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Research into 'Aviation English' to identify miscommunication issues

Language communication problems in the aviation industry are to be studied by linguists at Queen Mary University of London in a project initiated and led by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

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The extensive research project will explore whether poor command of English - the language of global aviation - amongst some pilots and air traffic controllers, is leading to increased safety risks.

The project will explore how existing methods of maintaining clarity can be enhanced to reduce or eliminate language-related problems, which can contribute to accidents or serious incidents.

The CAA said there is evidence to suggest that proficiency of 'Aviation English' the industry's communicative standard - regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) - is not always at the required level amongst some pilots operating in the UK, and some air traffic controllers working internationally.

The research, funded by the UK Department for Transport under the auspices of the UK State Safety Programme, will be undertaken by Dr Barbara Clark, a linguist and anthropologist specialising in aviation communication and safety at Queen Mary, University of London. Additional linguistic expertise is provided by Dr Colleen Cotter, also at Queen Mary.

Dr Clark said: "This project shows that the UK recognises the need to maintain clear and unambiguous communication in aviation, and is treating it as a serious matter. Most interaction between pilots and controllers happens without any ambiguity or misunderstanding, but there are still instances where meaning is unclear, not everyone is on the same page, and mistakes can happen. Given the global nature of aviation and the many different cultural backgrounds of pilots and controllers, it's understandable that some misunderstandings occur."

The research results will be available in 2014 and the findings will be shared with the international aviation industry.

For further media information please contact the CAA Press on: 0207
453 6030  or Samantha Philpott, PR Manager at Queen Mary on: 020 7 882 7454 or

Follow the CAA on Twitter @UK_CAA or Queen Mary @QMUL

For media information, contact:

Rupert Marquand
Media Relations Manager
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