When pilots stopped using “Morse” code and switched to voice operation, they used the word “Roger,” which was the phonetic designation for the letter “R,” which was previously the abbreviation for “received.”
Although aviation communication seems to be a very simple thing to do now, it was one of the most complicated things during the early stages of aviation. Since December 17th, 1903, when the Wright brothers made the first successful flight in history, communication with pilots in the air has been a real challenge.
Visual aids like colored paddles, signal flares, and hand signs were used at the beginning as means of communication. However, the first air-to-ground radio communication used Morse code and operators used short signals in order to save time.
In the times when messages were sent via telegraph (in Morse code), one of those short signals that were used was the letter “R”, as an abbreviation for “received.” This meant that pilots confirmed that they had received the message and the instructions.
But what about flying at night? How did the pilots communicate with ground staff when they started flying at night? Nowadays we can book flights anytime we want, but this was not the case in the early stages of aviation. Finding visual landmarks at night was not an easy task and something that would change that had to be done.
American pilot Jack Knight made the first successful overnight air mail connection in the United States on February 22nd, 1921, but without effective communication, this would be impossible for him. Thanks to the signal fires along the flight path lit by post office employees, airfield managers, and even local farmers, Knight was able to succeed and by doing that he also secured himself a place in history.
Aviation communication is not just an important and essential subject, but it also has a fascinating history. At some point in our lives, we have all heard a pilot using the word “Roger.” Some of us have heard it in real life, but most people know that pilots often use that word from movies and television.
– We have clearance, Clearance.
– Roger, Roger.
– What’s your vector, Victor?
Radio: “We have radio clearance, over…”
– That’s Clearance, over. – O’ver.
– Roger, over.