DAYTONA BEACH, Florida — Aviation and aerospace industry members, linguistic researchers, and aviation English educators from throughout the world will gather at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to discuss ways to improve aviation communications to enhance safety and reduce accidents.
The international conference, “Building on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Language Proficiency Requirements – Communications as a Human Factor” is slated for May 9-11, 2018.
The conference at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus will look into the effects of language and culture on communication as a human factor; the language needs of the wider aviation profession; incorporating communication strategies into best practices for training and testing; and considerations for future policy developments in language and communication.
New perspectives on aviation English training and testing will be discussed in the conference, which will include presentations, Q & A panels, interactive panel presentations, practical workshops, informal poster sessions, and networking and social opportunities.
Twenty-four presenters and speakers are coming from throughout the U.S. and other countries, such as Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Kenya, Slovenia and West Africa.
Participating organizations include airlines, manufacturers, civil aviation authorities, air navigation service providers, and academic institutions such as Embry-Riddle, Georgia State University and others.
“Aviation is a global enterprise and does not happen in a bubble immune from cultural differences, miscommunication and the challenges created by inadequate aviation English skills,” said Elizabeth Mathews, Embry-Riddle assistant professor of Aerospace and Occupational Safety, who is on the board of the ICAEA. “The conference will bring people together to discuss these topics, including how to improve training, the standardization of aviation English testing, and the investigation of language factors and more.”
After more than 40 years of aviation human factors as a discipline, Mathews said understanding language as a human factor lags behind industry’s understanding of other human performance issues. She will present “A Linguistic Review of Aviation Accidents,” at the conference.
“With an increasingly multicultural industry, it is more important than ever to understand and address language and communication factors appropriately,” said Mathews, who is also a former linguistic consultant for the ICAO. “The International Civil Aviation Organization’s Language Requirements address pilot-controller radiotelephony communications, but do not address the English language communication needs when English is the common language of two non-native English speakers sharing the same cockpit, or the English language needed for maintenance safety and for flight training.”
Mathews is part of a team at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach and Worldwide Campuses reviewing databases of aircraft accidents to determine the role communication factors may have played.
The research is just one part of Embry-Riddle’s overall Language as a Human Factor in Aviation Safety (LHUFT) Initiative to heighten awareness, improve aviation safety, and enhance future investigations, according to university officials.
Other topics at the conference include “Exploring Intercultural Factors in International Pilot-Air Traffic Controller Communications”; “Recognizing Misunderstandings: Developing Communication Strategies for Non-Native English Speaking Personnel,” “Notes from the Field: Making the Case for Enhanced English Language Standards for Pilots” and “English in the Aviation Maintenance Industry – The Impact on Safety and an Exploration of the Need for Standards.”
Miami Mike says
“Miami Mike’s anecdote is pointed, and unfortunately (though politically very incorrect) true.”
Guilty as charged. However, if I have to chose between being politically incorrect and being dead, I’ll take politically incorrect every time. Almost without exception, the students self-rated their English skills as excellent. We needed a fast way to determine if this was correct BEFORE we were at 8,000 feet, rather than discovering, too late, that the student had zero comprehension of what the CFI was talking about.
We did take extra time and extra care with our not particularly fluent students (that was part of MY job there), we found that their language skills improved markedly and rapidly (enthusiasm will do that for you), and then we were good to fly.
Miami Mike’s anecdote is pointed, and unfortunately (though politically very incorrect) true.
However we gotta keep in mind that communication problems aren’t limited to persons for whom English is a 2nd or 3rd language. Language issues can also surface within dialects among the world’s nominally English speaking nations. For example, Flight Safety Australia’s most recent safety blog (see www[-dot-]flightsafetyaustralia[-dot-]com) titled “A bump in the night” discusses a near disaster because the crew of a landing aircraft mis-heard taxi instructions for clearing the runway. Dialects to the unaccustomed ear, even within the US, can be as dense as the Australian version of English to the American or Canadian ear. And I assume the reverse is equally true. For a sense of this, listen to the linked Youtube video in the Flight Safety Australia blog article mentioned a few lines above. Non-standard English (for examples, fly into some of the airports along the southern boundary of the US) can be just as dense to non-local pilots.
Miami Mike says
Flight school I worked at had a large number of overseas students. Their English fluency ranged from excellent to, shall we say, not quite so good.
The flight instructors noticed that whenever they said anything, the reply was “Okay, okay”, whether the student understood it or not.
We developed a quick screening process . . .
“Mag check, carb heat.”
“Taxi into position and hold.” (This was before “Line up and wait.”)
Delivered in the same monotone: “Yer ugly and yer mother dresses you funny.”
If we got an “Okay, okay” to that, the student has just enrolled in remedial aviation English . . .