Oral Communication in Air Traffic Control


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Oral Communication in Air Traffic Control

  1. 1. Oral Communication in Air Traffic Control Shamala Paramasivam (shamala@putra.upm.edu.my) Department of English Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, University Putra Malaysia
  2. 2. Background to the study <ul><li>Many aviation accidents/incidents are attributed to human errors, of which problems in communication is one large category. (Snook 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Within communication problems in aviation, language-based problems is one large aspect . (Cushing 1994) </li></ul>
  3. 3. Aims of the study <ul><li>This study departs from this observation and aims to: </li></ul><ul><li>- establish the kinds of comm. problems encountered by controllers and pilots during nonroutine situations, and </li></ul><ul><li>- the language skills used to cope with such situations. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Aims of the study (cont’d) <ul><li>The study thus taps on what is considered to be successful aviation communication despite the problems encountered. </li></ul><ul><li>What are the language features that make the RT comm. successful despite the problems? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Research Design <ul><li>The study is qualitative in nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Discourse analysis is the approach used. </li></ul><ul><li>The data was drawn from </li></ul><ul><li>a. simulated air traffic scenarios </li></ul><ul><li>b. live air traffic </li></ul>
  6. 6. Findings: Comm. problems <ul><li>Comm. problems were of two types: </li></ul><ul><li>a. Understanding problems </li></ul><ul><li>- Hearer (pilot/controller) did not understd the message or only partially understood it. </li></ul><ul><li>b. Information problems </li></ul><ul><li>- Hearer (pilot/controller) correctly understood the message but decides that it is inappropriate because the info maybe inaccurate. </li></ul><ul><li>- Speaker (controller) does not have the necc. info. and needs it in order to establish an accurate & current picture of the situation. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Findings: Language Skills <ul><li>The language skills used to cope with nonroutine situations were: </li></ul><ul><li>Asking questions </li></ul><ul><li>Paraphrasing </li></ul><ul><li>Reporting/describing relevant details </li></ul><ul><li>Acknowledging partner communication </li></ul>
  8. 8. Asking questions <ul><li>This device was used to deal with both understanding and info problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Question forms were used </li></ul><ul><li>to ask for information, </li></ul><ul><li>to ask for clarification, </li></ul><ul><li>to ask for repetition, </li></ul><ul><li>to ask for confirmation. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Paraphrasing <ul><li>Paraphrasing involves rephrasing a message, that is changing words and structure, without altering the original meaning of the message. </li></ul><ul><li>It was used to deal with both understding and info problems in two ways: </li></ul><ul><li>i. As a comm. strategy when the hearer did not understd or only partially understood the speaker. </li></ul><ul><li>ii. To convey messages from one party to another. </li></ul><ul><li>(eg: controller acts as intermediary and conveys info from one party to another such as pilot to supervisor, director, emergency unit, and vice versa.) </li></ul>
  10. 10. Reporting and describing relevant details <ul><li>This involves reporting and describing relevant details of the nonroutine situation in order to create a current, precise and factual state of the situation. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Acknowledging partner comm. <ul><li>This involves demonstrating active </li></ul><ul><li>listening by acknowledging partner </li></ul><ul><li>statements. </li></ul><ul><li>It is accomplished through </li></ul><ul><li>i. readbacks </li></ul><ul><li>ii. verbal responses that indicate info has </li></ul><ul><li>been received and critically processed </li></ul>
  12. 12. Data: Simulated Air Traffic Scenarios <ul><li>Role-play </li></ul><ul><li>An aircraft is lost and requests for heading to nearest airport. </li></ul><ul><li>P: Pilot </li></ul><ul><li>C: Controller </li></ul>
  13. 13. Transcription: Role Play <ul><li>P: This is this is er November Bravo Xray Wiski November on one two zero decimal two do you read (pilot initiates) </li></ul><ul><li>2 C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November Kuching Control reading you loud and clear (controller acknowledges) </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November sir we departed a yatch out in the sea about one and a half hours ago and we encountered bad weather and we returned back to the position of the yatch and we cannot find the yatch ah we are not sure where we are now ah we have navigation problems we were struck by lighting ah do you copy </li></ul><ul><li>(Reporting/describing relevant info of the situation) </li></ul><ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November confirm you wish to return to the yatch and your navigational (.) system has been struck by lighting </li></ul><ul><li>(Understanding problem) (Asking for confirmation) </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>P: ah November Bravo Xray Wiski November yes affirm sir but we have returned to the location where the yatch was and we could not find the yatch earlier and our best bet was to get to the coast and we are heading towards the coast and er we are not sure which er exact location where we are </li></ul><ul><li>(Acknowledgmt) (Reporting/describing relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November report your </li></ul><ul><li>altitude (Asking for information) </li></ul><ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November is </li></ul><ul><li>maintaining four thousand feet (Acknowledgmt) </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November are you transponder equipped? (Asking for information) </li></ul><ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November affirm sir we are transponder equipped we are squawking are you getting our squawk? (Acknowledgmt) (Asking for confirmation) </li></ul><ul><li>10 C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November </li></ul><ul><li>11 P: Roger </li></ul><ul><li>12 C: Squawk on alpha three one six zero for radar we’ll try to get it working and we’ll squawk on that thank you </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>P: November Bravo we can’t get the transponder </li></ul><ul><li>working sir er we are approaching the coast now </li></ul><ul><li>our last position is er was er last position from </li></ul><ul><li>yatch was er north east of zero one four zero </li></ul><ul><li>one one zero three zero east </li></ul><ul><li>(Reporting/describing relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November are you </li></ul><ul><li>picking up Kuching? Are you equipped? </li></ul><ul><li>(Asking for information) </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November I think all our navigational </li></ul><ul><li>equipment are shattered sir and we just saw a seven three seven </li></ul><ul><li>ahead about a minute or two ago passing ahead of us </li></ul><ul><li>(Acknowledgmt) (Reporting/describing relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November (.) the Boeing seven three </li></ul><ul><li>seven ah is er on Airways er Golf four six correction Golf five eight </li></ul><ul><li>zero aircraft is er heading towards the Kuching airfield making </li></ul><ul><li>approach for runway two five. </li></ul><ul><li>(Acknowledging partner communication) (Reporting relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>Confirm the Boeing is to your ah (3.0) is to your ah (3.0) is to your </li></ul><ul><li>right? (Asking for confirmation) </li></ul>
  19. 19. <ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November we sight the traffic </li></ul><ul><li>some two to three minutes ago sir it was a red and white </li></ul><ul><li>stripped aircraft had a small logo on its tail and er it was </li></ul><ul><li>heading from our left to the right and we are approaching the </li></ul><ul><li>coast now (Acknowledgmt) (Reporting relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November er your position could </li></ul><ul><li>be to the north east of Kuching airfield can you still site the </li></ul><ul><li>Boeing and follow the Boeing to the airfield if you wish to </li></ul><ul><li>proceed to the airfield? </li></ul><ul><li>(Reporting relevant info) (Asking for info) </li></ul>
  20. 20. <ul><li>P: er not at the moment sir we are at the coast can you </li></ul><ul><li>give us a rough magnetic heading (Acknowledgmt) </li></ul><ul><li>(Asking info) we can fly our coffers are still working </li></ul><ul><li>(Reporting relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>20 C: Say again (Asking for repetition/clarification) </li></ul><ul><li>P: Our coffers are still working sir and can you give </li></ul><ul><li>us a magnetic heading so that we can fly to the </li></ul><ul><li>airfield (Paraphrase) </li></ul><ul><li>22 C: November Bravo Xray Wiski November </li></ul><ul><li>23 P: Roger </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>C: Fly on the heading of er (.) two one zero two one zero if your present </li></ul><ul><li>position expected to be north east of the airfield on the heading of two </li></ul><ul><li>one zero you should be ah flying you should be heading towards </li></ul><ul><li>Kuching city which is north of the airfield </li></ul><ul><li>P: November Bravo Xray Wiski November maintaining four thousand </li></ul><ul><li>and turning on to a heading of two one zero thank you </li></ul>
  22. 22. Data: Live traffic <ul><li>Two aircrafts were involved. </li></ul><ul><li>PAC836 from VHHH to KLIA, and SAM482, from ZBBA to KLIA. </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482 was descended to FL290 from FL400 when PAC836 was flying right below SAM482 maintaining FL380. </li></ul>
  23. 23. <ul><li>1 C: PAC836 confirm squawking 5324 </li></ul><ul><li>2 PAC836: PAC836 affirm </li></ul><ul><li>C: PAC836 identified cleared to </li></ul><ul><li>Lumpur via NIPAR ‘3A’ Arrival rwy </li></ul><ul><li>32L and PIBOS ‘A’ Transition FL380 </li></ul><ul><li>PAC836: Readback (unclear) </li></ul><ul><li>C: PAC836 </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Lumpur Control SAM482 Selamat </li></ul><ul><li>petang FL400 squawking 4105 </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>7 C: SAM482 identified standby for STAR </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Lumpur SAM482 requesting descend </li></ul><ul><li>C: SAM482 descend level 290 initially, cleared </li></ul><ul><li>to Lumpur NIPAR ‘3A’ arrival rwy 32L and </li></ul><ul><li>PIBOS ‘A’ transition and for sequencing </li></ul><ul><li>turn right heading 270. </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Roger, level 290 NIPAR ‘3A’ arrival PIBOS </li></ul><ul><li>transition 32L heading 270 SAM482 </li></ul>
  25. 25. <ul><li>PAC836: Say again (.) is the Malaysian </li></ul><ul><li>aircraft descending the same </li></ul><ul><li>altitude? (Asking for clarification) </li></ul><ul><li>C: That’s affirmative descending er er </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482 descend level 390 I say 390 </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Ah SAM482 we have a TCAS </li></ul><ul><li>warning and we have the </li></ul><ul><li>aircraft visual SAM482 (Reporting </li></ul><ul><li>relevant info) (But Pilot did not </li></ul><ul><li>acknowledge 390) </li></ul>
  26. 26. <ul><li>C: You are cleared to level 390 (repeated) </li></ul><ul><li>what level are you passing through? (Q) </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Ah we are passing level 378 </li></ul><ul><li>and er the readback was 290 (reporting </li></ul><ul><li>relevant info – i.e. info that cast doubt) </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482 </li></ul><ul><li>C: SAM482 you are cleared to level 390 </li></ul><ul><li>(repeated) </li></ul><ul><li>17 SAM482: Roger, recleared to level 390 SAM482 </li></ul><ul><li>(Acknowledgemt) </li></ul><ul><li>C: Negative, what level are you passing now? </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Level 380, sir </li></ul>
  27. 27. <ul><li>C: Roger, stop descend at level 360. </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: Continue descend to FL360 </li></ul><ul><li>and copied level 360 SAM482 (A) </li></ul><ul><li>22 C: SAM482 traffic on your left </li></ul><ul><li>maintaining 380 </li></ul><ul><li>SAM482: SAM482 </li></ul><ul><li>PAC836: Lumpur PAC836 </li></ul><ul><li>C: PAC836 traffic now passing level er </li></ul><ul><li>er descending to 360 </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>PAC836: PAC836 affirm we heard him (.) </li></ul><ul><li>we heard him readback </li></ul><ul><li>descend to 3 er er FL290 </li></ul><ul><li>heading 270 (.) we made a left </li></ul><ul><li>turn to avoid collision and now </li></ul><ul><li>we are back on track. (Reporting </li></ul><ul><li>relevant info) </li></ul><ul><li>C: PAC836 roger traffic is now passing </li></ul><ul><li>372 </li></ul><ul><li>PAC836: PAC836 we have the traffic in sight </li></ul>
  29. 29. Discussion <ul><li>In RT comm. there are two broad concerns. </li></ul><ul><li>Accuracy </li></ul><ul><li>Precise info and accurate understding of each piece of info is essential for air safety. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Efficiency </li></ul><ul><li>Time is critical. Info has to be communicated rapidly because of the dynamism of flight. </li></ul>
  30. 30. <ul><li>These concerns result in two types of comm. problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Understanding problems </li></ul><ul><li>Hearer does not understd or partially understds the message </li></ul><ul><li>Information problems </li></ul><ul><li>Hearer understds but disagrees with the accuracy/ appropriacy of the information. </li></ul><ul><li>Speaker does not have necc info of the current state of the situation (which he needs to take appropriate action) & therefore seeks the info. </li></ul>
  31. 31. <ul><li>In order to cope with these problems, 4 lang skills </li></ul><ul><li>- questioning </li></ul><ul><li>- paraphrasing </li></ul><ul><li>- reporting/describing relevant information </li></ul><ul><li>- acknowledging partner communication </li></ul><ul><li>emerged as valuable problem-solving tools to manage nonroutine situations effectively. </li></ul>
  32. 32. <ul><li>Pilots and controllers had to ask questions to address understding and info problems. </li></ul><ul><li>They had to paraphrase when understding was a problem. </li></ul><ul><li>Pilots had to continually report and describe relevant details of a situation in order to keep the controller updated with the current scenario of the situation. </li></ul><ul><li>Both had to continually acknowledge each piece of info communicated between them as evidence that the presented info had been received and understood. This was to avoid potential misunderstdings in the info presented, and the info received and understood. </li></ul>
  33. 33. <ul><li>These language skills reflect certain comm. behaviours where pilots and controllers are working cooperatively to jointly build an accurate perception of the current state of the nonroutine situation in order to be able to make right judgements so that good decisions may be taken. </li></ul>
  34. 34. <ul><li>The comm. behaviours reflect the players are in a state of “shared mindfulness”. (Krieger 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>Being mindful is an active state where individuals are actively attending, responding, and trying to perceive information accurately. </li></ul><ul><li>Together , the individuals are continually updating, attuned and open to incoming information that are unexpected. </li></ul>
  35. 35. <ul><li>A mindful state is a crucial element for effective crew resource management in reducing errors in crisis situations. (Krieger 2005) </li></ul><ul><li>During crisis situations, comm is fundamental to the construction of a mindful state. </li></ul><ul><li>A mindful state cannot be constructed alone. It has to be done jointly & cooperatively by the individuals involved in the interaction. </li></ul><ul><li>This study has identified 4 lang skills that have emerged as tools that help foster this mindful state amongst its players as they manage the situation they are confronted with. </li></ul>
  36. 36. Concluding remarks <ul><li>This is not to say that a mindful state and the employment of language skills that foster this state are a guarantee against accidents/incidents connected to communication- and language-problems. </li></ul><ul><li>However, an awareness of the ingredients of successful RT communication can help strengthen our efforts for improving training and safety in aviation. </li></ul>
  37. 37. References <ul><li>1. Cushing, S. 1994. Fatal words: Communication clashes and </li></ul><ul><li>aircraft crashes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. </li></ul><ul><li>2. ICAO. 2004. Manual on the implementation of ICAO </li></ul><ul><li>Language Proficiency Requirements. Doc 9835. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Krieger, J.L. 2005. Shared Mindfulness in Cockpit Crisis Situations: </li></ul><ul><li>An exploratory analysis. Journal of Business Comm . 42(2): 135- </li></ul><ul><li>167. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Morrow, D., Rodvold, M., and Lee, A. 1994. Nonroutine transactions in controller-pilot communication. Discourse Processes . 17: 235-258. </li></ul><ul><li>5. Snook, S.A. 2000. Friendly fire . Princeton, NJ: Princeton Uni Press. </li></ul>