Pilot English Language Proficiency and the Prevalence of Communication Problems at Five U.S. Air Route Traffic Control Centers
FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION OKLAHOMA CITY OK CIVIL AEROMEDICAL INST
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Air traffic control ATC voice communication is built upon a readback-hearback loop Controllers send messages to pilots who listen and then recite back their contents. Successful communication requires participants to conduct and understand ATC radiotelephony in the same language. Since inadequate language proficiency was involved in some aviation accidents, the International Civil Aviation Organization ICAO is requiring its contracting states to ensure that ATC personnel and flight crews are proficient communicators of the English language when operating in airspace where the English language is required. Within the U.S., data are lacking concerning the prevalence of ATC communication problems attributable to the production and comprehension of English. This report presents communication problems involving readback errors, breakdowns in communication, and requests for repetition by commercial airline pilots. An analysis was performed on 50 hrs of air-ground transmissions provided by five ARTCCs. Each controller transmission was paired with its readback. Each readback was scored for accuracy. The ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale guided encoding English language proficiency. Aircraft call signs were used to classify transmissions by aircraft registry U.S., Foreign and language English, Other, forming three groups Foreign-English, Foreign-Other, and U.S.-English. Communications were analyzed from 832 aircraft 74 U.S., 26 Foreign for 4,816 pilot transmissions 78 English, 22 Other. Of these aircraft transactions, 23 contained one or more communication problems. MANOVA and ANOVA revealed that when English was the primary language or pilots flew U.S. aircraft, there were fewer communication problems, less time was spent on frequency, and fewer messages were transmitted than when pilots flew foreign aircraft or the primary language was not English.
- Commercial and General Aviation
- Air Navigation and Guidance
- Radio Communications