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Page history last edited by Béatrice H. Alves 5 years, 11 months ago

  1. Lexical domain
    1. Misunderstandings
    2. Request to relay
  2. Some principles
  3. A normal cross-country flight
  4. PAN PAN or MAYDAY ?
  5. On the importance of communication
  6. Tiger Line - Flight 66
  7. Language of the skies
  8. Reasons for miscommunication
  9. Some stuff to avoid over the radio
  10. Language gap in the Gol - Legacy accident
  11. Language of air travel: How traffic control keeps you safe
  12. Pilots and ATC communicate
  13. Aviation is stuck in the 60s, a reflection on MH 370 
  14. Losscomm, loss of radar contact and non-compliance with flight plan claimed
  15. Wrong runway
  16. 10 Deadliest Air Disasters Caused By Miscommunication 
  17. DataLink (CPDLC) - Controller-Pilot Data-Link Communications
      1. How does technology support safety and efficiency improvements?
      2. Benefits
  18. ALL CLEAR?
  19. Tutorial
  20. Air China taxiing at JFK
  21. Ground
  22. Bird strike in Russia
  23. Confused on runway
  24. Polite and fun
  25. Hasta la vista
  26. Mess on ground
  27. Mind your mic
  28. The importance of call signs
  29. English Skills a Concern as Global Aviation Grows
  30. When a Braazilian controller isn't clear
  31. Why just phraseology is not enough
  32. Communication example at JFK when the pilot doesn't have a Level 4
  33. Some classes
  34. VIP Passenger Syndrome or Crashing for not using English?
  35. United Express Flight 5925
  36. Crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 - A burnt out light bulb leads to a major disaster
  37. Listen to 2 difficult communications
    1. DOC 9432 by ICAO
    2. CAP 413 by CAA
    3. MCA 116 by DCEA Fraseologia de Tráfego Aéreo (Bilingual Portuguese English)
  39. Phraseology - Remember it, Listen to it
  40. Emergency phraseology (Listen and answer the quiz)
  41. An experience in Colombia
  42. Controllers at work

Lexical domain


previous messages, types of messages, radio performance

Request to relay

names of people, means of relaying


Some principles


A little more detailed here.


A normal cross-country flight



As soon as there is any doubt as to the safe conduct of a flight, immediately request assistance from ATC. Flight crews should declare the situation early; it can always be cancelled.


    • A distress call (situation where the aircraft requires immediate assistance) is prefixed: MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY.
    • An urgency message (situation not requiring immediate assistance) is prefixed: PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN.


Make the initial call on the frequency in use, but if that is not possible squawk 7700 and call on 121.5.
The distress/urgency message shall contain (at least) the name of the station addressed, the call-sign, nature of the emergency, fuel endurance and persons on board; and any supporting information such as position, level, (descending),speed and heading, and pilot’s intentions.


RTF Emergency Communications
MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Metro Control, Big Jet 345, main electric failure, request immediate landing at Metro, position 35 miles north west of Metro, heading 120 flight level 80 descending, 150 persons on board, endurance three hours
Big Jet 345, Roger the MAYDAY, turn left heading 090, radar vectors ILS runway 27
Big Jet 345 request runway 09
Big Jet 345, roger, turn right heading 140 for radar vectoring runway 09, descend to 3000 feet, QNH 995, report established
Big Jet 345, heading 140, descend to 3000 feet QNH 995 , report established localiser runway 09


Fuel Reserves Approaching Minimum
’Fuel Emergency’ or ‘fuel priority’ are not recognised terms. Flight crews short of fuel must declare a PAN or MAYDAY to be sure of being given the appropriate priority.


Read more here.


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On the importance of communication

Incorrect or incomplete pilot-controller communication is a causal or circumstantial factor in 80 percent of incidents or accidents, as illustrated in Table 1.

A survey of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) database identifies the following factors affecting pilot-controller communications:

Factor Percentage of Reports
Incorrect communication 80%
Absence of communication 33%
Correct but late communication 12%

Table 1 Communication Factors in NASA ASRS Reports

The survey also reveals how various modes of communications are affected:

Mode of Communication Percentage of Reports
Listening 45%
Speaking 30%
Reading and writing 25%

Table 2 Communication Factors in NASA ASRS Reports

Incorrect or inadequate ATC instructions (e.g., radar vectors), weather or traffic information, and advice or service in emergencies are causal factors in more than 30 percent of approach and landing accidents.

Read more about it on the Skybrary page

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Tiger Line - Flight 66

ATC radioed to the flight, "Tiger 66, descend two four zero zero [2,400 ft]. Cleared for NDB approach runway three three." The captain of Tiger 66, who heard "descend to four zero zero" replied with, "Okay, four zero zero" (meaning 400 ft above sea level, which was 2,000 ft too low). The proper radio call from ATC, instead of "descend two four zero zero", should have been "descend and maintain two thousand four hundred feet". The captain read back "okay, four zero zero" where the proper read back should have been "Roger, descend and maintain four-hundred feet". The Cockpit voice recorder also revealed several communication errors made by the flight crew prior to this miscommunication and a general casual nature of the Captain, who was the pilot-not-flying on this particular leg of the trip.

Numerous clear warnings were given by the on-board Ground Proximity Warning System which were all ignored entirely by the crew, and the aircraft impacted a hillside 437 ft above sea level, killing all four people on board; two pilots, a flight engineer and an aircraft mechanic. The subsequent fire burned for two days.

Read more about it on Wikipedia  


Language of the skies

There are some 100,000 commercial flights each day in the world which means that literally millions of interactions take place between pilots and air traffic controllers. These very often take place in English – a foreign language for the vast majority. So how do these foreign-language discussions take place and how efficient are they? More importantly, are there breakdowns, and if so, what are they due to? And how can we make improvements?


FG: There are some instances where communication between pilots and air controllers break down though. Can you tell us how much is due to faulty English as compared to other reasons?

JBC: In addition to readback and hearback errors, there are many reasons why communication breakdowns happen. Faulty English is just one of them and restricted to areas with international flights or pilots. Use of non-standard phraseology may or may not be due to lack of English proficiency. There are also stuck microphones which block an entire frequency and there is frequency congestion where a pilot cannot get a word in.

Another problem is airplane callsign confusions, where a pilot may take a clearance for another airplane with a similar sounding callsign. Certainly, all these issues are not helped with lack of English proficiency as a compounding factor.

FG: How important is accent in communication breakdown since a controller and a pilot might each have a different English accent? Would you have an example of an incident due to this?

JBC: There are certainly complaints from both pilots and controllers, and incidences where accents may have played a role. A quick search of an official reporting system in the United States for “foreign accent” yields just 10 reports filed in the past ten years. However, there are many unreported incidents involving pilots flying into non-English speaking territory, pilots using airports with foreign students, pilots communicating with non-native English speaking crews, and of course air traffic controllers communicating with international flights or pilots.


Read more on Uniting Aviation


Reasons for miscommunication

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Some stuff to avoid over the radio

We can all agree there are many “pilot personalities” out there. I spend the majority of my day listening to all sorts of stuff said over the radios (121.5) and while most of it I just tune out, there are a few things that just make me cringe.

While most of this is harmless, especially if you are cruising into Joe Schmoes Airport in Nowheresville, USA; It annoys me (and probably ATC much worse) when New York Center is overloaded and understaffed during rush hour traffic while some pilot is making their transmission longer with useless words and phrases.

10.) “With You”.

No. You are not with him/her.

EXAMPLE: “New York Approach, this is N123AB with you at four thousand feet with information Mike.”

TRY INSTEAD: “New York Center, N123AB four thousand, Mike.”

9.) “Checking in”.

Yeah, we know, that’s why you keyed the mic in the first place.

EXAMPLE: “Jacksonville Center, N123AB just checking in with yah here at twenty three thousand feet.

TRY INSTEAD: “Jacksonville Center, N123AB, FL230.”

8.) Reading back every single syllable a controller says.

This is a personal pet peeve that will drive me bonkers. I usually don’t let it get to me when I hear a Sunday Cessna driver do it, but its inexcusable in La Guardia during cluster f*** hours (majority of the time).


LGA Approach: “N123AB, traffic twelve o’clock, five miles, altitude  3,500. Left turn heading three six zero, descend and maintain 2,000 feet. La Guardia one o’clock and 12 miles. Advise when traffic or airport in sight.”

Annoying Pilot: “La Guardia Approach, N123AB, traffic at twelve o’clock and five miles isn’t in sight. We’ll make the left turn heading three six zero and descend and maintain 2,000. We do have La Guardia in sight.”


Professional Pilot: “N123AB negative contact, Heading tree six zero, descend two thousand, Airport in sight.”

Talk To Much.jpg

7.) Using the word FOR instead of Climbing/Descending





Read more about it on the Daily Aero Blog


Language gap in the Gol - Legacy accident

Did language proficiency and language use play a contributory role in the 2006 collision of an Embraer Legacy 600 and a Boeing 737-800 over the Amazon rain forest? A linguistic analysis of the evidence provided in the accident investigation reports suggests that a number of subtle — but significant — language factors helped create an atmosphere in which a series of communication failures were allowed to develop.

However, most accident investigations — and this one was no exception — do not adequately examine language factors because accident investigators typically do not have the background training required to perceive any but the most blatant language errors.

Read more here


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Language of air travel: How traffic control keeps you safe

(CNN) -- As authorities continue to search for the Malaysia Airlines jet that went missing on March 8, thoughts turn to air safety.

It's exceptionally rare for planes to experience malfunctions, especially serious ones. "Planes don't fall out of the sky at 36,000 feet," says CNN's aviation correspondent Richard Quest.

Even when errors do occur, most often human in nature, airlines and traffic controllers employ a vast array of procedures to ensure our safety.

Hong Kong Airlines was involved in nine incidents in which pilots apparently disregarded instructions from air traffic controllers (ATCs), including a plane taxiing onto a runway without permission and failure to follow instructions about altitude and direction.

Hong Kong's Civil Aviation Department is still investigating those incidents.

Other recent cases of miscommunication between pilots and ground controllers include:

• July 2010: The captain of an Air Blue flight disregards instructions from traffic control and crashes into mountains near Islamabad, killing 152.

Read the full article on CNN


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Pilots and ATC communicate



Aviation is stuck in the 60s, a reflection on MH 370 

plane60sWhen I trained as a pilot I was appalled at how 1960s aviation is. This will be hard for you to believe, but even when you have WiFi on the plane, commercial pilots in most cases do not have Internet in their cockpit, nor do they have satellite phones, nor GPS trackers. All they have to connect with ground is old style radios. And radios that sound awful. Radios are not safe, anyone for any reason can interfere with them. Indeed any person can buy an aviation radio without any kind of permit and start pretending he or she is a controller and aircraft have no way of verifying that they are indeed speaking to a real controller. Plus there is the confusion factor.  When you train as a pilot, a lot of what you have to learn is how to understand controllers over a radio, a radio which has poor sound quality and leads to frequent mix ups because of the different accents and languages that are spoken around the world by controllers and pilots. While in theory all controllers should speak English, Spanish traffic controllers for example speak in Spanish to aircraft that have Spanish identifiers, or address them in Spanish, sometimes depriving other aircraft flown by non Spanish speaking pilots of information that could be useful to them. Moreover, radio frequencies forces pilots to listen to everything that is said to other aircraft until you are called, something that I find extremely distracting when piloting.   Imagine if you had a telephone system in which you had to listen to everyone else’s conversations until somebody finally spoke to you. Well that is what is happening in the air right now all over the world.  Primitive. In my view  it is indefensible that we send planes loaded with passengers over the oceans without Internet, real time voice communications nor  GPS trackers. And even over land and near the coasts we use radars to know where aircraft are, but radars have very short range so we can’t have radar coverage over oceans.  The radar/transponder system is just obsolete as a way to know where aircraft are.  But still the norm. That Malaysian MH370 can disappear over the ocean and nobody knows exactly where, or the Air France 447 flight over the Atlantic went down and it took months to find the black box, is just irresponsible on the part of aviation authorities. My own Citation, a private jet, has a GPS tracker so we always know where it is. It cost less than $1000. We also have a satellite phone that allows the pilots to call for help anywhere in the world on concrete problems they may face that the radio operator may not be able to solve. Those also cost around $1000. And there is now Internet available to planes around in the world. But commercial planes, even when they have it for passengers, do not have it for pilots.  And it is illegal to install equipment that is not approved by flying authorities around the world. Think of a product like the Dropcam and imagine it on all commercial aircraft showing ground personnel in real time everything that is happening in the cabin, cockpit and recording in real time, that combined with good communication with the pilots would make aviation much less of the black hole it is today.

- See more at: http://english.martinvarsavsky.net/general/aviation-is-stuck-in-the-60s-a-reflection-on-mh-370.html#sthash.tJwxP2pk.dpuf



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Losscomm, loss of radar contact and non-compliance with flight plan claimed



A TAM Linhas Aereas Airbus A320-200, registration PR-MHM performing flight JJ-3665 from Aracaju,SE to Sao Paulo Guarulhos,SP (Brazil), was climbing out of Aracaju when radio communication with the aircraft was lost. The aircraft continued towards Sao Paulo. Forca Aerea Brazil however, having lost radar contact with the aircraft, dispatched a fighter aircraft to accompany the A320 and restore radar contact. Radio communication was eventually restored after about one hour and the aircraft landed safely in Sao Paulo on schedule about 2 hours after departure.

Forca Aerea Brazil reported, that the aircraft lost radio and radar contact and did not follow their flight plan diverting from their assigned route, hence an abnormal scenario was declared and a fighter aircraft dispatched to intercept and accompany the A320 to provide a radar target instead of the A320

Read the complete article on Aviation Herald.



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Wrong runway


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10 Deadliest Air Disasters Caused By Miscommunication 


In the technological world of modern air travel, there’s a certain irony in the fact that the majority of aviation disasters are caused by human error. And one of the most common forms of error is miscommunication. Even if just one person makes a mistake, the repercussions can be catastrophic.


Air travel is arguably one of the safest forms of transportation, but when airplane crashes do happen, because of their nature, they can take a devastating toll on human life. Here’s our list of the 10 worst air crashes caused by miscommunication.


10. Avianca Flight 52 (1990)


Avianca Flight 52 Crash 1990Image Source


On January 25, 1990, Avianca Flight 52 was carrying 149 passengers from Bogotá, Colombia to New York. However, because of bad weather conditions and air traffic congestion, the Boeing 707 was forced into a holding pattern off the coast near New York. And after circling for nearly an hour and a half, the aircraft was running low on fuel.


When Flight 52 arrived at Kennedy Airport, due to the fog and wind, only one runway was open for the 33 planes that were attempting to land every hour. What’s more, the flight was delayed again as the aircraft ahead of them failed to touch down. Flight 52’s fuel situation soon became desperate.


Two crucial pieces of miscommunication led to the disaster that was to follow. When the aircraft was passed from regional to local air traffic controllers, the local controllers were not informed that the aircraft had too little fuel to reach its alternative airport. Compounding the problem, crucially the aircraft’s crew did not explicitly declare that there was “fuel emergency” to the local controllers, which would have indicated that the plane was actually in danger of crashing.


As a result, after missing its first attempt to land, the airplane was given a landing pattern that it had too little fuel to execute. While the crew attempted to manoeuvre the plane, its engines flamed out in quick succession. The Boeing 707 slammed into the village of Cove Neck, Long Island, killing 65 of its 149 passengers and eight out of nine of its crew.


Read about all of them on Alizul blog 

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DataLink (CPDLC) - Controller-Pilot Data-Link Communications


How does technology support safety and efficiency improvements?

Controller-Pilot Data-Link Communications (CPDLC) is an air/ground data-link application operated at the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre, which enables the exchange of text messages between controllers and pilots. CPDLC complements traditional voice communications, providing pilots and controllers with an additional communications medium.
The objective of CPDLC is to improve the safety and efficiency of air traffic management.


The main benefits of CPDLC are reduced voice-channel congestion, less chance of being misunderstood, less fatigue and greater efficiency.

  • Additional communication channel
    In addition to voice communications, CPDLC offers a second, independent communication channel to controllers and pilots, reducing the strain on busy sector frequencies. It is freely available at pilots’ own choice. Voice communications remain available  for tactical ATC instructions at all times, or in the event of problems or abnormalities.

  • Enhanced safety
    CPDLC offers an alternative, unambiguous communication channel (e.g. in the event of busy, blocked or deteriorated VHF radio frequency) with no risk of misunderstanding, since crews and air traffic controllers can actually read the messages.
  • Increased capacity
    CPDLC helps increase capacity by reducing voice-frequency load. It is estimated that a 75% CPDLC equipage rate will generate a capacity gain of 11% in Europe. 
  • Greater efficiency 
    With CPDLC, you will never again have to say the words “SAY AGAIN?”. All messages are in written form. And because you can read the text messages, the workload is reduced for both pilots and controllers. This is less tiring for crews and controllers.



Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), also referred to as Controller Pilot Data Link (CPDL), is a method by which air traffic controllers can communicate with pilots over a datalink system.

Read more about it here.



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This is a great toolkit to improve your skills to talk about communication problems. You will find videos with transcript and self study notes.



ALLCLEAR? is part of the Air Ground Communication (AGC) Safety Improvement Initiative launched by the EUROCONTROL Safety Team in 2004. It builds on the recommendations and best-practices presented in the AGC European Action Plan. General discussions about toolkits happen on the SKYbrary forum. Want to discuss about ALLCLEAR? Use this link.

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Air China taxiing at JFK

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Bird strike in Russia

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Confused on runway


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Polite and fun


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Hasta la vista

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Mess on ground

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Mind your mic

Southwest Airlines Pilot Broadcasts Profane Rant from TIME on Vimeo.

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The importance of call signs

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English Skills a Concern as Global Aviation Grows

By JOE SHARKEY    Published: May 21, 2012




A FOREIGN tourist approached me in Times Square.


“Please, where is ahhty-ahm?” he asked. At least, that’s what I heard, even when he slowly repeated the question. I was flummoxed until he took a bank card out of his wallet and made the motion of inserting it into an imaginary slot.

“Oh, A.T.M.!” I said, and pointed the way to the nearest one.

As he thanked me, the man seemed to speak English well enough. But his question had been incomprehensible to me because of his pronunciation — a short rather than long A, an accent on the first rather than last syllable of “A.T.M.”

The exchange was inconsequential. But consider similar misunderstandings involving greater complexity in exchanges that are crucial indeed, like those, say, between airline pilots and air traffic controllers who do not share the same native language.

Confusion often occurs. Sometimes it’s just amusing, like a 2006 recording of exchanges between an Air China pilot and an air traffic controller at Kennedy Airport in New York. The controller becomes increasingly exasperated by the pilot’s hapless English, to the point where you can almost hear the steam coming out of his ears. That recording, on YouTube as Air China 981, is a favorite among air traffic controllers and pilots who have their own stories of language misunderstanding in global aviation.

Read the rest here on the New York Times

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When a Braazilian controller isn't clear

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Why just phraseology is not enough





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Communication example at JFK when the pilot doesn't have a Level 4



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Some classes

More Iman Jones's classes on his Youtube channel



VIP Passenger Syndrome or Crashing for not using English?


Here are two articles on the accident that killed the President of Poland together with 95 people, including the crew.


'VIP passenger syndrome' may have contributed to Polish plane crash

The role of the Polish president in the air crash in which he and 95 others died has been called into question amid suggestions he many have put pressure on the pilot to land despite bad weather warnings.


Andrew Osborn in Moscow and Matthew Day in Warsaw

Published: 8:18PM BST 12 Apr 2010

A Russian serviceman stands guard near the engine of the crashed Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft

A Russian serviceman stands guard near the engine of the crashed Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft Photo: AFP/GETTY




One of the Russian air traffic controllers involved in the tragedy said he believes the Polish air force pilot Arkadiusz Protasiuk, 36, was under severe pressure 'to land at any cost' so that the president would not miss the commemoration of the death of 22,000 Poles slaughtered by Stalin.

But he claims there were also serious language problems between the control tower at the military airport near Smolensk and the crew as the aircraft began its descent, and final approach, 'without our permission'.



Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1265482/Leck-Kaczynski-Russia-engineered-plane-crash-claims-Polish-MP.html#ixzz0l5PIu8dP

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United Express Flight 5925


United Express / Great Lakes Flight 5925/5926 took off from Chicago at 15:25 with a delay of some 3 hours. After an intermediate stop at Burlington, the Beechcraft 1900 took off again for Quincy at 16:40 local time. As the Beechcraft was approaching Quincy, two aircraft were ready for departure.

Beechcraft King Air 65-A90 (N1127D) and Piper Cherokee N7646J were taxiing to runway 04. Since Quincy is an uncontrolled airport, all 3 aircraft used a common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF). The United Express crew asked for the first time whether the King Air was holding short or was going to depart at 16:59:29. The King Air crew didn't respond, so the King Air was asked again if they were holding short, at 17:00:16. This time the Cherokee pilot responded he was holding short of runway 04. Because of the GPWS 200 feet altitude warning in the Beech 1900 cockpit, just the last part of the transmission, including the words "King Air" were heard.

Probably thinking the King Air was holding short, the United Express crew continued their approach to runway 13. The King Air however, had taxied onto the runway and had started it's take-off roll when the Beech 1900 touched down. A collision took place at the runway 04/13 intersection. Both aircraft skidded for 110 feet and came to rest along the east edge of runway 13 with the Beech 1900's right wing interlocked with the left wing of the King Air. Both aircraft caught fire immediately.

Three pilots witnessed the accident and rushed to the scene. With the right side of the Beech 1900 on fire, they went to the right side and saw the captain with her head and one arm out of the window, shouting "get the door open!". Several attempts to open the door failed until the left wing buckled, causing the nose wheel and cockpit to fall to the right. Attempts by passengers to open the door from the inside had also failed.

PROBABLE CAUSE: "The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the pilots in the King Air A90 to effectively monitor the common traffic advisory radio frequency or to properly scan for traffic, resulting in their commencing a takeoff roll when the Beech 1900C (United Express flight 5925) was landing on an intersecting runway.

Contributing to the cause of the accident was the Cherokee pilot's interrupted radio transmission, which led to the Beech 1900C pilots' misunderstanding of the transmission as an indication from the King Air that it would not take off until after flight 5925 had cleared the runway.

Contributing to the severity of the accident and the loss of life was the lack of adequate aircraft rescue and firefighting services, and the failure of the air stair door on the Beech 1900C to open."

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Crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 - A burnt out light bulb leads to a major disaster


On the night of December 29th, 1972, Eastern Airlines Flight 401 took off from New York and headed towards Miami, Florida. Less than three hours later  the aircraft reached Florida. Unfortunately it did so as a scattered wreck over the marshes of Florida's Everglades. One hundred and three lives were lost. Read more.


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Listen to 2 difficult communications



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DOC 9432 by ICAO

CAP 413 by CAA

MCA 116 by DCEA Fraseologia de Tráfego Aéreo (Bilingual Portuguese English)



Phraseology - Remember it, Listen to it

Here is a site by Eurocontrol where you can refresh your knowledge on phraseology. You can listen to examples of each phrase and get used to a wide variety of foreign accents.



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Emergency phraseology (Listen and answer the quiz)


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An experience in Colombia


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Controllers at work


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