To improve communication between pilots and the air traffic controller (ATC), pilots from three leading domestic carriers have begun an informal process to iron out the differences. Pilots and air traffic managers will discuss safety issues such as language shortcomings, accent differences and aviation jargon in a series of candid tea parties that will be held across the country.
A month ago, the country’s aviation regulator had asked pilots and the ATC to brush up their communication skills. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had cited a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) report, which stated that 80% of aircraft accidents occur because of incorrect information exchanged between the ATC and pilots, and 33% because critical data is not shared.
The communication gap has led to near mishaps in the past. In 2009, the ATC failed to alert a Kingfisher pilot about the runway being wet. The aircraft skid at the Mumbai airport putting the lives of 42 passengers at risk. The DGCA’s probe found that an Air India pilot had alerted the ATC about water on the runway, but the controller did not understand the message.
“We have just begun visiting ATC towers in south India to understand their work pressure,” said captain Siddharth Marwa, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, India.
The year-old body comprising 2,000 pilots from Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines is part of an international group representing more than a lakh pilots across the globe.
“Having interacted with ATCs abroad, our pilots are used to a certain level of professionalism. We are trying to raise the bar to the same level through this initiative,” said a member of the ATC Guild.