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Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers Phraseology Study

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Category: Air Ground Communication Air Ground Communication
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IATA Pilots & Air Traffic Controllers Phraseology Study

The International Air Transport Association (IATA), together with the International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), jointly prepared an on-line survey regarding communication issues, focusing on the non-use of ICAO standard phraseology. Separate surveys for both airline Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) were prepared to collate the lessons learned and identify potential safety recommendations in the area of communications. This Report "Pilots and Air Traffic Controllers Phraseology Study" is the outcome of these surveys.

The use of “Aviation English” was explicitly excluded from the survey as this issue has been managed through other venues. The survey was designed to identify areas where established phraseology, or local phraseology, has been, or has the potential, to be misunderstood.

Executive Summary

"This Phraseology Survey was directed by the IATA Operations Committee (OPC) and supported by the IATA Safety Group (SG) as a means of collating Pilot and Air Traffic Controller (ATC) input on areas where the non-use of ICAO standard phraseology results in actual or potential misunderstandings, or where local phrases create potential safety risks. This interim report was created to present the initial findings of the survey and to identify areas where additional analysis is required.

This survey aims at the initial evaluation of the risk associated with the air-ground communication and performs a synthesis of the issues related to the safety of such events. IATA, in collaboration with International Federation of Air Line Pilots' Associations (IFALPA) and the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA), conducted this study. The scope of the study was communication and the use of non-standard phraseology between Pilots and Controllers during all phases of flight.

A first step in reducing the incidence of communication problems is to identify the types of events and locations where they occurred. This survey of Pilots and ATC was organized within that framework to identify categories of events, and recommendations from Pilots and Controllers to improve communications.

This report presents the analysis of

  • 1978 Pilots survey responses
  • 560 Air Traffic Controllers surveys responses

It was notable that there was a reduced number of responses from both types of participants in regions where English was not the principal language. As a consequence, these surveys are now being translated into a number of local languages in the hope of ensuring a broader scope of responses from all major regions of the world.

Furthermore, a summary of the recommendations made by Pilots and Controllers in the survey is provided with respect to the following types of communication problems mainly: non-standard phraseology, lack of harmonization, and use of local language."


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Further Reading

AGC Safety Letters:

EUROCONTROL Action Plan for Air-Ground Communications Safety: