrock – Aer Lingus

AerLingusAer Lingus, the national flag carrier of Ireland, is known worldwide on the radio waves as “Shamrock.”  Since the early 1960’s, the carrier has featured a three-leaf clover (shamrock) on the tails (and now winglets) of its aircraft. The Shamrock call sign is a perfect fit. Aer Lingus flies to over 80 destinations around the planet.

1.  Speedbird – British Airways

BA-logoBritish Overseas Airways Corporation

Choosing the #1 coolest airline call sign was easy. In the 1940’s, BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) used the name of its logo, the “Speedbird,” as a call sign. In the early 1970’s, BOAC become British Airways through a merger and continued to use “Speedbird.” The call sign was especially appropriate when used by the supersonic Concorde. When “Speedbird-Concorde One” was heard on the radio, you knew something really special was in the air!

Honorable mentions:

Critter – ValuJet

Valujet_logoIn the 1990’s, troubled low-cost carrier ValuJet Airlines had what was perhaps the cutest call sign. The airline used the name of it’s mascot, “Critter.” The happy little airplane was prominently displayed on ValuJet’s blue, gold and white airplanes. In 1997 ValuJet became AirTran Airways through a merger and the “Critter” call sign was retired.

Hawaii Five-O – Hawaiian Airlines

HawaiianThe Hawaiian Airlines daily non-stop from Honolulu to New York is flight 50. Pilots and controllers often ignore the official radio designation of “Hawaiian 50” and use the call sign “Hawaii Five-O” to pay homage to the classic (and reboot) TV police drama. It’s technically incorrect radio procedure, but how can they resist? Steve McGarrett would be proud. Book ’em, Danno!

Did I miss any?

There are plenty of other really cool airline call signs. What’s your favorite? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Need more call signs?
15 MORE Top 10 Coolest Call Signs! – More great call signs served up hot and fresh!
Check out Wikipedia’s List of airline codes (it’s a long list!)

If you’d like to learn more about aircraft communication, stream live aviation radio, or even build your own aircraft band radio, check out these AeroSavvy articles:

 

 

AeroSavvy is written by Ken Hoke. Since 1984, Ken has loitered the skies in many vehicles, most notably the classic Douglas DC-8. He currently frustrates air traffic controllers in the US, Asia, and Europe as a Boeing 767 captain for a package express airline.
Ken can be reached here or any of these fine social media outlets:   

128 thoughts on “Top 10 Coolest Airline Call Signs!

  1. Andrew

    It’s Bearskin, not Bareskin. Understandable mistake ;-). Bearskin Airlines started in an Aboriginal community in northern Ontario called Bearskin Lake.

    My favourite Canadian callsign is “Empress” used by Canadian North.

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Whoops! Good catch. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll blame it on auto-correct! 🙂
      I also like Empress. I hear them every once in a while up north.

      Reply
      1. jeremy fine

        I thought ‘Empress’ was the call-sign of the old CP Air. They can get reused ? So a little charter outfit could use ‘Clipper’ if they filled the criteria to apply for call-sign use.? I don’t like that idea.

        Reply
        1. Ken H. Post author

          Empress was indeed the call sign of the old Canadian Pacific Airlines. I believe that ICAO oversees the assignment of call signs. I’m not sure how that process works, but it is conceivable that at some point, an airline will pick up the old Clipper call sign. I’m with you – I don’t like the idea of Clipper being used by anyone else!

  2. Travis

    Not to nitpick, but it was ValuJet, not ValueJet. Also the “Citrus” call sign was born after recognizing the America West “Cactus” sign.

    Reply
  3. Joe

    After being an ASA pilot for 8 years, I’m partial to ASEA, which is now the ExpressJet call sign. It’s most often written as ACEY. It started out in 1979 as Atlantic South East Airlines or ASEA. I intentionally misspelled “southeast” for dramatic emphasis. 🙂 The call sign changed in the early 2000s to Candler due to a conflict with an Air Guard unit out west. Since no one was particularly fond of Candler (though there’s a cool story about why they picked Candler), the airline fought to and was eventually able to get its original call sign back.

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Go Cat was actually on my list when I was brainstorming call signs for the article. I hear them all the time when I’m flying in Asia. I may have to add on to the honorable mentions list!

      Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Nice catch! I hear Asian Express a lot when I’m flying out of Kuala Lumpur. It will be fun to listen for the new Red Cap! Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
  4. J raj

    Here are a few more…. Defunct Singapore based cargo carrier Jett8 used callsign “Taipan”…. From the Maldives .. Air taxi operator…. Can’t remember company though…. Using callsign “Sandbar” … Finally Citilink from Indonesia using callsign “Supergreen”

    Reply
  5. Alec K

    PSA Airlines uses the callsign “Blue Streak”
    I think it’s cool but in some weird way it reminds me of lavatory blue juice.

    Reply
  6. Richard

    Who had the callsign “Apple”? I used to hear that one a lot flying between DCA and Denver. And what does “heavy” mean? As in “Apple 237 heavy”. I always though it meant “loaded”.

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Hi Richard,
      Great questions!
      The now defunct 1980’s startup carrier “New York Air” used the “Apple” callsign. I flew on them a few times out of Knoxville. They would give passengers a red, nylon snack bag with a bagel & cream cheese – calling it the “Flying Nosh.”

      “Heavy” is added to aircraft callsigns for any aircraft with a max take off weight of 300,000 pounds or more. It’s a reminder/warning to controllers and other pilots that the airplane generates a large amount of wake turbulence on takeoff and landing. Interestingly, the Boeing 757 often uses the “Heavy” designation even though it’s less than 300,000 pounds because it generates a significant amount of wake turbulence.

      Thanks for reading!!

      Reply
  7. ignette

    Springbuck – South African Airlines named after its national buck. The animal looks like it is flying when it jumps through the air in front of the females.

    Reply
  8. mike marxsen

    Call sign “Candler” for Atlanta based ASA airlines, Asa Candler invented Coca Cola in Atlanta in the 1800’s.

    Reply
  9. Bruno Silva

    Nice text, there aren’t cool call signs in Brazil, all call signs are the company name.

    Exemple: Tam Airlines – TAMXXXX or Gol Airlines GOLXXXX

    Reply
    1. Parker West, Phoenix

      I must disagree respectfully, The EMB line of regional jets are called Jungle Jets, there are some favorites not limited to call signs such as airliners: Metroliner is either a San Antonio Lawn Dart or a Texas Tampon, (it’s long and skinny) Airbus 320 Scareliner, US Air (before merging with American West to become US Airways, was Scare Air a name it earned, the all time favorite is the Beachcraft Bonanza Forked-Tail Doctor Killer, the name again was earned, medical doctors bought Bonanza’s in droves, but it was a tricky airplane to fly. A Doctor friend of mine died when his Bonanza crashed at the Superior, AZ airport on takeoff. He wasn’t one of few, but one of many.

      Reply
      1. Ken H. Post author

        Hi Parker,

        This article is about airline radio call signs. I might cover airline and aircraft nicknames in a future article. 😉
        (You forgot the “San Antonio Sewer Pipe” for the Metroliner) 🙂

        Reply
  10. Sebastian

    One of my favourite, “Asterix” – Callsign of the austrian business aviation carrier “Avcon Jet”

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      I agree – love “Big Bird.” NokScoot is a fairly new carrier. It’ll be nice to hear them in Asia, along with the now familiar “Scooter” of their big brother carrier, Scoot.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
        1. Ken H. Post author

          Hi Kevin,

          GoCat is definitely one of my favorites while I’m flying in Asia. I heard several Go Cats yesterday when we landed in Singapore.

          Thanks for reading!
          Ken

    1. Ken H. Post author

      Air Shuttle is Mesa Airlines. They operate as American Eagle and United Express out of Dallas, Phoenix, Houston and DC.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
  11. Liz

    Ken…another neat Canadian callsign…Polarbear…for Fast Air based in Winnipeg…and a second is Voyageur for Voyageur from North Bay…they fly a lot of air ambulance flights

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Hi Liz,
      Those are really good ones! I’ve heard Polarbear and Voyageur on the radio. I’ll have to watch for Fast Air when I’m in Winnipeg this winter.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
  12. Mobie

    I’ve flown with former foreign Dynasty crew who referred to it as…”Die-Nasty.” I’m sure it’s much much better now, though. 😉

    Reply
  13. George Duffy, B747 PFE (retired)

    How about GIANT, the Atlas Air call sign. The 3 letter identifier for Atlas is GTI which became Giant when the airline was started. The logo on the tail was inspired by the Atlas sculpture in Rockefeller Center in NYC.

    Reply
  14. Mitchell

    Although Air Canada’s regional airline, “Jazz” made the Top Ten, how about Air Canada’s call sign “Maple.” Its on their tail and a classic symbol of Canada.

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Hi Mitchell,

      Air Canada’s call sign is plain-old “Air Canada.” Sky Regional Airlines, which operates as Air Canada Express, uses Maple; and I agree, it’s an awesome call sign!

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
      1. syf70

        Sky Regional Airlines (one of four Air Canada Express Carriers) uses “Maple”. I’m trying to find a reference but I believe that “Maple” was used by Trans-Canada Airlines before they became “Air Canada”… Can someone confirm?

        Reply
    1. lighteninglou

      Just for fun do you know the call sign for the Real National Airlines, not the short lived Mike Conway Vegas failure. Miami based National (1934-1980) “I’m Cheryl, Fly Me” which was purchased for way too much by a wavering Pan Am had the call sign Murray Air. I cannot find anyone in leadership bearing the name Murray, it’s club members were called Sun Kings which would have been my pick as a call sign.

      Reply
  15. Varshan

    Love the article! I think we’ve all got to dim the lights and look at the stars, or smile at these cool callsigns from time to time, makes flying that much more special.

    I fly for Indigo Airlines, and thats exactly the callsign we use – Ifly 🙂

    Oh and Maldivian use a nice one too- Island Aviation!

    Reply
  16. Rory Ellis

    I use to hear during the night in Europe. “GhostRider”. Think it belonged to a German cargo outfit.

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Hi John,

      I’m pretty sure Flybe uses the call sign of “Jersey.”

      There was a Busy Bee Airlines in Norway that used the call sign “Busybee,” but they went out of business several years ago.

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
  17. jerry Tanner

    There are many interesting callsigns in the UK mostly private charter and Helicopter operators. Just to name a few.

    Private Charter with ICAO: VIP and Callsign: SOVEREIGN.

    247 Jet. Is CLOUD RUNNER.

    One of my favourite is a small charter only 3 or 4 aircraft but callsign is THUNDERCAT.

    Others include: NEPTUNE, BROADSWORD, FIREBIRD, BOND, WHITE KNIGHT, WHISPER and TOPCAT.

    Also SPEEDBIRD is not the only callsign BA use.

    British Airways City flyer uses callsign FLYER and British Airways UK domestic flights use callsign SHUTTLE.

    Reply
  18. Vicky Baker

    Pleased to announce that the ink is now drying on the rubber stamp 🙂
    PNPC Animal Rescue out of Canada is now operating under the call sign “Paw Print” – we think it’s pretty cool 😀

    (as an aside: my old employer Provincial Airlines – outta Newfoundland also was a little bit cool – Speed Air)

    Reply
  19. Marcus BIkker

    Hi Ken,
    Leaving from Aruba back to Amsterdam last week, I heard “Calle Ocho” on the radio, which I thought pretty funny, but I was unable to trace to whom it belongs. Probably Miami based. Maybe someone else knows.
    Safe flights & happy holidays,
    grtz Marc

    Reply
    1. Ken H. Post author

      Hi Marc,

      That’s an interesting one. I haven’t heard it before. I did some quick Googling and came up empty. Any AeroSavvy readers know about “Calle Ocho?”

      Thanks for reading!
      Ken

      Reply
  20. Arie

    In the 1990’s I flew cancelled checks with MU-2’s between Dallas and Houston for the Federal reserve bank . We had my favourite callsign ever: ‘checkmate’!

    Reply
  21. Tom

    There is a small aviation company FAI rent-a-jet in Germany, located at the Nuremberg Airport. They fly business charter, as well as some aircrafts in service for the United Nations, as far as I know. They do also ambulance/medic flights and that’s also how they started.
    Apparently from there, they have the callsing “RED ANGEL”
    The Wiki is available in German language only, I guess:
    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAI_rent-a-jet

    Reply
  22. icyapril

    The British Antarctic Survey use Penguin, British Airways also have the callsign Santa for Christmas charter flights. Virgin Express Ireland (defunct) used to use Green Isle (and Virgin Australia use Velocity). Virgin Atlantic’s callsign is my favourite though, Virgin; accurate and reminiscent of the Virgin Atlantic Flyer that Richard Branson crossed the Atlantic in, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer used to circumnavigate the earth and of course battling British Airways “dirty tricks”.

    Reply

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