Plane pilots’ use of English is so poor lives are being put at risk, the Civil Aviation Authority has warned.
It said it has anecdotal evidence from a number of pilots that the grasp of English by foreign pilots and air traffic controllers is posing a threat to safety.
It has now commissioned a report into English ability among pilots operating in the UK and air traffic controllers internationally.
Aviation English is the industry’s communicative standard and is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
The research will be funded by the DoT under the UK State Safety Programme.
A spokesman for the CAA said: “We have seen some recent indications that pilots’ proficiency when communicating in Aviation English is not at the necessary level at all times.
“While we have seen nothing to suggest there is a major issue here, as the UK’s aviation regulator, safety is our number one priority and we believe it is sensible to examine the issue more thoroughly and have commissioned Dr Clark to do just that.
The research will be led by Dr Barbara Clark, a linguist and anthropologist specialising in aviation communication and safety at Queen Mary, University of London.
Dr Clark said: “This project shows that the UK recognises the need to maintain clear and unambiguous communication in aviation, and is treating it as a serious matter.
“Most interaction between pilots and controllers happens without any ambiguity or misunderstanding but there are still instances where meaning is unclear, not everyone is on the same page, and mistakes can happen.
A statement from Queen Mary added: “The project will explore how existing methods of maintaining clarity can be enhanced to reduce or eliminate language-related problems, which can contribute to accidents or serious incidents.”
The university added the results of the study were expected to be available until next year.