Safety by the letter

Image: © Airbus S.A.S 2013

A recent operational change by Emirates Airline is a textbook example of the analysis and attention to detail that go into managing airline transport safety.

Emirates recently introduced of alpha-numeric air traffic control (ATC) call signs for flights in Australian airspace, in line with its practice in European and Gulf airspace.

This initiative aims to reduce call sign confusion where similar sounding or near identical flight numbers have been used to communicate with air traffic controllers within the same airspace or at the same airport.

A scheduled passenger flight’s call sign commonly comprises of the airline’s name or moniker as a prefix followed by the flight number. In Emirate’s case, an example of their previous call sign is ‘Emirates 406’—the airline’s regular Dubai to Melbourne service. However, with the introduction of the alpha-numeric format, this call sign has now become ‘Emirates 1CR’ (Emirates One Charlie Romeo).

Emirates’ first flights in Australian airspace using the alpha-numeric call sign format occurred on 25 March.

Australian Transport Safety Bureau Chief Commissioner, Greg Hood, congratulated Emirates on their introduction of alpha-numeric call signs in Australia for selected flights. ‘We continue to encourage all airlines and aircraft operators to use call sign de-confliction strategies to help prevent call sign confusion incidents from occurring,’ he said.

Alpha-numeric call signs are now being used more broadly by several airlines operating in congested European and Middle East flight information regions.