Language Experiences in Non-Native English-Speaking Airspace/Airports – FAA Report

This FAA report is a compilation of written responses and comments by a group of 48 U.S. pilots of their difficulties in international operations.  These pilots met with interviewers to discuss their language experiences flying into countries where English may or may not be the local or national language among its radio operators, controllers, and pilots.

The pilots’ responses had nine major thrusts:

  1. Traveling into non-native English-speaking countries can be a positive learning experience leading to professional growth and development;
  2. English-language proficiency varies from country to country and individual to individual; however, problems occur everywhere;
  3. Hearing multiple languages on the radio restricts situational awareness and diminishes pilots’ expectations as information derived from the party line decreases;
  4. Radio protocol is lost in a multilingual environment;
  5. Whenever communication problems occur, flight deck operations slow down as the flight crew diverts attention away from other tasks, so more of their attention is directed to listening to what the controller said;
  6. Communicating with non-native English-speaking controllers requires more effort and concentration to ensure the intent of the controller’s transmission is understood;
  7. When off-normal events arise, controllers have difficulty communicating in Common English, and pilots have difficulty understanding them;
  8. Voice characteristics contribute to intelligibility and the ease with which pilots and controllers understand each other; and
  9. Advanced avionics such as TCAS/CDTI, FMS, and CPDLC/DataCom offer possible solutions to the language barrier.

This is a very interesting report and provides students with context in the potential differences they may encounter when flying into regions where English is a second language.

Language Experiences in Non-Native English-Speaking Airspace/Airports

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