The CAA is launching a project to study language communication problems within the aviation industry.

The research will look at whether poor command of English – the language of global aviation – amongst some pilots and air traffic controllers, is leading to increased safety risks. It will also explore how existing methods of maintaining clarity can be enhanced to reduce or eliminate language–related problems.

The CAA said there is evidence to suggest that proficiency of ‘Aviation English’ the industry’s communicative standard – regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – is not always at the required level amongst some pilots operating in the UK, and some air traffic controllers working internationally.

The research, funded by the UK Department for Transport under the auspices of the UK State Safety Programme, will be undertaken by Dr Barbara Clark, a linguist and anthropologist specialising in aviation communication and safety at Queen Mary, University of London.

Setting out the project’s agenda, Dr Clark said: “This project shows that the UK recognises the need to maintain clear and unambiguous communication in aviation, and is treating it as a serious matter. Most interaction between pilots and controllers happens without any ambiguity or misunderstanding, but there are still instances where meaning is unclear, not everyone is on the same page, and mistakes can happen. Given the global nature of aviation and the many different cultural backgrounds of pilots and controllers, it’s understandable that some misunderstandings occur.”

The research results will be available in 2014 and the findings will be shared with the international aviation industry.

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