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-   -   Standard of RT in USA (https://www.pprune.org/rumours-news/518923-standard-rt-usa.html)

galaxy flyer 16th Jul 2013 01:07

Why would Spanish possibly been considered? They weren't one of the four powers that won the war, even the Russians only grudgingly participated in the Chicago Convention. Everything ICAO is in the powers' languages.


despegue 16th Jul 2013 01:43

When ICAO decided on the Common Aviation Language, Spanish was indeed set to win. However, the USA bribed Mexico which voted for English:hmm:...
True story.

Nothing to do with any war by the way.

Faire d'income 16th Jul 2013 03:13

Leave off the Yanks, they might be "non-standard" but they're not unsafe.
Watch the whole thing and tell us what you think:
?rel=0" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allow="encrypted-media" allowfullscreen>

Hell Man 16th Jul 2013 10:46

Deefer the Dog wrote:
The point I am making is simply this. In the US the phraseology is completely non standard to that agreed in the convention and bears no relationship to any differences filed. Whichever way you look at it, and as painful as it may feel, your system of not complying with agreed conventions increases the likelihood of confusion, especially when operators whose native language is not English have to disseminate slang. Confusion in a busy ATC environment is not what any of us want.

Put simply, if you sign up and agree to a convention, why not honour it?

Deefer, let me ask you a question.

Is your real concern with safety or with the fact that we dare to do things a little differently and fail to "honor" the convention as you put it?

If its because we've got minds of our own and don't fear doing what works for us, I don't have much to say.

If its to do with safety then statistics clearly show that we are safe, real safe in fact.

beardy 16th Jul 2013 11:27

Well Hell Man, I suppose you don't care about being SAFER, you don't care about taking advice from others who think about phraseology and it's impact on safety and mutual understanding and agree to it's use. You don't seem to care much at all, just so long as your free to make it up as you go along regardless of anyone else. So that's OK then.

Hell Man 16th Jul 2013 12:05

Point is beardy, we are safe.

Its our non-conformist approach that seems to rile you limeys!

WillowRun 6-3 16th Jul 2013 12:23

It's all ICAO's fault
But that was just an attention-getting device......
Anybody know if the substantive discourse within this thread also will be the subject of a panel discussion or more formal proceeding at the ICAO conference this fall? I do not mean to suggest that this thread per se would be (or even could be......or could it?) synched to the ICAO conf agenda; it just strikes me as reasonable to expect that such substantive matter or matters as (a) standardisation (with, or without, differences filed under the Convention); (b) determination of most appropriate safety metrics to be employed in assessing efficacy of specific ATC regimes in various nations and/or geographic regions thereof; (c) possibility of moving toward a more flexible concept of standardisation under ICAO so as to account for important differences in language, airports, and other factors; and (d) some means of integrating (i) driver objections to specific habits of ATC, assigned to particular approach airspace, in giving suboptimal (or, evidently, highly suboptimal) approach clearances with (ii) the over-arching question of standardisation of ATC language, all warrant a formal examination and deliberative process. Without delay. I'd be keen on taking that proceeding in, if it is on the slate. Any Delegates here?

Basil 16th Jul 2013 12:50

you limeys!
Ah, yes, those people who discovered, in the eighteenth century, that lime juice will prevent scurvy. :ok:

Basil 16th Jul 2013 12:52

Can you imagine the row there must have been when it was decreed that 'larboard' would henceforth be known as 'port'? :)

beardy 16th Jul 2013 12:57

Well Hell Man,

It's the non-standard I don't like. It adds nothing and since the likes of me have to pause and think "what did he/she really mean" it introduces elements of doubt. I say again, it adds nothing; it is neither more concise nor clearer: this begs the question why do it? Perhaps you have inadvetrantly answered this with the word non-conformist (rebellious, cowboy, unwillingness and inability to act as others do?) or would it possibly be through ignorance of procedures? (Not rhetorical)

If you are content with your safety record then why bother to improve it (rhetorical) why bother to be standard with anything. Just do what you want when you want and the rest of the aviation community will fit in around you. (Ironic)

vrb03kt 16th Jul 2013 13:05

I think the point is being missed entirely here; willy-waving about whose airport is better on which side of the pond is a boring side-track. As is debating regional differences such as "director call sign only". Even in the UK alone there are a myriad of different ways to skin the cat, whether it's Southampton insisting that we read back "next frequency when instructed Solent 120.225" with the clearance every single day (WTF indeed) or East Midlands wanting us to squawk ident on the approach frequency.

The important point is using standard phraseology spoken in a clear and concise way. This applies to all of us. Understanding that not everyone has the same command of the English language that you do, or do not have ears tuned to your accent, would go a long way to making sure all the players involved are aware of what is expected of them. It isn't just beneficial for the controller and immediate recipient, it aids the situational awareness of all other traffic on the frequency. It might just be the last line of defence in preventing someone lining up without clearance with another on a takeoff roll, for example.

Ace Rimmer 16th Jul 2013 13:21

Willow Run: experience has shown that when ICAO moves at sprint pace (and that doesn't happen that often) it takes about seven (yup SEVEN) years to get something adopted as a standard...and even then longer to for Individual States to implement the changes in their national ANO provided they don't decide to file a difference (or ignore the SARP altogether)...

I submit that the solution to this problem (and if the findings of recent IATA/IFALPA/IFATCA Phaseology survey are believed there IS a significant problem) lies more with national CAA/DGCAs actually implementing (and enforcing) the existing SARPs rather than trying push through new ones (at ICAOs blistering pace!)

Hell Man 16th Jul 2013 15:08

Beardy, would you like to provide an example that you have personally experienced on this side where we have made things difficult for you to understand and which, as you say, has caused you to doubt?

Capt Groper 16th Jul 2013 15:09

Correct RT
Whilst there is a need for standardization, some local RT phraseology may be appropriate and could be included in specific Country Rules and Regulations (CRAR).
Some local terminology can reduced length of RT transmissions, include more meaningful replies and be more easily understood by controllers.

For example,
1/ Out of 29.7 for 30.0 as a replacement for Passing Flight Level 297 for Flight Level 300.
2/ Can you slow to 220? Answer is Affirm. Make it so.
3/ Charlie Charlie instead of Affirm.

Basil 16th Jul 2013 15:22

Capn Groper, did you miss out the :rolleyes: ?

beardy 16th Jul 2013 15:40

Dear Hell Man,

I am so sorry, I don't keep a record of the times I am confused by non-standard RT, I am normally too busy! Although I do operate to and from your country weekly.

I do find the area air traffic controllers to be, normally, quite good, terminal area radar controllers to be fine, runway controllers to be mostly OK although a little slapdash when overworked.

However, there seems to be a marked reluctance by pilots, at all times, to even read back, verbatim, what they have heard. Never mind phrase requests and reports correctly. There is always that element of non-conformity. The simplest of all is substituting OH for zero. Air traffickers ALWAYS say zero, pilots rarely do, it makes little difference most of the time, but neatly illustrates a certain obstinacy. There is no need for it to be so, after all they hear zero from ATC so ignorance is no excuse, why refuse to use it?

EEngr 16th Jul 2013 15:49

Fact 1: On any given day there is more airliners flying in North America than anywhere else in the world.
But we have more airspace than Europe.

Canada? Calgary to Edmonton would be considered a near miss. ;)

beardy 16th Jul 2013 16:00

I know I am getting old so forgive what may seem an obvious question, but here goes:

When I did my FAA ATPL and airbus type rating in Minneapolis, I don't recall having to sit an RT exam. Does my memory serve me well, one doesn't have to have RT training and an RT licence?

Just found my licence from FCC (not the FAA) but don't recall an exam in aviation terminology.

West Coast 16th Jul 2013 16:20

RT license is required in the US.

beardy 16th Jul 2013 16:24

We can't even agree to spell it the same way. What hope is there?

DIBO 16th Jul 2013 16:43

Put the steroides aside and don't make it so complicted.
1) English based RT for all professionals (it's a good exercise for every non native English speaker). Mixing RT languages will continue to cause problems
2) native english ATCO to non native guest: treat them as such. From the first contact you're able to judge what proficiency level you are dealing with. Leave your John Wayne and do some of your highschool english.
3) native english speaking pilots visiting: behave like a guest - same remedy.

Story time........This morning in a southern spanish fish market I visited, the probably poorly educated girl rattled something after handing over the order. Within a split second of seeing my puzzled face she repeated 'dosss EUROOO cciinnncuuentaaa'. Exchange was kept brief and a quick smile cleared me for a swift departure, the next client lining-up right behind me. She could have handled LAX/LHR/ORD any time

barrold 16th Jul 2013 17:16

My submission has been pre-empted by the excellent post of Dibo. Just about sums it up.
I can only supplement by stressing that the use of Aviation English is paramount at airports with multiple nationalities on both ends of the mic. I work at a busy Asian hub and, while we are certainly not perfect, we require standard phraseologies at all times.
While controllers and pilots are supposedly operational Level 4 or above, standards vary dramatically.

deefer dog 16th Jul 2013 17:34

To Hell Man, (and others who don't get the point of the thread),

This thread has NOTHING to do with who handles the most traffic, or who has the best safety record, or indeed who are the World's best Air Traffic Controllers! If you want to argue about these semantics, please start a separate thread and fight among yourselves until you are blue in the face, but please do not divert the thread away from its premise.

The ONLY point of the thread was to question why the vast majority of US operators and ATC operatives feel the need to make use of a completely different code of communicating when using RT than the rest of the World, and one that flies in the face of the Standards and Recommended Practices agreed by all ICAO Member States, including themselves.

If by now you don't understand the concept of ICAO, what its purpose is, who the members are, and how international agreements are decided upon, made and implemented, please read no further as you will never get the point I am trying to make here.

The unavoidable fact that many seem to miss here is that a committee including representatives of the US decided that standardization would be in the best interests of safety and the industry as a whole. They concluded that specific phraseology should be defined and used to direct traffic, and in doing so they created what are in effect SOPS for ATC and pilots. The sole purpose of standardizing the industry in this respect was to minimize the possibility of misunderstandings that could potentially lead to unsafe conflicts. Over time the SARPS have been amended - many of you will recall that we used to say "ready for take off" instead of today's "ready for departure," and in time I'm sure there will be more amendments incorporated as we learn from experiences (and phraseology) that lead to confusion. The point I am trying to make here is simple; ALL users of USA airspace need to understand what they and others are being instructed to do, just as US operators need to when flying outside of what may be their comfort zone.

If some of you still don't get it, consider how those of you in the US would feel if we in Europe started "tweaking" the way we light our airports. How about some of us choosing to use green centre line light bulbs if we run out of white ones, or just for the heck of it choose to space out the lights at different intervals, just because we can't be bothered to stick to the international agreements, or don't have the time during busy periods? Would you be confused, would it likely lead to a degradation of safety? Get my point? Well do you, Hell Man? So what possible argument do you have for discarding the internationally agreed SARPS in respect of ATC comms?

The argument put forward by some is just plain stupid, especially when talking about busy US hubs. Talking slang to a Chinese, Japanese or even Pikanese pilot is more likely to result in a request to "say again prease," if indeed its possible to get a word back in. Use of the correct phraseology in such cases will not only reduce misunderstandings, it will also expedite the traffic flow.

As for isolated instances of traffic conflicts, misheard comms, or simple cock ups, they serve no useful purpose in this thread. Pilots and controllers of all nations screw up from time to time. As the starter of the thread I would rather explore how we can all work together and make best use of the agreed standards, or, if some are to be believed, should we simply all go our own way and chat to each other in any way shape, form or language?

Standardizing ATC comms cannot be argued against, and its my opinion that the US needs to fall into line and follow the rules in the interests of IMPROVING on what is already their excellent safety record!

Lonewolf_50 16th Jul 2013 18:12


1) English based RT for all professionals (it's a good exercise for every non native English speaker). Mixing RT languages will continue to cause problems.
2) native english ATCO to non native guest: treat them as such. From the first contact you're able to judge what proficiency level you are dealing with.
3) native english speaking pilots visiting: behave like a guest - same remedy.
Brilliant. Someone buy this man a cigar. :ok:

Deefer: while I appreciate your sentiments (as noted, I had many pet peeves about standard R/T and in particular read backs) in general, the flavour of your OP was both of a wind up and a bash.
That is how your OP came off.
Not sure if that is what was intended.

To repeat, as I noted to Mary in re LaGuardia, it ain't just foreigners who have difficulty with that comms environment.

I seem to recall that the OP's origin was linked directly to Asiana mishap and the wide ranging discussion in that mega-thread.

I reject the insinuation that comms at SFO was the cause of the accident, or even a causal factor: (When the NTSB report goes final, we'll see if my view matches the investigators' views).

1. Aviate
2. Navigate
3. Communicate

Priority order, right? Pri 1 seems to have been missed.

deefer dog 16th Jul 2013 19:49


I'm sorry if you got the impression that the post was a "bash" or that I insinuated that RT comms was in any way connected to the recent mishap at SFO. I have no idea what caused that crash, and like you I will wait for the investigation to run its course.

What prompted me was the blank faces of F/O's I get fed up looking at when they are dumbfounded by instructions they are required to read back and adhere to when operating in the US. It doesn't happen in any of the other continents we fly through or into, (all of them except Australia which I have yet to visit), or any of the 50 odd DIFFERENT countries (and languages) that make up Europe.

I appreciate that to some extent at least you understand the problem. Please appreciate that I have a genuine reason for asking that you guys play according to the operating standards that, with very few exceptions, the rest of the world generally follow.

I have a feeling that I'm banging my head against a brick wall here; whichever way you slice it you know you guys don't comply in the main, and rather than try to defend the indefensible its perhaps easier to look at the post as a "bashing."

Consider it this way. As a global leaders in aviation, and as proud holders of an enviable safety record, do you not at least agree that the US should up its game in this respect, and at least try to adopt the principles and standards that you helped to design, and agreed to?

I know it won't happen overnight, but baby steps might help.

Yellow & Blue Baron 16th Jul 2013 20:30

One can listen (live) to all ATC at JFK here. Just been listening to Approach for the past 10 mins while reading this thread - what I can say is that they sound very professional to me.

Well done USA! :ok:

Uplinker 16th Jul 2013 20:34

Deefer and DIBO, I agree with you 100%

ATC Guys/Gals in the USA: We don't think you are more clever or more skilled just because you speak fast. Quite the opposite in fact - it makes me think you are nervous and not fully in control of the situation.

I have had to ask for complete repeats; 'slowly' or "words twice" on several occasions at USA airports over the years.

Speaking fast does not impress anyone and simply results in wasted time because you have to repeat everything you just said, and also results in a loss of safety.

I am not being partisan when I say the the UK controllers do it just right - calm, measured and precise.

Slow down ! - Less is more.

mary meagher 16th Jul 2013 20:34

Come on, Deefer Dog, in your original post you more or less invited incoming flac....please don't get all bent out of shape if we take you up on it!

Lonewolf_50 16th Jul 2013 20:46

I have a feeling that I'm banging my head against a brick wall here; whichever way you slice it you know you guys don't comply in the main, and rather than try to defend the indefensible its perhaps easier to look at the post as a "bashing."

I don't think you can support that (bolded ) statement, and it is probably the matter of "generalization" that made it look more like a bash than perhaps you intended.

Since I had to teach R/T and standardization, I am as much in your camp as a matter of principle as anyone, but I also learned over the years that some minor variation (though not in the terminal area) is nothing to get all up in arms over.

From where I sit, the terminal area -- departures and arrivals -- are, due to their density of air traffic and comms traffic, the places where the benefits of clear, concise, brief, and standard comms are the greatest.

Getting sloppy in the radio in Class A airspace is, for my money, no way to perform in the air.

West Coast 16th Jul 2013 22:06

I wonder if anyone beyond those in this circular argument really give a F what any of us care? I don't think so. I haven't seen any change to US controllers or pilots in the few days since this thread started.

clivewatson 16th Jul 2013 22:51

of course you don't give a fcuk, that's the the problem isn't it?

"a good tradesman measures twice, and cuts only once." if your ATC slang was eliminated, and you spoke like everyone else does your guys wouldn't need to keep "sayin" it again.

"outta 2 point seven for one nine oh," (what exactly does that mean?) (don't answer, its a rhetorical question)
"direct to the keys" (how the fcuk is a foreign crew supposed to know where they are, or what the ident is?)
"ground point 9" (elimination of the two vital words, namely "frequency" and decimal - used to give crews at least a clue!)
"thirty point one" (is it an altimeter setting or a frequency?) (fcuk it, not important so let's all just guess)
"right two hundred" (is that "okay heading 200 degrees", or "okay descend to FL 200", or maybe 200 knots?)

call me antagonistic if you like, but in this respect you guys are more like john wayne cowboys than safety conscious professionals.

USA: guilty as charged m'lud! your ATC is atrocious, abysmal and amateurish
and you should be ashamed of it. (alliteration)

West Coast 16th Jul 2013 22:56

I guess I didn't get the memo to keep the hating up. The traffic keeps flowing.

con-pilot 16th Jul 2013 23:03

USA: guilty as charged m'lud! your ATC is atrocious, abysmal and amateurish
and you should be ashamed of it
Just how many accidents have occurred from your totally erroneous, BS charges.

I can wait.

AdamFrisch 16th Jul 2013 23:07

Clive - many of those things on their own look horrible when taken out of context. But in real life, when R/T has been established, when all parties are well versed and comfortable and familiar, there are shortcuts that not only save time, but are safer. "Fourteen thousand feet" is much, much clearer than "one four thousand" as an example. There is virtually no way of misunderstanding that.

At my home airport the tower controllers know me, my tail number and my plane. In a busy environment they'll often say "turn left at Foxtrot, contact ground". No freq. We don't need it - I know what the freq is, they know that I know what it is, so why waste the student pilot on short finals time who's not got a clearance to land yet? Likewise, in a CTAF/AFIS environment - why the obsession after one has established contact with the tail number? Once that's been presented as you enter area, then just call out type and position. "Aerostar on base for 19L", "Aerostar on final for 19L" etc - who needs the tail number in every call? Waste of time. They're either visual with you or not - it's not like they can read your tail number anyway.

Horses for courses. There's a time for shortcuts and there's a time for doing it by the book.

I do totally agree that US R/T is way too fast, though. It's like a speed race sometimes - whoever says things the fastest, wins. I deliberately try to slow things down, without being verbose. Efficiency is key.

kcockayne 17th Jul 2013 08:48

Standard of RT in USA
deefer dog, DIBO & lone wolf.

Congratulations, you've said it all.

Who can question the common sense that you've spoken, & what more needs to be said on this subject ?

Basil 17th Jul 2013 09:03


At my home airport the tower controllers know me, my tail number and my plane
That's different from a busy international airport handling everything from B737s to A380s.

Recollect, many years ago, landing at well known west coast Canadian airport.
Our SOP, at the time, was pilot called for reverse which was applied and cancelled by the other guy so there's a bit of chatter on the flight deck. As we were rolling out about 90kn, ATC decided to pass us our taxi clearance at machine gun speed. I ignored the transmission until we'd cancelled reverse and then called for a repeat, remarking that it would be better to have left it until we'd finished our landing.
ATC miffed, captain embarrassed, Bas - fkit! I was right! but no one wants to lose the pissing contest:rolleyes:
Anyway the ATCO must have been so upset that he told our next airport. When we landed there we rolled to the turnoff, exited the runway and only then did the US ATCO say "Hey, ***, OK to speak to you now?" :)

Uplinker 17th Jul 2013 09:05

Approved RT terminology may seem tedious and unnecessarily pedantic, but it is like that for a very good reason.

Many incidents and accidents have been caused over the years owing to misunderstandings between ATC and pilots. Use of the standard terms is safer because their meaning is defined and cannot be confused. It must also be borne in mind that transmission and reception is not perfect. Radios can be distorted or suffer interference, and cockpits can be very noisy places. As Basil suggests, the pilots are often very busy doing several things at once.

ATC need to remember that they are a SERVICE and are ASSISTING the aircraft pilots. The aeroplane comes first, not the controller wishing to clear a strip off his tray quickly.

Also we must bear in mind that pilots or ATC may not have English as their first language, which is another good reason not to speak too quickly. We had a discussion with Turkish ATC about something the other night and the person did not understand our conversational English at all, although that same ATC operator could control us in English perfectly well.

Going to Mexico a little while ago, the controller gave us a QNH of "993". We thought that odd as we were expecting inches of mercury and queried it several times. It later transpired that the controller had meant "29.93" but was using his own verbal shortcut by dropping the 2 and the decimal.

In this case the error didn't kill us, but it might easily have done.

Basil 17th Jul 2013 09:29

Uplinker, As I think I posted earlier, I witnessed a situation where that very error could, with a lower cloudbase, have been fatal.

Lord Spandex Masher 17th Jul 2013 10:03

Originally Posted by con-pilot (Post 7945053)
Just how many accidents have occurred from your totally erroneous, BS charges.

I can wait.

It's interesting to see that you judge the quality of something by the number of accidents it has or hasn't caused!

Furthermore, as a pilot, I have caused no accidents and, therefore, must be the best pilot in the world - using your very own yardstick, of course. I'm sure there will be plenty of opposition to my statement, including me.

Poor defence.

Goldenbawls 17th Jul 2013 10:28

I wonder if anyone beyond those in this circular argument really give a F what any of us care? I don't think so. I haven't seen any change to US controllers or pilots in the few days since this thread started.
No, you're probably right that few controllers or pilots will change their ways of speaking on the radio based on this thread. And while I know that most of this thread is based on how the US ATC operates, I do think that some of the bashing of American pilots operating internationally is unfair. I hear them using standard ICAO procedures over the skies of Europe everyday. Pretty much every single transmission I hear from them include spelling out individual digits in their call sign and using that godawful word "decimal". What a useless word by the way. Especially combined with all the stupid frequencies that exists in Europe after 8.33 kHz spacing was implemented. Give me "thirty-five point one" over "one three four decimal two eight five" any day of the week.

I also see that some others agree with me regarding the use of "fully ready". Please explain to me once more, preferably one of you pretentious Brits, the difference between being ready for departure and fully ready for departure. Or being ready for start-up and fully ready for start-up? And why are some of you seemingly not able to utilize common sense and abbreviate your verbose exchanges, or speed up a bit, at times when it clearly is necessary? Classic example: late afternoon in a busy TMA with CBs all over. People are stepping on each other in order to get permission to deviate. In comes Mr. UK with a 45-sec monotone transmission that includes not only the who, the where, and the what, but also the information received, the STAR being flown, the squawk code and the a/c type. To include the "-300". KISS FFS.

In conclusion, having flown domestically in the US for several years as a non-native English speaker, and now operating all over Europe, I definitely know which system I prefer. I'll take the land of the free any day, please. And add bacon.

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