28 Nov

Pilot communication – it matters how you say it

Due to the amount of strain and stress that pilots experience during the flight, especially during the critical flight moments, communication is one of the primary components that suffers. Speech and phrases get shorter, it becomes rarer and it consequently leads to misunderstanding or even mistake possibility.

According to the University of Buffalo released paper on Language Error Analysis, examination of the accidents and insident reports, helped to determine three main ways how innefective communication can compromise aviation safety: wrong information may be used; situation awarenress may be lost; participants may fail to build a shared model of the present situation at the team level.

In the stressful situations or due to the hurry, aviation words and phrases might come out inarticulate, words get mispronounced. In some occasions, pilots choose wrong intonation, or mere verbiage. In the aviation industry, pilots have to listen to the phrase till the very end and in some occasions, repeat the message back. This task might be difficult because of the time constrain or stress. According to the above mentioned paper, language and cultural diversity can intensify differences and confusions in communication, but a language barrier does not necessarily result in unsafe operations. Therefore, captain has to be able to talk in a very direct and clear way in order to pass on the instruction to the crew members.

Communication consist of spoken and non-spoken parts. Only 7% of the communication is the actual verbal language and the remaining 93% consists of body language (55%), voice intonation and the manner of speech (38%). These percentages cause a specific concern, because pilots are virtually incapable of using or seeing the body language. It places a much larger significance on the voice tonation and the manner of speech in which pilots interact.

Misunderstandings in the aviation industry are the most costly and fatal, therefore, it should be kept to a minimum. Baltic Aviation Academy‘s experts reccomend quality pilot trainings, continious job relationship development, high English proficiency and reccurent crew communication trainings as the main tools against the mistakes. Training and education is the way to eliminating mistakes and its source.