ICAO Releases Phraseology Study Results

 - August 20, 2012, 4:25 PM

The International Civil Aviation Organization has concluded that ambiguous or confusing ATC phraseology “is a frequent contributor to aircraft accidents and incidents.” In the recently released results of a phraseology study that it conducted, ICAO maintains that “a miscommunication could potentially lead to a dangerous situation without any of the involved stakeholders being aware,” especially in regions where English is not the native language. The study gathered information from 2,070 pilots and 568 controllers all over the globe. Fifty-four percent of respondents reported there were specific issues created by non-standard phraseology they identified as threats such as number and word confusions such as “two” and “to,” or “Turn to heading zero four zero” rather than “turn heading zero four zero.” Forty-four percent of pilots said they experience nonstandard phraseology at least once per flight. Thirty-eight percent said once in every 10 flights and 12 percent once per 100 flights. Six percent reported no experiences with non-standard phraseology. Of 526 pilots who reported operating primarily in North America, 27 percent reported cases of non-standard phraseology, more than any other region. Of 435 European-based pilots, 22 percent reported that region as where the most problems with phraseology occurred. Two hundred and one Asia-Pacific-based pilots reported occurrences in that region only 10 percent of the time. Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport was most often identified as a location where the threat of confusion existed, but in almost all cases it was because of the use of both English and a local language in pilot communication and not specifically for non-standard phraseology.

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Comments

Curt Carlson's picture

As a pilot and check flying world wide operations non-standard phraseology is an every day situation. In the U.S. now if you question a controller about a clearance, they are not required to respond or correct the question. Thankfully most do. Communication, especially, correct phraseology is extremely important. As a check pilot I remind pilots all the time not in overseas operations to use proper terms, not slang. It works both ways for pilots and controllers.

Curt Carlson's picture

As a pilot and check flying world wide operations non-standard phraseology is an every day situation. In the U.S. now if you question a controller about a clearance, they are not required to respond or correct the question. Thankfully most do. Communication, especially, correct phraseology is extremely important. As a check pilot I remind pilots all the time not in overseas operations to use proper terms, not slang. It works both ways for pilots and controllers.

Don Brown's picture

This is the litmus test. If you're serious about safety, you have to be serious about phraseology. Any flight in the USA will reveal that the FAA is not serious about safety. Phraseology receives only lip service. The non-standard phraseology in daily use is nothing short of appalling -- on both sides of the microphone.

Using correct phraseology costs nothing. But without some profit-seeking contractor to push for it, phraseology takes a back seat to the next piece of gee-whiz technology that will never increase safety like the consistent, professional use of standard phraseology could.

Don Brown
http://gettheflick.blogspot.com/

Captain Paul's picture

In my point of view, correct is to say "turn to...heading zero four zero". Not using the preposition "to" by the ATC controller could lead the pilot to a misunderstanding should be the case:"climb to two five zero"....instead of "climb two (or to?) four zero", when the assigned level 250 could be misunderstood by 50 as it often happens all around the world....!!!
Both controllers and pilots should be watched by ICAO ...

B. Taylor's picture

I fly to and from French-speaking areas of Canada all the time, and they often use both English and French over the radio. If ICAO says that English is the official language, then logic dictates that anything other than standardized English should be considered nonstandard. That's probably the reason Paris Charles DeGaulle is cited as such a problem airport. The French love their language, no problem there, but apparently safety takes a back seat to their preferences.

matt's picture

I have flown into Mexico and over Cuba and both countries will speak Spanish to their own pilots who speak Spanish to ATC. So France and Quebec province in Canada are not the only places where this could be an issue.

matt's picture

I fly into Mexico and over Cuba and their ATC will speak Spanish to their respective pilots when spoken to in Spanish. France and Quebec province of Canada are not the only places where this could be an issue.

George Miller 's picture

I fly in the Caribbean.
Controllers in Dominican Republic also speak Spanish to Spanish speaking pilots. They also invariably get call signs wrong.
Controllers & pilots in the French islands (Martinique, Guadeloupe, etc. also speak French to each other.

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