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Aerospace Medicine Technical Reports

FAA Office of Aerospace Medicine
Civil Aerospace Medical Institute

Report No: DOT/FAA/AM-10/18

Title and Subtitle: U.S. Airline Transport Pilot International Flight Language Experiences, Report 5: Language Experiences in Native English-Speaking Airspace/Airports

Report Date: December 2010

Authors: Prinzo OV, Campbell A, Hendrix A, Hendrix R

Abstract: In 1998, the International Civil Aviation Organization took a heightened interest in the role of language in airline accidents. Member states agreed to take steps to ensure air traffic control personnel and flight crews involved in flight operations in airspace where the use of the English language is required were proficient in conducting and comprehending radiotelephony communications in English.

This report is a compilation of written responses and comments by U.S. pilots from American, Continental, Delta, and United Airlines of their difficulties in international operations. In this report, the pilots' responses to questions 46-53 are presented as a compiled narrative. Their responses had eight major thrusts from which we derived the following five recommendations:
  1. Adopt a standard dialect for use in ATC communications.
  2. All trainees and current certified professional controllers successfully complete instruction and training in the principles of voice production and articulation as it relates to ATC communication.
  3. Define an optimal rate of speech for use by certified professional controllers when communicating with pilots. Research is needed to provide guidance on the optimal rate of speech for different populations of speakers - U.S., Foreign.
  4. Develop new standard phraseology for non-routine events. Generally, the controller needs to have the pilot answer one question, "What do you need from me?" The controller would coordinate the appropriate actions to provide the pilot with what is needed.
  5. Controllers should be discouraged from using local jargon, slang, idiomatic expressions, and other forms of conversational communications when transmitting messages to pilots. Although colorful and fun, they have no place in air traffic control and diminish situational awareness, can lead to requests for repeat, and otherwise disrupt information transfer.

Key Words: Communications, ATC Communication, Air Traffic Control

No. of Pages: 23

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