The communication between the pilot and air traffic controllers is very important. Traffic controllers provide pilots with signals if it is safe to land or if there are possible objects that may collide with them in their path. These days, air-ground communication has become a lot easier. Modern devices are already in place. However, this was not as easy as it used to be. Back then, ground crews would simply make use of colored paddles and hand signals as visual aids. This primitive technique was extremely difficult especially since pilots had no way in communicating back.
Air-Ground Communication: A Historical Perspective
When colored flags and waving of hands were already proven ineffective, better technology was developed. This gave birth to telegraph systems. Messages were sent via Morse codes. Despite this more modern innovation, communication was still extremely hard. Sometimes, the signals sent and received were erroneous. There were cases of pilot misinterpreting the codes that led to deadly errors. In 1917, AT&T created the air-to-ground radio transmitter, which was considered a breakthrough. It had the ability to send signals ranging up to 2,000 yards. With this technology, Morse code was replaced since voice communication became possible. Radar was eventually developed in the mid 1930’s. This technology became even more helpful during the war. Pilots were able to navigate better and reach their destinations faster. The technology also allowed pilots to drop bombs against enemies accurately.
Modern Radar Versions
Over the years, the first radar kept on evolving until it has become an essential tool for ground to air communications. Today, every plane makes use of radar so it will be easily tracked down by air traffic control towers. Transponders have also been used so that the planes would be easily identified by the tower. Using transponders, mid-air collisions and ground accidents can be avoided. In fact, more modern versions have already been created to the point where a pilot is no longer needed to fly a plane. These are called unmanned aerial vehicles. These are used especially for drones. Planes without pilots can be used for ground attacks and video surveillance. They also used for geographical survey and in the oil and mining industry.
English as the Official Language
Since voice communication is required for pilots and traffic controllers, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has mandated all traffic controllers and flight crews to make use of English especially for international flights. They must also be familiar of the standard ICAO Radio Telephony Phraseology. This became effective starting January 1, 2008. Before anyone could be accepted for a job involving international flights, he or she has to pass a standard test first. The language proficiency test is required for all non-native speakers of English. The test covers pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Those who fail to pass the test will run the risk of removal in international flights. Tests will also be given to native speakers, but it will be more of a listening test just to check whether they have hearing impairments or not. An in-house language testing expert will be required to assess the skills of the applicants. Commercial tests such as TOEFL won’t be acknowledged as these tests don’t cover speaking and listening skills. There are certain descriptors in each level of the test that applicants have to pass.
Air-ground communication has already gone a long way ever since planes were invented. This is something positive since proper air-ground communication plays an important role for a safe trip.