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Communication errors between pilots and air traffic controllers (ATC) have been reported to be on the list of the factors commonly contributing towards aircraft accidents or serious incidents. Incomplete or incorrect communications between pilots and air traffic controllers cause 80% of all aviation incidents or accidents. That is why it is extremely important to learn and practice how to communicate on the air, but there are many pilots that consider this part of the training stressful and time-consuming. Pilots would often find it uncomfortable to recognize mistakes in this particular skill set and are not likely to train themselves on communications more often.  

In this case study by the Air Safety Institute, an accident occurs due to communication breakdown and is explained.

Here are some reminders to help you become more aware of how you communicate with ATC and what can be done to make the process both safer and easier for everyone involved:

Understand the roles:

When it comes to air operations, everyone has a specific role to play, and the process works best when everyone understands their role. It is also important to understand the role of the others. That is why it is very important for you, as a pilot, to read and learn about the Air Traffic Control System and Airspace.

Never assume:

If you are not sure, ask. Pilots would often find themselves in circumstances where quick communication is important. The truth is that the air traffic continues to increase, and air traffic controllers need to communicate with many aeroplanes at the same time. When you are in the middle of it, you feel the pressure to get the message first time, but don’t shy away from talking to an air traffic controller and don’t be intimidated by busy or big airspace. The controllers are there to help you, it may sound interruptive, but it is the only way to guarantee the safety of the operations.

Be aware of everything happening around you.

It is important to focus on your situation, but it is also useful to be aware of everything that is happening around you. Don’t just listen for your call sign, use other aeroplanes on your frequency and the controller’s comments to build your own mental radar display of where everyone is and where they’re going. Doing this will improve your overall situational awareness and is a good double check in case someone makes a mistake, but it also keeps you in the loop so you can anticipate what comes next.

Learn More About Communication Failures

Flight Safety offers a comprehensive breakdown of how communication failures can compromise flight safety. Learn what these communications failures are, so that you don’t make the same mistakes.

Practice as much as you can.

Technology makes it easier for you to practice communication anywhere. You can grab a handheld aviation radio, or visit a website such as ATC LIVE. Try to create an image of the air traffic you are listening to. When you are actually flying, you will find that the practice helps make communication much easier with air traffic control.

Don’t shy away from challenges.

Some pilots, especially if they train at non-towered airports, are afraid of busy airports. Don’t be. The controllers are almost uniformly friendly and helpful, and you have every right to fly there. Mixing it up with the big boys is great practice

Remember that the primary goal in all your communications is understanding, both for you and the controller. If you both understand one another, appropriate decisions can be made to ensure your flight and the flights of those around you remain safe, efficient, and enjoyable.

If you or a loved one have been involved in an aviation accident, contact Maidenberg law Group for a free consultation. Call us toll free at (888) 520-9617, or contact The Maidenberg Law Group online.


  1. September 18, 2019

    This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve
    found something that helped me. Appreciate it!
    Ross Alisha

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