This question Are "Tally-ho" and "no joy" acceptable ATC terms for civil operations? concerns the use of the phrase "Tally Ho" to mean "target in sight" in civilian air-traffic-control communication.

It was largely answered (and somewhat asked) in relation to the US/FAA, where it is not acceptable but sometime heard. However "Tally Ho" is/was a British phrase, and my question asks the same specifically of British/NATS/CAA communication. Again, I'm interested as to whether it is actually heard, and whether or not it's generally considered acceptable.

I am aware that some efforts are made to keep English usage international, though most feeds/transcript I've heard from the US have an awful lot of regional idioms and phrasing in them, so I'm not sure the extent to which it is adhered to.

(For people outside the UK, "Tally Ho" is generally considered archaic and comically mannered in general life these days, even within the UK, which is why I'm particularly interested as to whether its usage survives here in aviation).

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure whether it's heard more in the UK, but it isn't part of the standard phraseology for ICAO member states, which basically means it shouldn't be used. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Feb 19, 2017 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ I don't recall it (and I think I would) from listening in on ATC at Heathrow and Gatwick in the 90s while working for NATS. $\endgroup$
    – Chris H
    Feb 20, 2017 at 9:10

5 Answers 5


I have never heard "tally ho" used in civilian aviation and it not a recognised phrase so should not be used. A civilian ATCO would not think positively about anyone using that phrase.

It used to be used in military comms in combat. Its usage arose during WW1 when the Royal Flying Corps (and later the Royal Air Force) drew its crews mostly from the "officer classes" who, in general, were also fox hunters or supporters of the same.

"Tally ho" is the cry shouted out by a huntsman when the fox is spotted and the hunt is on.

I served in the RAF from 1976 to 1986. Then as a civilian in the military until 1993 and in that time never heard the phrase. I suspect that it has died out since it is not standard phraseology and perpetuates stereotypes which have no place in modern, professional organisations.

A non-standard, but common phrase is a simple "visual", but the correct phrase in both civilian and military use is "traffic in sight".

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    $\begingroup$ I believe "Tally Ho" originates from WWII, not WWI. WWI planes did not use voice radios. However Tally Ho" was official code in WWII. $\endgroup$ Feb 19, 2017 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @DJClayworth Not so sure. I'll try to dig out some definitive "first use". My, albeit uncertain, belief is that one crew would shout to the other when a bandit was sighted. $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Feb 19, 2017 at 20:48

No, Tally-Ho is not accepted phraseology in UK civil aviation, and in 14 years of flying in the UK I've never heard anyone use it. At non-ATC airfields you occasionally hear some non-standard phrases, often with a bit of humor, but I've never heard that one.

If a controller asks if you have visual contact with an aircraft you would just say "affirmative" or "negative", or you can say something like "G-BT is visual the traffic". If you are in the circuit (pattern) and you can see there's another airplane in front of you you can report "contact one ahead".

Tally-Ho is anachronistic, and you'd never use it conversationally except in irony.


No, "tally-ho" is not acceptable. CAP 413, the UK Radiotelephony Manual, defines a correct response to traffic information like this:

G-CD, traffic is a Cherokee upwind and a Tomahawk late downwind

Roger, G-CD


Traffic in sight, G-CD

The phrase "tally-ho" is not mentioned anywhere in CAP 413.


The short answer is no. It is never used by either controllers or pilots. "In sight" would be the term used by civilians.

It's true, that I have never conducted a survey. It was mentioned earlier that CAP 413 (which is the reference) doesn't mention it: that leaves us, I guess, with either the training we've received, if that was in the UK, or the little experience we have. I humbly have both. I completed my training years ago there and I fly, day in day out in UK airspace, from Heathrow to Bigin hill, London city, or even RAF Northolt, and have been doing so, for a good 17 years and counting. Again, in that timeframe I have never ever heard it.

On a side note, most if not all my British colleagues come from the RAF, and even with them I have never heard "tally-ho" or maybe as a joke amongst us.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It is, in fact, used by pilots. Whether it should be is another matter and the question that should be answered here. $\endgroup$
    – J Walters
    Feb 19, 2017 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Davidricherby,True, i have never conducted a survey. It was mentioned earlier that CAP 413( which is the reference) doesn't mention it, it leaves us, I guess, with either the training we've received if that was in the UK or the little experience we have. I humbly have both. I completed my training years ago there and I fly, day in day out in UK airspace, from heathrow to bigin hill,London city or even raf northolt, and have been doing so, for a good 17 years... And counting. Again in that timeframe I have never ever heard it.Does that mean, no one has never used it ever...? Maybe, but that wo $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2017 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Heliomaster Now that that has been edited into your answer (always best to put it in the answer, rather than the comments), I think that's a big improvement. Downvote reversed -- thanks! $\endgroup$ Feb 21, 2017 at 13:58

In Iran , in the fghter section of the air force , (fighter squadrons ) , we use Tally Ho for ( target insight ) and No Joy for ( target not in sight ) . I flow F-4D/Es & F-14s in Iranian air force for 25 years & have 8 years war experience with Iraq , incuding 5 air kills with Tomcats .


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