Call Signs and Using Phonetics


Gerry Crenshaw, WD4BIS

Should you use a snappy mnemonic for your call sign or is it better to use the International Telegraphers Union (ITU) Phonetic Alphabet? What phonetics do you like better using my call sign? Is one easier to remember than the other? This is Whiskey Delta Four Bravo India Sierra. This is Whiskey Delta Four Bug In Software. One I always remember is the phonetics of the call sign of WA8YCD, his melodious voice proudly came over the HF band as Willie Always Eight Your Chicken Dinner. When you first get your call sign and throw it out on the air, sooner or later someone is going to ask you to repeat it or use phonetics. Don't be scared of this. Use words rather than letters to give your call sign. There is nothing wrong with a snappy mnemonic, but snappy call signs and the use of the phonetic alphabet both have there place in amateur radio operations. The phonetic alphabet has been changed and refined over time. It started like most of these things in the military. You would think that since we all speak English, this should not be a problem. But it proved to be so for the RAF when it began to use pilots from other nationalities. The first RAF phonetic alphabet consisted of the following: 1924-1942 Ace Beer Charlie Don Edward Freddie George Harry Ink Johnnie King London Monkey Nuts Orange Pip Queen Robert Sugar Toc Uncle Vic William X-ray Yorker Zebra.

This changed during W.W.II to accommodate other accents as well as the fact that radios were now in the planes.

1942-43 Apple Beer Charlie Dog Edward Freddy George Harry In Jug/Johnny King Love Mother Nuts Orange Peter Queen Roger/Robert Sugar Tommy Uncle Vic William X-ray Yoke/Yorker Zebra

And yet again to accommodate the Yanks:

1943-56 Able-Affirm Baker Charlie Dog Easy Fox George How Item/Interrogatory Jig/Johnny King Love Mike Nab/Negat Oboe Peter/Prep Queen Roger Sugar Tare Uncle Victor William X-ray Yoke Zebra

And again:

1956 (NATO): Alfa Bravo Charlie Delta Echo Foxtrot Golf Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima Mike November Oscar Papa Quebec Romeo Sierra Tango Uniform Victor Whiskey X-ray Yankee Zulu. (all phonetics from the Source book of the RAF 1994)

By a strange coincidence the last set of phonetics has been adopted by the ITU. This set of phonetics is used world wide by anyone conducting net operations of any kind. In fact, all International pilots use English and this set of phonetics as a common language. These phonetics have borne the test of time and proven their value. They are widely used on HF operations world wide.

These phonetics are all carefully chosen, two or three syllable words that are hard to confuse with anything else. While it is true that we could create our own alphabet with other words, would they prove their worth? For example, a phonetic alphabet of my own using one syllable words (to save time and stop from running out of breath) might be:

Ack Bog Cue Dog Easy Fan Goo Hog Ice Jack King Land Mom Nice Own Pie Que Rat Sit Tom Us Vine Wine X-ray Yak Zoo

Sending a CQ now would be Cue Que., Cue Que or perhaps someone with the letters B,D,H in his call sign would enjoy using the phonetics of Bog Dog Hog, Or some one with letters Y,A would like to say Yak Ack or some one with the Letters R,N,I - Rice Nice Ice. From this example of my phonetic alphabet I think we could very easily tie up all of net time just trying to sort out call signs.

All communications carried out by Radio Amateurs in a controlled net environment use the ITU phonetics. This includes message handling for the National Traffic System and Emergency communications as used on the RACES and ARES nets. The ITU phonetics are a must to know for any amateur who is going to be involved in net operations. If your plans include some kind of net operations, these phonetics are a need to know.

There is nothing wrong with a snappy call sign mnemonic, just
remember that their place is NOT in a controlled NTS or RACES net.

Good luck and 73's


Whiskey Delta Four Bravo India Sierra

Copyright 1996 Gerald Crenshaw WD4BIS. All rights are reserved.




Welcome back to GARC for the new year. 1998 was pretty successful in that the Club is still functioning despite a downsizing in the Company. We still have a healthy membership, and attendance at meetings is usually quite good. We always have at least 25 people at our meetings. And we do pick up a few new members each year, barely replacing the ones that leave us. Since most Ham clubs seem to be getting smaller, we have nothing to complain about.

The challenges for this year are the same uncertainties as last year: will we remain in Plt 5; will be still have tower access for our repeater. Also we have a concern that there are fewer Employees around to be Officials of the Club. But, since there is little we can do about any of these, we just try to stay on track. It's also good to make note of one's accomplishments in the past year. We had another very successful Field Day. Our VE's continue to provide an excellent program under the leadership of Bob (W2ILP) despite the loss of interest in Hamming. And GARC has been fairly good about staying up on new technologies. For almost 5 years now, we have used computers for logging at Field Day. I can't tell you much this has helped me with the post contest log analysis. I can now get all the FD paperwork done in less than an hour with very good accuracy. It used to take me a few days to go over everything and recopy logs, etc. This is so much better

We also continue to improve our newsletter (CQ) under the leadership of Dave (KA2FEA), who assembles the entire publication all by himself, on schedule, every month without ever a miss. The Club is very lucky to have him also. And we can't forget the work of Jack (WA2PYK) who provides the eats at every meeting, including the spectacular year-end party. That's a lot of work to do, believe me. I also need to thank the past, and current Officers of the Club for their support, and new ideas. They make this whole thing very successful every year. There's lots of little contributions from other people that make our Club so good. Hopefully, I have thanked them along the way.

We also created a Web site this year, and it seems to be another way of us all communicating information. I am making an effort to have new pictures there every month, so our members who live far away can now see what we all look like. Some of our retired members are no longer able to meet any of us face to face. So, pictures on the Web are a good substitute. I believe that Ray (W2ZUN) and Gordon (KB2UB) now have digital cameras, and can take pictures at meetings and other events. They will be fun to see on the Web.

Let's all hope for a successful 1999.

-Pat KE2LJ [email protected]

Quote Without Comment

This is from the introduction to "Ham Radio.' Simplified" by Kevin Cornwell-N6ABW.

"In times past, to earn an Amateur Radio license, you were tested to prove your knowledge of operating procedures and to make evident a level of practical skill necessary to properly setup and maintain your station. Nowadays, however, often an Extra class licensee, perhaps the most respected level of amateur license in the world, much less a novice or a general, hasn't a clue how to cut a dipole! Or he's confused where the red wire protruding from his transceiver goes. It becomes obvious that the testing system has failed. We've lost the knowledge that makes Amateur Radio and its frequency allocations a vital asset to our country."

The Art of QSLing DX

This appeared in the September 1998 issue of "W3OK Corral", the newsletter of the Delaware-Lehigh ARC. Clarence Snyder W3PYF, Editor. Bill Goodman, K3ANS, is the author.

Now you have owrked many DX stations, including many countries, CQ Zones, Russian Oblasts (counties), German DOK's (counties), etc. Do you need proof? Do you want to collect paper? Chasing DX awards is an extension of Dxing. Cover your walls and ceilings with QSLs from all over the world. This reminds me of post card collecting, since so many QSLs are beautiful. They are often very personal expressions prepared with pride and creative artwork and photographs. These Hams are proudly showing off their stations, their communities, their scenery, their club logos, their flags, their family, their equipment, and their antennas. Some of the pictures could be in Penthouse Magazine. Have you seen the QSL from K4NBN? It's a nude picture of his wife, Magnolia Blossom, who weighs 643 lbs! He runs Del's Nudist Colony in Razorville, Florida.

How do you get these QSLs ? The most effective and expensive method is to send your QSL to the other Ham via first class or airmail. Include a self addressed envelope along with foreign money or air mail postage from the other Ham's country. You can buy foreign postage from various sources. William Plum of Flemington, NJ is a local vendor of foreign postage, appearing at many Hamfests. Bill used to be a vendor at our DLARC hamfest when it was in Easton. I hope he has been invited back to the Schneeksville hamfest. He also publishes a useful guide on obtaining foreign QSLS.

To avoid theft, a common problem in foreign post offices, use a plain envelope with no indication of ham radio. Hide the postage or any money you include inside the return envelope. Try scenting the envelope with perfume. Use a pink envelope. That will throw off the potential thief. Another method is to use a very official looking business envelope which would not contain money or postage.

Another method is to substitute an International Reply Coupon (IRC) for the foreign postage. The IRC may be purchased at major post offices around the world. Smaller post offices do not carry them, nor do they necessarily honor or understand them. If you receive an IRC you are supposed to be able to exchange it for one unit of postage to pay for surface (ground) or airmail. Thus, if you send your QSL with an IRC to the DX station, he should be able to exchange it for his local (foreign) postage to reply to you, at no additional cost. Not every country accepts IRCS, so check with your post office. Many hams never cash in the IRCs. Instead they have become an international currency among hams. When you send an IRC to the DX station, he saves it to mail to another DX station when he is seeking a QSL. They are actively sold and resold among hams at face or discount value. You may ask an American ham who serves as a QSL manager for DX stations to sell you his surplus IRCs.

Both of the above methods are too expensive for most hams when they begin to collect hundreds or thousands of DX QSLs. For example, I recently printed 22,000 DX QSO labels to stick on my QSLs. If I sent everyone via airmail with self addressed envelopes and return postage, how much do you think it would cost? Probably at least $22,000! Obviously, I cannot afford that. So, I use alternative sources. My two favorite methods are via the ARRL outgoing DX QSL Bureau and via the WF5F DX QSL Service.

The ARRL's outgoing QSL Bureau is available to only members. You sort and bundle your DX QSLs in DXCC country prefix alphabetical order. For example, if you are sending QSl's to Russia, you group the EW, RA, RV, RW, UA, UV, and UW prefix QSl's together. If you have indicated that the QSI is to go to a QSL manager, not to the actual DX station you worked, then put that QSL with the country of the manager. You send the bundle to the ARRL along with $4.00 per pound (about 150 QSLS) and the mailing label from a recent QST showing your name, call, and current membership expiration date. The ARRL Bureau workers then sort your outgoing QSLs into different bins for each country.

Later your QSIs and many other members' QSLs are bundled and shipped to the foreign countries' incoming QSL bureaus, which are usually the foreign amateur radio organizations, equivalent to the ARRL. Smaller countries with few hams often do not have active incoming QSI, bureaus. But these bureaus do handle the bulk of my DX QSOS, which come primarily from DX contesting. I often work hundreds or thousands of' stations in Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Great Britain, Spain, etc. each year. Since I send a QSL to every DX station I work on each band and mode, most often are going to countries with high populations of active hams. So ARRL, outgoing bureau handles them economically. This method is slow. Some replies take many years, especially if the foreign bureau is lethargic, corrupt, disorganized, or disbanded as happened in the CIS countries after USSR dissolved. For QSLing consider price, quality, and speed. Pick two. The ARRL bureau is inexpensive, pretty reliable, and slow. Direct QSLing is expensive, more reliable, and quick.

Send some self addressed stamped envelopes, or in my case cartons, to your incoming DX QSI, Bureau, which is NOT the ARRL. They are different in each call area. In the 4th call area several incoming bureaus handle the QSLS, since the volume is so great. They are separated so K4's, W4's, WA4's, KA4's, etc. You should probably use different incoming QSL bureaus. In the third call area the incoming QSI, bureau is the PA DX Association, P. 0. Box 100, York Haven, PA 17370-0100. The manager is well known DXer, WA3HUP. I often see her and the Association set up in booths at hamfests, including York and Timonium (Baltimore). In the 2nd call area the incoming DX QSL bureau is the North Jersey DX Association.

Some DX hams refuse to reply to QSLs received via the bureau system. I resent this because it adds additional cost. However, I understand their logic. They need money to pay for their QSLs and postage, so they insist on direct mail with self-addressed envelopes and one or two "greenstamps". Greenstamps are also known as US dollar bills. Usually, these hams are in rare countries so they are in control. If you want to confirm that country, especially on a difficult band, you must play, or pay the game. Grit your teeth and send the bucks.

F6FNU is an active DX QSL manager in France for many hams in rare French colonies and former colonies. He insists on one QSO per QSL, two dollars per QSL, and one QSL per envelope. His practices cause much anger among the US hams desiring his QSLs, but we have no choice. Many other QSL managers are just as rigorous as F6FNU. Many QSL, managers are a delight. If you are lucky, the DX station uses a good US QSL, manager. Two very active, local QSL managers are W3HC and W3HNK in PA. they each represent dozens of DX stations and give quick inexpensive service, content with only US return postage plus any donation.

Several DX and specialized QSLing publications and CDs list tile QSL managers for DX stations. CQ Magazine and World Radio Magazine monthly list QSL, managers. So do many DX bulletins. WF5E-Les Bannon, offers an alternative solution to obtaining DX QSLS. I rely on Les extensively. He charges $1.00 for 5 DX QSLS. He does not, care how many QSOs are on each QSLS, so I often list 12 QSOs on one DX QSL. He represents several thousand US DXers such as me. We send our QSLs to him, sorted by DX station, not by QSL manager. He then bundles them with other ham clients and sends all the QSLs directly to the DX stations or their managers along with self addressed boxes or envelopes AND First Class or Air Mail postage back to him. WF5E distributes his replies to each of us via our incoming DX QSL bureaus, in my case the PA DX Association. Les is very effective in obtaining QSLs from stubborn sources, although a few DX stations refuse to honor WF5E's service and still insist on direct mail from us with air mail postage.

WF5E costs $1.00 per 5 DX QSLS, which is still better than paying about $2.00 for only 1 DX QSO or QSL. I use WF5E for all my rare DX QSLs when I think they will not accept the bureau QSLS. I reluctantly use direct maid for the obstinate. WF5E's address is 3400 Bedford, Midland, TX 79703. Les does not accept QSls for QSOs over one year old.
I gladly send my QSLs direct with return postage, and a contribution to the DXpeditions to rare countries. Some of those DXpeditions cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some cost over a hundred thousand dollars! The recent Heard Island DXpedition cost around $300,000, including $100,000 stolen by an unscrupulous charter ship captain. So they need and deserve the money.

And then there is the downside of the QSL managers who accept your green-stamps but refuse to reply. Ask any DXer about FR5DX on Reunion Island. Many DX stations refuse to QSL. They merely discard your QSL and couldn't care less if you want theirs. Of course, some US stations refuse to reply to DX QSLs too. So QSLing is an art, loaded with optimism, disappointment and frustration.


Happy New Year Everybody!

There is some good news about the program that allows all 12 issues of our newsletter to be viewed. I have now discovered why it runs on some computers, and not others.

When I sent the program to my son who lives in Indiana it ran great on his machine. The same thing happened when I ran it on my daughter's machine. However, when I sent it to Pat he got a message saying the program was not properly registered. I tried running it on my new computer (I have 2 now, the new one is for testing programs that I write), I got the same message that Pat got.

After some research, I discovered that it was not the program that was not properly registered but the source material. So, the problem now becomes how to register the source material? I'll let you know when I find out.

The Editor, KA2FEA.




The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:20 PM. All persons present introduced themselves.


Ted, KD2UB

Ted read the financial report and reminded everyone that 1999 dues are due at the first of the year.


Bob, W2ILP

Bob reported that although there were plenty of VE,s present, there were no applicants.


Gordon, KB2UB

Gordon and Bill made a trip to the Hauppaugue repeater site. They did some maintenance work on the Universal Power Supply (UPS) and documented the interface for the new controller that will be installed.



There were few on the Thursday 2 Meter Net. The Sunday 40 Meter Net was well attended and conditions were good. The Wednesday 20 Meter Net went well this week.

Northrop Grumman apparently still intends to sell the Bethpage property, but nothing much has been happening.


Frank Fallon, N2FF, ARRL Hudson Division Director, gave a brief discussion about the restructuring of the Amateur Radio license requirements. The FCC has come up with a plan and the ARRL has proposed changes. At any rate, changes will not be made until January 2000 at the earliest.

Howie, W2QUV, reminded everyone that Jan 1 will be Straight Key Night. All of you CW operators get on the air and have fun. Pat announced that the January meeting will be "Old Radio Night" and that anyone who has an old radio or "boat Anchor" in their attic should bring it to the meeting and talk about it.

The meeting was closed at 5:50 PM and everyone enjoyed a great Holiday Party with the food purchased and set up by Jack Cottrell, WA2PYK. Great job Jack!

Twenty Meters:  14.275 at 12:00 PM EST Wednesdays.
Forty Meters:    7.289 at 7:30 AM EST Sundays.
Two Meters:     146.745 at 8:30 PM EST Thursdays.
                145.33 at 8:45 PM EST Thursdays.
                145.33 at 9:00 PM EST Mondays (ARES/RACES) 

VE exams for all classes of amateur licenses are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 5:00 PM in the Plant 5 Cafeteria. (See page 7 fordirections to exam site.) The exam fee for 1998 is $6.45. Thanks to Bob Wexelbaum, W2ILP for this information.


General Meetings of the GARC are held on the third Wednesday of each month, at 5:00 PM in the Plant 5 cafeteria. All who are interested in Amateur Radio are invited to attend. Board meetings are held eight days before the General Meetings and GARC members are invited to attend, but please call Pat Masterson, KE2LJ, at 516-346-6316 to confirm place and time of meeting

Attendees should enter at Grumman Road West (Hazel St.) and drive down to the new entrance at the west side of plant 5, then go to the visitors parking.