English is the basis for aviation communications worldwide creating challenges for both native and non-native English speakers. An unfortunate outcome of language-related communications issues, whether indirectly or directly, has been aircraft mishaps. As aviation grows worldwide, the potential for miscommunication increases. Previous studies have concentrated on commercial aviation accident analysis. A similar focus on general aviation operations and pilot training incidents in the U.S. is needed. Voluntary incident reporting is a key component in Safety Management Systems in order to address problems before they become accidents. This project studied voluntary incident reports to analyze the number of language-related reports filed and whether common themes were present in the reports. Using a quantitative and qualitative approach, publicly available reports from the Aviation Safety Reporting System spanning the years 2008-2018 were explored for language-related communications issues with a specific focus on pilot training incidents. The search yielded 108 reports containing information about language-related communications problems, 38 of those reports related to pilot training. The dearth of reports suggests incidents are likely underreported. What is available indicates a need for better incident reporting and information sharing and a need for pilots and controllers to better understand roles and responsibilities for communicating using Aviation English. This study adds to the growing body of research indicating a need to educate native English speaking aviators on their responsibility to assist non-native English speakers and adopt better coping strategies to adapt to a changing language paradigm.



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