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No, not an accident, but a possible contributing factor.

 

Just listening to local radio traffic before I return to the skies.

We have 80-odd Chinese student pilots training in nearby airspace. The ones I've met have been good people who are working hard, but too often we cannot make out what is being said over the radio. The same goes for many pilots from other countries.

Many native Australian speakers are bad enough -too fast, mumble, ramble on - but flyers from other countries are often impossible to understand. The poor buggers are forced to use English, which ain't easy for anyone to learn, and to use it clearly in very stressful situations. A big ask, when, as students, they are also learning a whole new skill set.

 

So, before these communication problems cause a disaster, what to do about it?

 

I can't see any strict enforcement of clear English being implemented, given commercial considerations and the parlours state of Australia's relations with our biggest source of students.

 

Perhaps it's time to make more use of pre-programmed clips of clear speech for non-English speakers to store and transmit.

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Asian people who have been brought up learning and speaking Asian languages, who then have to learn to speak English, are some of the most difficult-to-understand people I have come across.

It's due to their native languages requiring a completely different tone inflection to English, and this is extremely hard for them to "unlearn" - particularly when they're still primarily speaking their native language.

I don't know what the solution is. Perhaps voice recognition programmes may come into their own in the future, whereby the programme is attuned to the individuals style of speech, and re-transmits it as clear English?

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We have had this at South Grafton for several years. AIA training from Port Macquarie fly in with Student 5 or 6 days a week. It doesn't help that they also use Grafton Airport because often the only word you can understand is "Grafton". Also our runway is 08/26 & Grafton is 18/36 so which one did they say? We had a CASA seminar on "Radio procedures in CTAF" & this was the major complaint from everyone. We were told that they had to take an English language proficiency test before being allowed to train here. I'd have failed most of them.

 

I've spoken to a few of them when they have stopped for a break & strangely found them quite easy to understand face to face. On the radio though it is a completely different story. Then again there are some really bad locals who do not stick to the standard phraseology, speak too fast, mumble or decide their radio transmission should also include heaps of irrelevant guff or worst of all don't give 10 mile inbounds & sometimes nothing else even when there is other traffic around.

 

I don't know what we can do about it other than report issues which we have done but I don't see (hear) any change to date.

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There is at least one that is training at Wellcamp that despite being clear as a bell, is completely unintelligible. About the only word I can pick out is “ traffic “, and possibly only because it’s the second word in the transmission and sounds a bit like “traffic “.

I don’t know what the fix is, aside from more stringent oral assessments, but these guys are mixing with RPT, and I would have thought it might be quite important.

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Do they have Australian Instructors in the aircraft? If you keep asking them to "Say Again" and explain you cannot understand them you may find the instructor buts in and gives you clear info. Keep doing it if you havce to! It is a flight safety matter!

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How do they pass a license test specifically at commercial pilot level. Is a English level test required? As in say the Australian visa system.

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I do not often whinge but this topic has struck a cord with me. A couple of weekends ago at Goulburn a pilot, from somewhere on the Indian Subcontinent, was doing circuits. The speed of his patter, mixed with a very heavy accent, made his radio calls useless. I had no idea where he was from the calls he made, as I taxied to runway 22. The only discernible part of his call was his frequent mention of 22. I saw him in circuit and thought him on downwind so I declared my intentions, lined up on 22, and departed. He was in fact on base leg for 26 and the runways cross. He declared a go-around as I sped through the crossover, which I did hear. The conflict in traffic was not close but it was unnecessary. My learnings? Well, not to assume, which was my failure, call-out poor communication, and make sure you understand his intentions. I would normally have had a quiet word with the pilot afterwards but he had long departed by the time I returned.

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It is not right but when I hear them coming & I am on the ground I wait till they've gone & the same when I am inbound by giving the aerodrome a wide berth. I have asked for a say again at times but I can never figure out the callsign so just say aircraft calling say again your last message & get the same unintelligible blurb. On Wednesday mornings I have morning tea with some of the old timers at the clubhouse, one of whom brings his hand held radio. The 2 old blokes have never been able to understand a word. I usually get a few words but not that many. Even when I can understand a bit I wonder "Is it Grafton or South Grafton? Is it 08 or 18? Is it 26 or 36? Location, altitude and intentions are always completely unintelligible & when they are struggling to figure out what to say there are aahhs & gaps with the PTT still held on etc.

 

When Rex is coming they give a 20 mile inbound as clear as a bell & most GA locals are good but a lot of RA drivers leave a fair bit to be desired but at least I can understand what they are saying.

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Do they have Australian Instructors in the aircraft? If you keep asking them to "Say Again" and explain you cannot understand them you may find the instructor buts in and gives you clear info. Keep doing it if you havce to! It is a flight safety matter!

Sometimes they appear to have an instructor on board. I would certainly be radioing back requesting the information if I thought they were near me.

They use Stanthorpe, Pittsworth and Millmerran a lot. I have to put two and two together and work out if I could reasonably interpret what was said and whether it's relevant to me.

A typical call might sound like.....Danfor twaffee Dymon Tar Yankee something something wuh fy mile uh ees a fee fowsan fy hunred fee tack uh wess to Wellcam Danfor twaffee.

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Funny isn’t it how much emphasis CASA put on some fairly irrelevant stuff and do nothing about something like this which could be vitally important. Maybe after it causes a midair, something will be done. I fly from Warwick and so know exactly what you mean!

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It might be worth an CASA incident report as the training company is not operating safely for a start. From all you guys at different airports. Who would want to be a CFI for this known problem?

 

Back when I trained at Bankstown they had just stared training Garuda Airline guys from Indonesia. Long story short with three active runways at Bankstown and at least 15 plus aircraft in the circuit (yes true back then) and Sydney Mascot airport next door it got so bad that I believe they were required to carry an Instructor on solo. Never knew how the passed a Australian Commercial Flight test let alone the written exams. They only had 6 weeks crash course in English before they arrived. Dangerous was an understatement, as was punching into Sydney airspace on many occasions causing problems.

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Biggest problem I found is their training, they are trained with mostly low hour Australian instructors. The new pilots just say what they've been told, doesn't matter if it relates to the real world or not, e.g. circuit position. They say joining downwind but they are still 2 miles from the circuit.

 

Perhaps instead of just whinging everybody should complain to CASA, usually doesn't do any good or have any impact but if enough complain and get some press coverage something might happen.

 

Ultimately see and be seen is the way of uncontrolled airports, radio calls are not required unless an RCTAF if they still have such things or whatever they call them now. Use your eyes and if going into a known spot where this thing happens then be ultra aware.

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There's no good whinging and bitching about this serious safety issue and then not doing something about it. It's no good for us to read in the Accidents and Incidents section that someone we know has had a mid-air, and for us to say, "Oh, yeah. He was talking about radio transmissions that were unintelligible at that airport."

 

If it is a matter of concern, then submit a REPCON. REPCON is a voluntary and confidential reporting scheme. REPCON – Aviation Confidential Reporting Scheme REPCON allows any person who has an aviation safety concern to report it to the ATSB confidentially. Protection of the reporter's identity and any individual referred to in the report is a primary element of the scheme.

 

Here's the link to the on-line reporting form: REPCON - Aviation Confidential Reporting Scheme

 

Remember that it is the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. If CASA gets enough of these reports, then it is duty bound to investigate.

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Trouble is not many have much faith in CASA, my dealings with CASA I avoid them at all costs.

That's a cynical way of looking at things but 40 years both being an operator and flying for a living, my experience is their toxic.

I know that's the wrong attitude.

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There's always the opportunity to harness the NIMBY forces. Get in touch with a reported from your local newspaper and spin a yarn that there is danger in the skies over their town because of the failure of clear radio communication.

 

This might not be the right time to use this method at Grafton, with REX pulling out due to excessive landing fees charged by the local council, and Albury losing services due to Virgin's demise. Both these are making aviation a bit on the nose in those places.

 

{Please don't go off topic with witty comments about "Virgin's demise" }

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When we had the CASA seminar on "Radio procedures in CTAF" there were about 25 pilots there, all telling the CASA about this issue so they are very well aware of it & we were told it would be discussed with the FTFs with foreign students. That was nearly a year ago & there has been no change.

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Once, at a gliding event, this senior glider pilot ( a psychiatrist in real life ) gave some power pilot a good telling off for useless and inintelligable radio work. I hope it reformed the power pilot, but he ( the power pilot ) didn't say anything at the time. Certainly no thanks for the tutoring.

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The worst I've come across are pilots who have a 1 year or 2 on a fresh commercial, they know it all and spray out calls as quick as they can. Bad radio calls are covered by every form of flying, from students through to an odd airline pilot, most are professionals and treat it as such.

We've all heard (or half heard) a 2 stroke ultralight of some sort where an un-shielded ignition makes the transmission unreadable. Or gliders where their battery is running on 3 volts and the transmission is almost inaudible, some areas gliders have a reputation for not talking at all (Also IFR but that's for another thread). Goes right through from machine gun transmissions from mail run pilots to the odd smug rookie talking down to everybody in a regional airliner.

We all have to try and make our calls understandable. No need to try and complicate with all sorts of terms and procedure. Just tell people where you are and your intentions in the simplest of terms.

Example: "5 miles Southwest 3000 inbound". Also no need to give a highly detailed rundown on your circuit joining just what leg and if not standard then just a wide or close, another example: "Joining a close downwind low level for 03"

No need to say nautical miles, that's what we work in, we all know that. Also no need to say "This time" after every transmission, we all know what the time is, it's just wasted bandwidth.

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Ungrateful. It normally costs a fortune for a session with a Psychiatrist..

With the talk-talk put brain in gear before lips get motion. Know what you are going to say Press button before commencing, speak clearly and slowly and say only what is necessary and use standard Phraseology and KNOW WHERE you are in relation to the Aerodrome IF ASKED. eg 5 miles southwest meaning the drome is 5 miles NE of you. If you do this you will excel amongst your peers. and it's NOT sissy to do it right. Nev

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Simple & concise is best and understandable. The standard for inbound is "Parkes traffic, Cessna 172, ABC, one zero miles east, inbound on descent through four thousand, estimating circuit at one five Parkes". This is clear and concise but can be shortened further to "Parkes traffic, Cessna 172, ABC, 10 miles east, 4000, Inbound, ETA 15, Parkes". Simple concise and understandable. I don't think you need to say on descent if you have already said inbound as that is obvious & ETA can't be confused with anything else.

 

In Chinglish "Parr traffee, Dymon (unintelligible) wuh roe my ee fousan imbow esmay sirkit wuh fy" is complete gobbldeygook. Note. I have never heard a foreign student say "Cessna" so I had to replace that with Diamond.

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