Communication: a Critical Skill in Aviation Operations


I confess, in my spare time I like to read ICAO publications like Circular 323-AN/185, which provides guidance to aviation entities that need the services of an aviation English trainer.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the publication, which emphasized how critical clear, concise communication is in aviation operations.  

From pg 28: The role of communication in safety, particularly between air traffic controllers and pilots, is critical. Just how critical is apparent from research conducted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA): “NASA researchers analyzed the causes of jet transport accidents and incidents between 1968 and 1976 and concluded that pilot error was more likely to reflect failures in team communication and coordination than deficiencies in technical proficiency.

Human factors issues related to interpersonal communication have been implicated in approximately 70% to 80% of all accidents over the past 20 years. Correspondingly, over 70% of the first 28,000 reports made to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (which allows pilots to confidentially report aviation incidents) were found to be related to communication problems.” (see Sexton & Helmreich in Appendix A, Section A7). 

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In my opinion, being current and qualified to fly internationally is about more than a level 4 OACI certification.  Lives are at stake, and just as pilots and controllers must be assessed monthly, and quarterly for many aspects of their job (PAR approaches, holding, max weight takeoffs, etc) so should communication in our lingua franca be regularly and more frequently assessed.  

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