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:

 

 

140 Comments

  1. 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.

      • 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.

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

  3. 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.

    • 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!

  4. 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”

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

  6. 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”.

    • 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!!

  7. 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.

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

  9. 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

    • 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.

      • 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) 🙂

    • 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

        • 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

  10. 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

    • 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

  11. 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. 😉

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    • 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.

  14. 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!

    • 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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)

  17. 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

    • 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

  18. 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’!

  19. 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

  20. 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”.

  21. The St. Louis based regional GoJet, one of Trans States Holdings airlines, uses Lindbergh as its callsign. The original investors funding Charles Lindbergh’s trans-Atlantic were from St. Louis.

    • Hi Bob,

      I’m not 100% certain, but I believe the Piedmont call sign was “Piedmont.” During the early years, they named each aircraft “Pacemaker.” Examples were: Mountain State Pacemaker, Empire State Pacemaker, Potomac Pacemaker, etc.

      Thanks for reading!

    • Thanks, Yigit!

      To clarify for other readers: The US Transport Command sometimes charters commercial airliners to airlift personnel and freight. The call sign used for these charter flights is “Camber”

  22. “Roadhog” is the coolest call sign I heard out there during coast to coast night flights. Not sure who it was, maybe heavy military transport.

    • Hi R.J.

      What a great call sign! I did some digging and found a reference to the Roadhog call sign. It was a Marine Heavy Helicopter squadron from 1958 to 2008.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMH-769

      There is always the possibility a civilian carrier used it, but I couldn’t find a reference for it. Perhaps another reader might know about it.

      Thanks for the great comment!
      Ken

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