Air passengers at risk due to poor English skills of foreign pilots: report

03 Apr 2017


Air disasters lurked in UK skies due to 'poor English' skills of foreign pilots according to a damning British watchdog report.

According to the report by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), 267 incidents involving miscommunication took place in UK-based aviation during an 18-month period.

The authority's independent review also pointed to concern over cheating on exams, with candidates getting qualifications through 'sweetheart' deals from friends, corruption and inadequate testing for pilots.

In what comes as a shocking discovery, candidates from one country, having no proficiency in English received their certificates after 10 days' tuition, which was an "impossible feat", according to one of the report's contributors.

The report comes after concerns were expressed over a lack of fluency in English, the international standard for aviation, which could lead to accidents over UK and abroad.

The report said, "For the safety of the UK travelling public, it is imperative that all pilots and controllers working in international aviation have the proficiency to communicate clearly and succinctly in all situations, routine and non-routine.

"Language-related miscommunication, including lack of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) proficiency standards, certainly has the potential  to be the cause of serious incidents or even accidents.

"Several mandatory occurrence reporting (MOR)s that reported language-related miscommunication had the potential to develop into serious incidents or accidents."

Some pilots flying in UK airspace ''appear to lack the minimum proficiency in English'', the report said, while air traffic controllers outside the UK did not always have sufficient English skills to communicate with pilots even though they had been obliged to meet an industry standard since 2008.

It needed to be emphasised that "language-related miscommunication issues were as important to aviation safety as any other issue", such as turbulence or disruptive passengers, according to the report's author.

The report called for more language spot checks and ensuring pilots and controllers used proper terminology rather than ''plain language''.

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