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After September 11th, the FAA required all Part 135 air carrier flights to prefix their registration number with a "T" and use the "Tango November" prefix on the radio.

Every once in a great while (about once to twice a year) I still hear someone doing this, but surely there are more 135 flights than this.

Is it (or was it ever) required to use the "T" prefix for Part 135 flights?

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  • $\begingroup$ As I mentioned below, its required to be on the strip, and controllers read everything that's on the strip. The issue with the pilots/controller's glossary is that it pertains to pilots, not controllers. $\endgroup$ – rbp Dec 6 '14 at 0:25
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Since you're asking if it's required then I believe the answer is no.

First, just to include the information from another answer, the AIM 4-2-4 only says "should", not "must" (my emphasis):

4. Air Taxi or other commercial operators not having FAA authorized call signs should prefix their normal identification with the phonetic word "Tango."

EXAMPLE- Tango Aztec Two Four Six Four Alpha.

Second, the FAA's Joint Order defining ATC regulations says in section 2-4-20 (my emphasis):

Air taxi and commercial operators not having FAA authorized call signs. State the prefix “TANGO” on initial contact, if used by the pilot, followed by the registration number. The prefix may be dropped in subsequent communications

That's the only mention of this prefix in the entire ATC regulations, therefore it's safe to say that controllers don't need the prefix and aren't required to do anything when they hear it.

On the AOPA forums there are a couple of unsupported comments that the prefix was used to give commercial flights priority in the past, and that it's still used for gathering statistics on flights today (although it seems like a very unreliable mechanism for that).

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  • $\begingroup$ I can't agree with your interpretation of AIM 4-2-4 because by your logic, the aircraft type and digits of the aircraft registration number are also optional, which we know to be untrue, notwithstanding the AIM's definitions of "should" and "must": "3. Civil aircraft pilots should state the aircraft type, model or manufacturer’s name, followed by the digits/letters of the registration number" $\endgroup$ – rbp Dec 8 '14 at 17:00
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AIM 4-2-4, part A.

4. Air Taxi or other commercial operators not having FAA authorized call signs should prefix their normal identification with the phonetic word "Tango."

EXAMPLE- Tango Aztec Two Four Six Four Alpha.

It was pre-911 but not often used. It is just a way for operators who have no callsign to let ATC know that they are a charter operation. If appropriate, it may be dropped after initial contact, just like shortening your tail number.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would we want them to know that??? Apart from the AIM recommendation is there any requirement to use it? Also, do you have a reference for dropping it after initial contact? $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 20 '14 at 4:57
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know why you'd want them to know. Priority issues maybe? I understand why you'd add a callsign for a lifeguard flight but I don't know why it's relevant that you have a Tango for 135. Also I don't know what "other commercial operators" means, does that include flight schools? Anyway, it's under the same subsection of 4-2-4 that explains how to abbreviate callsigns, so I would assume that it may also be abbreviated. Also a lot of people on airliners.net saying that -if they use it at all- they drop it as long as ATC does as well. $\endgroup$ – StallSpin Feb 20 '14 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ Ummm, I'm fairly certain that ATC doesn't offer 135 flights priority. ;-) Other commercial operators would include 121 operators (although I doubt that there are many without a call sign). Not sure about the flight school! Anyway, do you know if there is a legal requirement to use it? That's a big part of the answer that I'm looking for. $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Feb 20 '14 at 5:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Lnafziger maybe not priority directly, but I know of at least one southest Texas TRACON that tends to ignore calls from GA aircraft when they feel like it. In this case perhaps "Tango" in front of what would otherwise look like a random GA flight lets controllers like that know they should respond. $\endgroup$ – casey Feb 20 '14 at 14:42
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The "T" (Tango) designation is required to be used by controllers, as per the Air Traffic Controller's Handbook:

Section 4. Radio and Interphone Communications

2−4−20. AIRCRAFT IDENTIFICATION

Use the full identification in reply to aircraft with similar sounding identifications. For other aircraft, the same identification may be used in reply that the pilot used in his/her initial callup except use the correct identification after communications have been established. Identify aircraft as follows:

...

  1. Air taxi and commercial operators not having FAA authorized call signs. State the prefix “TANGO” on initial contact, if used by the pilot, followed by the registration number. The prefix may be dropped in subsequent communications. EXAMPLE− “Tango Mooney Five Five Five Two Quebec.” “Tango November One Two Three Four.”

[emphasis mine]

AIM Section 2-4-2 is a little more difficult to parse because it uses the term should instead of must:

  1. Call signs should never be abbreviated on an initial contact...

3. Civil aircraft pilots should state the aircraft type, model or manufacturer's name, followed by the digits/letters of the registration number.

4. Air Taxi or other commercial operators not having FAA authorized call signs should prefix their normal identification with the phonetic word "Tango."

[emphasis mine]

Since we know item 3 is not optional even though it uses the term should, we must question whether the use of should in item 4 is optional, and it is my belief that not using tango on the initial call up would violate item 1.

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