Accession Number:

ADA461355

Title:

The Outcome of ATC Message Complexity on Pilot Readback Performance

Descriptive Note:

Final rept.

Corporate Author:

FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION OKLAHOMA CITY OK CIVIL AEROMEDICAL INST

Report Date:

2006-11-01

Pagination or Media Count:

36.0

Abstract:

Field data and laboratory studies conducted in the 1990s reported that the rate of pilot readback errors and communication problems increased as controller transmissions became more complex. This resulted in the recommendation that controllers send shorter messages to reduce the memory load imposed on pilots by complex messages. More than 10 years have passed since a comprehensive analysis quantified the types and frequency of readback errors and communication problems that occur in the operational environment. Hence, a content analysis was performed on 50 hours of pilot and controller messages that were transmitted from 5 of the busiest terminal radar approach control facilities in the contiguous United States between October 2003 and February 2004. This report contains detailed and comprehensive descriptions of routine air traffic control ATC communication, pilot readback performance, call sign usage, miscommunications, and the effects of ATC message complexity and message length on pilot readback performance. Of importance was the finding that both the number of pilot requests and readback errors increased as the complexity and number of aviation topics in ATC messages increased - especially when pilots were performing approach tasks as compared with departure tasks. Also, nonstandard phraseology associated with a lack of English language proficiency and international communications were present in the data. In particular, pilot use of the word point as part of a radio frequency was included in the read back of altitude three point five and speed two point seven on the speed. To limit the occurrence of communication problems and misunderstandings, controllers should be encouraged to transmit shorter and less complex messages. With increases in international travel, areas of concern related to English language proficiency and language production need to be addressed.

Subject Categories:

  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Air Navigation and Guidance
  • Voice Communications
  • Terminal Flight Facilities
  • Commercial and General Aviation

Distribution Statement:

APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE