This paper presents an investigation into miscommunications between air traffic controllers (ATC) and pilots. These miscommunications may broadly be applied to a range of verbal communications problems ranging from misunderstandings, such as those due to ambiguity, cultural differences, language structure, and so on, to more technical problems, such as microphone “clipping” and over-transmitting of another’s radio signal. Studies indicate that miscommunication is a pervasive problem in air traffic control and, although infrequent when considered as a percentage of daily transactions, nevertheless, has been a causal factor in numerous fatal accidents.
The facts about verbal communication come from many different fields of science. The study of verbal miscommunications in the air traffic system is part of the rapidly expanding field of human factors. The aim of this paper is to synthesise the knowledge from three fields—aviation human factors, language and communications, and aviation law.