A lack of English proficiency and failure to use standard phraseology played a role in the world’s largest aviation disaster which occurred in Tenerife in 1977 . As a result, the crucial role of effective communication between pilots and airtraffic controllers (ATCs) came under scrutiny, with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) implementing English language proficiency standards and compulsory language testing of pilots and ATCs. Consequently, the use of so-called “Aviation English” (AE) was enforced which consists of a range of operationally-relevant language functions and dialogue management as well as formulaic standard phraseology.
The study reported on in this paper has two aims: (i) to investigate pilots’ and ATCs’ perceptions of the role of language in air-traffic communication, and (ii) to investigate the use of AE in authentic pilot-ATC communication in South African airspace.
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