“Tally One” Defined

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We’ve had a lot of people ask us lately what “Tally One” means, so I thought it would be a good idea to briefly explain.

Airborne communication can be considered an art more than a skill.  With several aircraft and controllers using the same frequency, it is crucial to use clear, concise, and correct communication – especially in busy airspace.  Military communications can come at an even higher premium.  A combat aviator can be very busy with tactics, targeting, and several other responsibilities in addition to flying the aircraft.  It is therefore necessary to maximum the use of standardized operating procedures and comm brevity words.  “Tally” is one such word.

“Tally” springs from the term “tally ho”, which is typically used in traditional foxhunts to indicate a fox has been spotted.  “Tally ho” began to be used during WWII by allied pilots to indicate an enemy aircraft was in sight.

The word “tally”, as used by military pilots today, means an enemy aircraft has been acquired visually.  When running an intercept to a visual merge (point of intercept), the pilot will communicate the visual pick-up to the flight members and C2.  This is done to confirm the number of aircraft tracked by aircraft sensors equals the number of aircraft seen by the pilot’s eye.  If I were running an intercept on an enemy fighter, I would make the following radio call pre-merge and when visual: “Raptor 1, tally one!”

This brief communication lets my wingmen know I have visually acquired the objective and confirms the number of aircraft seen.  It also tells the other blue air players (the good guys) that I have the ability to visually fight the potentially hostile aircraft.

This military comm brevity term has spilled over into the civilian arena.  If you’ve ever been in the traffic pattern with military aircraft (or a military pilot flying GA) you may have heard “tally one!” in response to ATC traffic advisories.

Why did we choose “Tally One” for the name of our website?  We want to create a site where the action is taking place; where aviation buffs can get their flying fix when not in the air.  Our vision is to provide a venue where military and civilian pilots can “merge” and open a dialogue to share stories and learn from each other.  We hope you continue on this journey with us and we would love to hear your stories!

So, the next time you have your objective in sight be sure to yell “TALLY ONE!” (Just be ready for strange, startled looks from those around you.)

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