I keep meaning to ask this question. I heard "Tally-ho" used for the first time by a pilot on Liveatc.net. I know these are pretty standard phrases in military aviation but I wondered if civil pilots use them. Are they acceptable under either FAA or ICAO standards? If not, what's the likelihood a controller will know what you mean?

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    $\begingroup$ Technically no, and using one with a controller who may be unfamiliar may get you chewed out over the radio. Also I think if you use "tally-ho" you are required to buy everybody on the frequency a bottle of whiskey. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jul 13 '16 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer Scotch or bourbon? $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jul 13 '16 at 1:01
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    $\begingroup$ I'd say bourbon, Scotch is technically whisky (yes there is a difference between whiskey and whisky) :) $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Jul 13 '16 at 1:59
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    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer The pilot I heard is going to need a case of it. It was a FedEx pilot right in the thick of the PM inbound rush. There may have been 30 aircraft on approach at the time. The controller sounded like an auctioneer giving out vectors. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jul 13 '16 at 13:50
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    $\begingroup$ You are allowed to yell out Tally Ho! whenever you see a fox. Do not attempt to chase the fox with the airplane. $\endgroup$ – Tyler Durden Jul 13 '16 at 19:03

As a private pilot, I have heard "Tally-ho" and other pseudo (British?) military phrases used when talking to ATC. I understand "Tally-ho" to be equivalent to "target(s) in sight" or "inbound" or even in some cases "affirmative", and that's the problem. It is important to be clear and precise when communicating on the radio, however, the folks working at ATC seem to understand these phrases.


I've read the AIM - Aeronautical Information Manual and Pilot's handbook of aeronautical knowlage (Both available for free download from the FAA's website) and I don't remember seeing these phrases anywhere.

Other texts caution against using these colorful phrases instead of standard phraseology because problems stemming from varied interpretations. It is important to be clear and precise when communicating on the radio.

I think the correct terminology is: "Traffic In Sight" and "Negative contact"

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    $\begingroup$ Tally-ho should specifically mean "target in sight." It comes from fox hunting. It's what you yell when you spot the fox to send the dogs after it. $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jul 13 '16 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ See, I learned something this morning, @TomMcW (and I appreciate that). Prior to reading your comment, I'd have thought it meant "Hello" or "Let's go", or something similar. Hence the reason for using the very clear "Traffic in sight". $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 13 '16 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Learned that from all the fox hunts I've been on. (...as if!) $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Jul 13 '16 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ Another correctly phrased reply: "[aircraft id] looking for traffic." $\endgroup$ – ammPilot Feb 4 '18 at 16:16

No, they aren't considered acceptable although you do hear them from time to time. Neither term is in the P/CG and the AIM 4-2-1 says:

Good phraseology enhances safety and is the mark of a professional pilot. Jargon, chatter, and “CB” slang have no place in ATC communications. The Pilot/Controller Glossary is the same glossary used in FAA Order JO 7110.65, Air Traffic Control. We recommend that it be studied and reviewed from time to time to sharpen your communication skills.

In other words, if it isn't in the P/CG then don't use it. Of course in reality some pilots do use military terms for whatever reason (force of habit?) but it's definitely discouraged. Apart from anything else, many pilots have no military background (or are foreigners) and have no idea what these or other slang/military phrases might mean.

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  • $\begingroup$ "foreigners" is a relatively loose term there. He tagged it faa-regulations, but "Tally-ho" is very much a British expression, so it wouldn't make sense to those of us who are foreign to Britain/UK. $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Jul 13 '16 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Yes, that was exactly my point although I've rephrased it a bit to be clearer $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 13 '16 at 12:51

NO. Not an acceptable term.

As stated earlier by others - the term has no official recognition and would only serve to confuse. Only a tiny (and rapidly diminishing) number across the globe appreciate its original 1930's context.

Some commonsense and logical analysis: "Land Ho" means "land in sight!"

"Tally" is another word for a score - or for a count of sorts.

It follows that somebody announcing "Tally Ho" is excitedly anticipating racking up a score. This could be foxes or Messerschmitts. Of course, this only makes sense in the context of a heart-felt outburst in the heat of the moment in old England - or a place influenced by old English culture.

Use of "Tally Ho" in civil aviation makes no sense at all. How would you intend to "rack up" the score?

Tally Ho is believed to be based on a French expression from way back: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tally-ho

It is the nature of humanity to bend language out of shape... What do you call an AERObatic machine designed by AEROnautical engineers? Not an AEROplane?

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Apr 12 '18 at 13:55

"No Joy" or "Tally-Ho" are not acceptable when talking on aviation bands.

Worse yet, they are not even true military terms. While "Tally" does mean you have the enemy in sight, notice there is no "Ho" attached to it.

Since you are up there and NOT shooting at people you should use the term "Visual" when you can see the aircraft being referenced. Visual is not only a military term, meaning you see a friendly but it is also used in civilian aviation and means EXACTLY the same thing.

But! It's just easier to say, "Tower, traffic in sight."

Roger, Wilco (will comply) are great words that mean things. I use them all the time.

Telling ATC your fuel is "Bingo" will get you killed, declare an emergency instead.

Fly safe! Blue skies!

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Av.SE $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Jun 23 '19 at 22:53

"Tally Ho!" was adopted by US military pilots during WWII, from British fighter pilots. Who in turn had adopted it from fox hunting. The US pilots must have just liked the sound of it, although it was an official part of the lexicon of British pilots.

They used lots of other lovely quaint terms. "Angels" for flight level, "Bogeys" for enemy aircraft. And the Navy had a particular anti-submarine manoeuvre they called "Raspberry"! Nothing like some jolly fun during a war old boy.

You still hear "Tally Ho" used by military pilots on both sides of the Atlantic, with the same meaning it had in WWII.

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  • $\begingroup$ interesting information, but not really an answer $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jun 26 '19 at 3:53

They aren't "quaint" terms, but are pulled from military terminology that IS approved for use in the air:


Example: No Joy, Bogey, Angels

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    $\begingroup$ No. Brevity codes are for use with other military aircraft. They're not approved (in whatever sense terminology for civilian use is approved) for use by civil aircraft in communication with ATC. They're official terms in one context, but they aren't approved, nor appropriate, in a civil context. $\endgroup$ – Ralph J Oct 2 '19 at 21:56

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