“While communication is universally acknowledged to be critical to aviation safety, industry understanding of communication and language as fundamental aspects of aviation safety has not kept pace with our understanding of other human performance factors,” says Elizabeth Mathews, a former linguistic consultant for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Florida.
“For safe air traffic control operations, it is crucial to have effective pilot-controller communication. The readback-hearback process is a fundamental part of that.
Pilot and Air Traffic Controller Communication in a Foreign Language
There are some 100,000 commercial flights each day in the world, which means that literally millions of interactions take place between pilots and air traffic controllers, very often in a foreign language since English is the international language of civil aviation. This entails a special form of bilingualism as it is very domain-specific and has to be optimal at all times. How does it take place? How efficient is it? Are there breakdowns and if so, what are they due to? What still needs to be improved?