How to Communicate Effectively – Part 1

During flight pilots communicate all the time. This goes on until the airplane arrives at the destination, engines shut down and all passengers and crew disembark from the airplane. In fact communication is one of the critical elements, or components of a flight. Studies have shown that a lot of incidents or accidents happened during flights due to a breakdown in communication in the cockpit amongst the pilots as well as miscommunication between pilots and others such as air traffic controllers and engineers.

In our daily life, we too are continuously communicating. It is often said that “we cannot not communicate.” Think about that for a moment. Since we are doing it all the time we become unconscious about it. Yet how many times have we misinterpreted when someone was talking to us or we have been misunderstood when we were talking or saying something to another person.

Oftentimes we underestimate the importance of good communication skills. One can learn to be a good communicator from books or by attending courses. Learning is one thing, we also need to practice this newly learned skill and be aware and be conscious of the response that we get whenever we communicate.

Just how important is good communication in the cockpit? Well, from my own experience I know for sure that it is very, very important. In fact it is crucial for the safety of the flight. Take a typical long haul flight as an example. It flies not only over long periods of time; it also flies across many countries. Although everyone speaks English, however each of them speaks English with a different accent.

Another area that could be of concern is the altitude that an aircraft flies at. Some countries use feet as the unit of measurement whereas some use meters. At most airports the surface wind is reported in knots whereas some other airports report surface wind in meters per second. Apart from the above, different countries could have different air traffic control procedures. All the above could be confusing and if not properly clarified while communicating, it could be a safety hazard.

In my next post I will explain how communication errors are minimized in the cockpit.

Written by Azharuddin Osman

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