How would the pilot of Marine One identify himself to air traffic control without the President on board? Does it have an N-number? If anyone knows, I would like a specific call sign/N-number of any of the Sea Kings. In particular, how would a Sea King pilot flying alone identify themselves to air traffic control?
Marine one is the call sign of any of the (300+) United States Marine Corps aircraft carrying the President of the United States. So, if he's not on board, the aircraft reverts back to its original radio call sign.
In case you are asking about the Marine Helicopter Squadron One, you can find the ID from helis.com. HMX-1 uses the call sign 'NIGHTHAWK' usually, but this is prone to change depending on the circumstances. From the site:
In Korea, call signs changed on a regular basis; during the Vietnam War, squadrons might use the same call sign for more than a year. Today, squadrons deploying to a combat zone,i.e. Iraq and Afghanistan, are assigned a "theater" call sign for use during that deployment only.
You seem to be confused about a couple of things. To clear everything up and reiterate some of what was said in other answers:
- US military aircraft do not have "N-numbers" but they do have registration numbers (Bureau Numbers or BuNos).
- Just like civil airliners, which have N-numbers but usually use callsigns and flight numbers instead, military aircraft will often identify themselves using a callsign and mission number.
When identifying using the BuNo, ATC will refer to the flights using "the service name, followed by the word 'copter,' when appropriate, and the last 5 digits of the serial number" (FAA JO 7110.65 2–4–20 6a). For example, the Sea King with the registration number 159357 would be "Marine Copter Five Niner Three Five Seven" (
If not using their registration number as an identifier, Navy or Marine fleet and training command aircraft use "the service name and 2 letters, or a digit and a letter, followed by 2 or 3 digits" (2–4–20 6h2), for example "Marine Four Charlie Two Three Six" (
USAF, ANG, and "Military District of Washington priority aircraft" use "pronounceable words of 3 to 6 letters followed by a 1 to 5 digit number" (2–4–20 6h1), which is the "tactical callsign" others have alluded to. Apparently HMX-1 uses "Nighthawk," for example "Nighthawk Eight-Four" (
NTHWK84 or similar; the spellings can be forced at times).
So a Marine pilot from HMX-1 who is calling ATC might identify themselves as follows:
Potomac Approach, Nighthawk Eight-Four, flight of three Sea Kings (type code
The actual mission number used in the identification will be assigned by the unit's planning and ops department, as jwenting said, and may or may not have any relation to any number painted on the aircraft.
1The service prefixes for registration-number IDs are as follows: Air Force:
R, Coast Guard:
C, National Guard:
VM (7110.65 2–3–5 b4a).
US military aircraft use mission callsigns, which can change with every flight, not tail numbers. Therefore, it is impossible to provide a comprehensive list for what a particular aircraft might use.
That said, squadrons often perform the same mission repeatedly, which means using the same callsign prefix, e.g. "Nighthawk" for the squadron you're asking about. That prefix is usually followed by a mission number, similar to an airline flight number.
However, some missions are unique and therefore do not need a number, and some missions (e.g. Air Force One and Marine One) always use the same number. The only hard rule is that there should never be two aircraft in the air at the same time with the same callsign.