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ICAO publishes study on Phraseology

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ICAO publishes study on Phraseology

Old 27th Aug 2012, 02:14
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ICAO publishes study on Phraseology

ICAO Releases Phraseology Study Results

AINsafety » August 20, 2012 by Robert P. Mark

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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Old 27th Aug 2012, 03:13
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... "but in almost all cases it was because of the use of both English and a local language in pilot communication"...

Why don't they simply say "both English and French in pilot communication", actually, more French than English, since every pilot who has ever been there will be very aware of, and annoyed with!

I was based in Paris CDG for the summer a few years ago, and I thought it WAS quite dangerous a number of times, you really had to keep a very good lookout!
Often, directions were transmitted in French and not repeated in English until you responded in English...and, of course, nobody knew what anybody else was doing, as I said, dangerous!

Last edited by EW73; 27th Aug 2012 at 03:14.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 03:56
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I was based in Paris CDG for the summer a few years ago, and I thought it WAS quite dangerous a number of times, you really had to keep a very good lookout!
As, sadly, the SD330 captain who found himself with his co-pilot's severed head in his lap found out


Last edited by 212man; 27th Aug 2012 at 07:58.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 08:16
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Ah, but French is an official ICAO language (as is Spanish and Russian). So, it´s their own doing really.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 08:58
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There is also a problem with non English controllers issuing instructions in English without clearly articulating or with a particularly heavy accent (or speaking in a rushed manner, or both!). I was told off at AMS the other day for having incorrectly read back a clearance due to these very reasons! At this point we are re-defining "ICAO English"!!!

Agreed France can be particularly bad - calls in English mixed in between French transmissions in a terminal environment can make it quite challenging.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 09:28
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Russia, France, Spain, Italy....Welcome to europe. Not only phraseology is an issue in these countries, also in CIS countries you have those traffics with no TCAS on board so actually you can not see them on your screen.

BTW, looks like the culture of CIS countries is the "faster you talk in English the better you speak the lenguage", Also they issue 3 orders at the same time: "Descend to....meters, go to heading...., contact radio..."
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 09:33
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French being an official ICAO language has zero to do with the fact that local pilots and controllers speak French at French Airports.

The ICAO legislation states that a pilot and controller must communicate in the language commonly used by the state, which is French. If one party does not know the local language, only then, English should be used.
That is the rule. the French are only complying with ICAO.

Let me add that also in the UK, ATC uses non ICAO phraseology which is annoyin and a safety risk.
Eg. Turn heading 030 DEGREES... absolute crap!
" when established on the localiser, descend with the glidesplope" instead of Cleared ILS or Cleared Approach.

All states should get standardised, but if already this is impossible in English Speaking countries ( dont get me started on the USA), imagine how difficult this is in other countries...
ICAO must change first their own legislation, and then get serious on making sure member states conform with the rules.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 10:19
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I understood that non-ICAO phrases used in the UK were to avoid some of the misunderstandings which can exist in ICAO phraseology and which have been shown to pose a flight safety risk. I know that they have all been carefully scrutinised before being implemented and have been notified as being non ICAO standard phrases.

On a completely separate point, I always have a chuckle in the USA when pilots say 'oh' as a numeral and controllers (nearly) all say zero.

Last edited by beardy; 27th Aug 2012 at 10:22.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 10:42
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As a french pilot working abroad (Italy) I have to understand the safety issue in CDG with the French language being used.
I've had the same in Italy a number of times, and it really does hamper situation awareness when you just don't get what's happening around you
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 11:41
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I wonder how nobody pointed out China airspace and phraseology problems there!
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 12:12
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Someone care to explain why the article repeatedly quotes ICAO, when clearly the study was carried out by IATA, IFATCA and IFALPA, and appears to have nothing to do with ICAO?
In the report (not the article) which is published by IATA, one of the contributing technical experts is Dr Ruth Stilwel - representative to ICAO.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 12:34
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At least for French and Spanish since both seem to be recognized as ICAO languages and are spoken in numerous countries around the world. In fact, in my humble opinion the basic aviation phraseology of these languages should even be part of the ATPL exams.
The idea is basically sound.. problem is that when two native speakers converse they speak at a rate and with inflections that are too often just too fast .. My French used to the passable while living there but going through CDG I felt pretty much just as out of the loop as every non- French speaking pilot.

The overwhelmingly dominant international language is English as either peoples first or second language... it's time it was made the only official language of aviation... people using different languages on the same frequency is as absurd and as dangerous as pilots tuning to the wrong frequency... as the aforementioned SH330 crew discovered.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 12:39
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Its time we carried foreign language and inter-language translation dictionaries on board aircraft.. Haha.. Specially useful in places like France and China to name a few.

Spend the better half of cruise translating your special requests or clearances into different languages..
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 13:58
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'How Airliners Fly' 'How Airliners Fly'

<<Although subsonic cruising speed has reached its natural limit, navigational efficiency is still advancing. Computers in Air Traffic Control centres and in airliners themselves allow more productive use of airspace as the density of traffic in the sky steadily grows. One likely development is greater direct control of flights from the ground, rather than by spoken radio communication between pilots and controllers as at present, with its attendant potential for misunderstandings, especially when communications are in English between participants for whom this language is not the mother tongue.

It is unlikely that complete control from the ground will ever be achieved, however, because there will always be occasions when problems can only be resolved with the judgement of a human mind in the flight deck, such as the necessity to deviate from the planned flight path in order to avoid hazardous weather or for technical reasons or to reconfigure aircraft technical systems after faults occur. Perhaps a system will evolve where a ground controller sends instructions directly to an aircraft's autopilot but the instruction will not be executed until the human pilots permit it.>>

Last edited by Discorde; 27th Aug 2012 at 13:59.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:00
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No offense intended, but most complaints about "non standard ICAO languages used in aviation" come from English native speakers who most of the time know no other language.
It is true that many native English speakers are not good at other languages but consider the problems if you are Chinese or something similar. It's difficult enough to reach any level of proficiency in one western language, let alone three or four.

Having English as the official "language of the skies" means that the Russians can understand the Japanese, that the Iranians can converse with the Brazilians and the Indians can talk to the Koreans.

There are around 6,800 spoken languages across the globe. How many are the native language of pilots? I don't know but it must be quite a few; to learn even the most basic constructions in all of those would take some considerable effort and still be open to misunderstandings.

Another factor is the tendency for the use of colloquial phraseology between adepts, plus the speed of speech, so even if I had a reasonable grasp of Spanish/Italian/Hindi, etc. I wouldn't be able to follow a conversation between two locals anyway.

Keep it simple!
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:03
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Let me add that also in the UK, ATC uses non ICAO phraseology which is annoyin and a safety risk.
Eg. Turn heading 030 DEGREES... absolute crap!
" when established on the localiser, descend with the glidesplope" instead of Cleared ILS or Cleared Approach.
I've often had 'intercept the localiser, report established' followed by 'continue on the glide, switch to tower' as my 'stealth' approach clearance in the UK.

Last edited by Airbubba; 27th Aug 2012 at 14:04.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:06
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Considering that in Europe all commercial pilots flying internationally will speak English and that all controllers at international airports will also speak English I don't see why all routine transmissions for IFR traffic at least should not be in English.

In countries where a lot of the pilots just fly domestically and don't speak English then that is different but as I see it all that stands in the way of international airports and the airways being English only is national pride.

I don't mind speaking French in the circuit at a smaller French airfield because I know that a lot of the small airfields the pilots may not speak English but for international traffic if everyone can understand it why not everyone speak it?

Last edited by Contacttower; 27th Aug 2012 at 14:28.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:06
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You will NEVER make English the "overwhelmingly dominant language" in France and Spain
How true. Spain cannot even get itself together to introduce it as a compulsory part of the school curriculum. Every country is rightly proud of its language and has an absolute right to use it. However, when there are issues of safety, a common language and phrasing must be agreed and taught. This does not mean that, for example, Spain's dominant language should be anything other than Spanish. It does mean that English (or another agreed universal language) should be taught as part of the learning curriculum.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:15
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Having English as the official "language of the skies" means that the Russians can understand the Japanese, that the Iranians can converse with the Brazilians and the Indians can talk to the Koreans.
+1. Add the fact that basic english is easy to learn and speak...

AFAIK you can fly IFR without an english radio licence in France, guess thats a 'La Grande Nation' traditional thing...? I Germany you need an english RTL licence before you´re allowed to take IFR training. How the french/chinese/russion/spanish ATC controller maintain their awareness when switching back and forth between languages in high stress situations is a miracle to me...

Last edited by His dudeness; 27th Aug 2012 at 14:44.
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Old 27th Aug 2012, 14:30
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Egypt, morocco, turkey, algeria, and spain, these give me really the creeps.
France, their english is perhaps not the best, but so far never had issues with them. Germans, they get really unclear when they want to speak fast.
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