Do you speak more than one language? If you don’t and you are in flight training, you are about to learn a second language. I explain why in this audio lesson.
The language of air traffic control uses English, but the way it uses English is very different from everyday conversation.
The communication between pilot and controller is called standard phraseology.
Using standard phraseology avoids misunderstandings between pilots and controllers.
Misunderstandings can lead to violations of the Federal Aviation Regulations, or near misses, or even a disaster.
In my opinion, when a pilot or controller uses non-standard language, and there are no bad consequences, the pilot or controller is entering very dangerous territory.
Take a look at the examples from NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) below to see where this is heading:
Report 1 from a General Aviation Pilot
“We had just landed and were waiting to cross runway 13. The PNF [Pilot Not Flying] queried ground control if we could cross runway 13. The controller responded ‘not yet.’ I thought the controller responded ‘yeah’ and taxied forward, across the hold short line. Unsure, I stopped the aircraft prior to runway 13, but the aircraft was past the hold short line at this point. The PNF then radioed for verification of our crossing clearance. The ground controller then responded, ‘negative, hold short, well it looks like you’ve already past the hold short line — I did not receive clearance from the tower controller until now, you’re cleared to cross runway 13.’ lessons learned: standard communication phraseology is imperative. The ground controller used nonstandard phraseology (‘not yet’) and I accepted what I thought to be a clearance to cross an active runway with nonstandard phraseology. Both pilot and controller erred, in my opinion.”
Report 2 from an Air Traffic Controller
“While working a secondary departure sector; I failed to catch an altitude report by a pilot and subsequently the aircraft violated the airspace of another facility. During the investigation; it was revealed that the pilot had been assigned 170 but the last instruction the previous controller issued him was ‘fly heading 330 degrees.’ the pilot’s readback was ‘330.’ when the pilot checked in with me; he stated ‘aircraft X with you 13 for 33;’ I failed to catch the abbreviated altitudes he read me. The aircraft then climbed through my altitudes resulting in an operational deviation. 3 things about this deviation bother me. 1) the pilot’s sloppy readback to the first controller ‘330;’ 2) the pilot’s sloppy check-in with me ’13 for 33;’ and 3) why aren’t pilots held to a standard of phraseology that would help prevent hearback/readback incidents. Had the pilot checked in with some semblance of standard phraseology and stated the word ‘climb’ or ‘flight levels’ it would have caught my attention and clued me in to listen; ‘aircraft X with you 13 thousand climbing to flight level 330.'”
Use the comment section below to write an example of some non-standard phraseology you’ve heard on the radio.
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