Communication Between Commercial Pilots and essay

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Obviously, those situations include survivors of ditches and crashes, but equally important is the degree to which cell phones offer solutions to flight emergencies.

Salven acknowledges that cell phone use of this nature is specifically prohibited by FCC restrictions but relates the views of an FCC spokesman who relates that.".. The FCC isn't aware of any enforcement action having been taken against pilots using cell phones in emergency situations during the past 30 years." Salven describes situations such as cell phone communications between pilot and controllers necessitated by emergency conservation (i.e. shutdown) of electrical power caused by acute ammeter discharge in flight.

Equipment, Flight Hours, and Rule Priority Ambiguity:

The other components of emergency communications relate to the relative capability of equipment to prevent emergencies (particularly on the ground), various factors capable of reducing the efficiency of pilot responses to emergencies, and the inherent ambiguity and even apparent contradictions in FAA regulations. The European Aviation Safety Agency (2009) published the results of the analysis of several studies detailing the adverse effects of current working conditions of airline pilots, particularly as pertains to excessive flight hours.

According to study released by that agency in January, that study.".. clearly indicates that the flight times to which pilots are subjected are too long." It reported.".. A link with the risk of accidents..." And recommended.".. reducing the flight times anticipated by Community legislation." According to the EASA,.".. A working time of 10-12 hours increases the risk of accidents by 1.7 times and that a working time of 13 hours or more multiplies this risk by 5.5." and.".. fatigue is a contributing factor in 15% to 20% of accidents principally caused by human error."

That report generated a refutation by airline representatives who.".. are questioning the methodological process, considering the scientific and medical content of the report to be insufficient" and who warn that "[i]f the recommendations were to be implemented, airlines would have to employ an additional 15% to 20% of pilots to serve the same number of flights."

Another report published in the January 2009 issue of Nursing Standard also suggests a reevaluation of pilot flight hour requirements, although on an entirely different basis: the long-term health consequences of cumulative exposure to ionizing radiation.

That study, "Increased frequency of chromosome translocations in airline pilots with long-term flying experience" (Yong, et al., 2008) appeared in Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2008 was inconclusive but strongly suggested the need for further study because of the known chromosomal abnormalities associated with cumulative ionizing radiation exposure and the fact that.".. among pilots, the adjusted translocation frequency was significantly associated with flight years (P=0.01) with rate ratios of 1.06 and 1.81 for a one and ten-year incremental increase in flight years respectively" in the Yong (et al.) study.

Rozendaal (2007) addresses the extent to which pilot preparation and situational awareness relate to efficient communications between pilots and controllers and maintains that.".. being fully prepared for the approach is essential." The author provides the example of unanticipated last-minute approach changes necessitated by the emergency closure of a runway during approach and the manner in which subsequent communications sequences can potentially impact the ability of controllers to maintain their highest degree of awareness: "How you answer that radio call may have a direct impact on the quality of the service received from ATC in the next few minutes. An air traffic controller's mind works much like a pilot's and the controller is feeling just like you are: pissed. A huge load of crap just landed in his wagon and a few kind words from you might be rewarded with short vectors to 29R. Mumble your string of expletives before you key the mic and then set those feelings aside, smile, and respond, 'Baron 321 left 250.' Like Berge (2008) and Shelton (2007), Rozendaal (2007) emphasizes the importance of preflight preparation and the proactive anticipation of emergency routes on the part of pilots and their contribution to the efficiency of communications with air traffic control in the same example:

Now it's time to get to work, and the first job at hand is to evaluate your options. If the weather is bad, your flight plan already has an alternate, and, if the fuel is low, proceeding immediately to the alternate maybe the best choice. That leg should have been part of your original plan and will require the least additional work." In that regard, Doane, Young, & Jodlowski (2004) report that preparation of this nature is even more important for relatively inexperienced pilots by virtue of the extent to which their study disclosed the importance of cumulative flight hours as a direct determinant of the ability of pilots to process multiple streams of information, particularly during stressful conditions. That study is doubly important because it also implies that controllers cannot relay on the same degree of comprehension and operational competence of different pilots in circumstances where controllers must communicate emergency procedures.

The researchers provide an established definition of situational awareness as.".. A term that emerged from aviators' and air traffic controllers' characterization of incidents and accidents as being caused by a failure to develop and maintain awareness of the flight situation" and summarize the importance of proactive anticipation vs. reactive response in flight operations in that regard as follows: "Fixed-wing pilots are trained to simulate mentally the future state of the aircraft in order to mentally' "stay ahead" of the current flight state (Horne, 1997). This is necessary because of the delay in the effects of control movements on flight status. If pilots fly by reactively responding to the immediate aircraft state rather than mentally planning ahead, then they have difficulty meeting flight goals... "

Finally, Paul Marks (2005) reports that current emergency warning equipment technology is insufficient to provide adequate incursion awareness to avert potential emergencies, primarily because existing systems rely on the controller to relay information in circumstances where that delay precludes a timely reaction on the part of pilots.

A the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS)... uses an airport-wide ground radar system to detect the position of aircraft and ground vehicles. A computer compares the position, velocity and acceleration of all aircraft and vehicles and then works out when there is a potential conflict. When it predicts a breach of minimum separation between planes it automatically issues visual and audible alerts to air traffic control. Then it is up to the controller to warn the pilots that they need to take evasive action."

According to Marks,

The system relies on the controller getting the alert, deciding what to do and then warning the flight crew. But this takes crucial seconds that the flight crew may not have. The NTSB wants a system that provides a fast, direct warning to the pilots involved, not one mediated by a controller."

Whereas the equipment limitations detailed by Miller (2008) pertain to technical capability, the limitations highlighted by Marks (2005) relate to inefficient information transmission processes. In the case of the former, the solution lies in better comprehension of controller capabilities of pilots and the corresponding need for their thorough preflight preparation and situational awareness. In the latter case, the solution requires a fundamental change in protocols for information transmission during emergencies.


The evaluated literature encompasses the most important issues arising in contemporary civilian aviation in connection with emergency communications between pilots and air traffic controllers. The literature suggest the need for mutual cooperation between pilot and air traffic controllers with regard to informal communication protocols, as well as the importance of anticipation, situational awareness, and preflight preparation of pilots because all of those factors affect the efficiency of emergency communications.

The literature also details the need for mutual coordination between pilots and controllers with respect to potentially ambiguous descriptions in applicable federal regulation delineating their respective emergency-avoidance responsibilities. Finally, other elements of the literature address the impact of environmental factors on pilots and the deficiency of existing emergency avoidance systems in their current operational configuration.


Berge, Paul. "Think ahead of ATC: sow your plan in the mind of ATC and watch it grow into a thing of beauty. it's just a matter of knowing what to ask for and when.(SYSTEM NOTES)(air traffic control).." IFR. 24.2 (Feb 2008): 17(2). Doane, Stephanie M., Young Woo Sohn, and Mark T. Jodlowski. "Pilot ability to anticipate the consequences of flight actions as a function of expertise." Human Factors. 46.1 (Spring 2004): 92(12). EASA. "AIR TRANSPORT: PILOTS' FLIGHT TIMES TOO LONG, SAYS STUDY. (European Aviation Safety Agency).." European Social Policy. (Feb 12, 2009): 243326.

Marks, Paul. "Urgent call to end frequent runway near-misses: collision warning systems that rely on a response from air traffic controllers don't give pilots enough time to act." New Scientist. 188.2519 (Oct 1, 2005): 22(2).

Miller, Bob. "Getting no WX from ATC: thunderstorms can catch you sleeping any time of year. Don't expect the controller to give you a heads-up, either. (SYSTEM NOTES)(weather report, air traffic control).." IFR. 24.1 (Jan 2008): 6(5). Rozendaal,…[continue]

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