My understanding is that there are general sentence structure rules that must be adhered to when there is contact between Pilot and ATC are well defined, like this. Are these rules strictly followed in the real world, and is all other conversation fully avoided?

If not, does it happen often enough to be considered while designing an automated ATC response system?

(Based of videos of pilots sharing lighter moments with the ATC on YouTube)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 11:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ related $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Your second question (automated ATC response) should be separated from your first question (strict phraseology). $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 16:18

2 Answers 2


Standard Phraseology is what should be used, but especially in those countries where the local language is an allowed IFR language, you will get deviation from that in daily use, either due to dialect, accent or simply colloquial terms influencing the phraseology used between pilots and ATC.

In countries like the USA, where English is the local language anyway, you will sometimes hear non-standard phraseology being used. In countries like Germany, where English is not the local language and IFR is only allowed in English, you will have pilots and ATC adhering to standard phraseology more closely, especially to avoid misunderstanding due to local accent.

Anecdotal comment: I fly in Germany and usually use English also for VFR. Germans have a very phonetically hard sounding pronunciation in English, making the language sound clipped and sharp, which carries over to phraseology being used. Many native English speakers have commented though that this makes it really easy to understand, because every word is spoken very distinguishedly. Although I speak English fluently without accent in normal day use, I tend to slip into a German accented English in aviation... because it's easier to understand.

  • $\begingroup$ "Germans have a very hard sounding pronunciation in English" Oh well, you never heard french pilots speaking english over radio, did you ? I would say that German pilots are rather ok, compared to French (and I'm french...) $\endgroup$
    – kebs
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 11:18
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @kebs I have, plenty of times. But to me, Germans are easier to understand due to the hard pronunciation, whereas the French... are not... $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 11:19
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @kebs I think perhaps you interpreted the word hard as difficult, rather than not soft. French-accented English softens a lot of consonants and elongate some vowels, whereas German tends to emphasise certain consonants and produce a rather "clipped" tone. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, @kebs, I have corrected my answer, I mean hard as anaximander describes it, as phonetically hard, and not difficulty hard. My apologies, if this was unclear. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 13:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Over the telephone, I've always thought that the English accent of Hindi speakers was actually easier to understand than American accents $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Sep 21, 2016 at 17:43

No, deviation is not fully avoided, but it is mostly avoided. As a product of good airmanship, we are taught that superfluous chatter over the comms is to be avoided.

Remember that the type of comms used by ATC is one way - if someone is talking then nobody else on that frequency can, so some pilot with lots of extra chatter or pauses will be blocking up communication.

There's nothing worse than listening to this

er Golf Alpha er.. Bravo Charlie er Delta is a Ceeeeeesssssna 172 flying er.... Elstree to uhmmm... Cranfield at twooooo thousand fiiiiive hundred feet on QNH er.... 1010 and uhm... we're currently (where are we dave?) abeam errrrr Aylesbury....... we uhmmm.. request Basic service and uhmmmmmm *break*.

When all you want to do is request a Zone transit because you're getting close to a zone. (Note that that is all pretty much standard phraseology, just delivered badly - but it illustrates my point)

Anecdotally, I do deviate slightly, ofen giving a very quick "Thankyou" or "Good day" when changing frequency from a controller who has provided me a useful service en-route - This is a fairly standard deviation used by many pilots. I tend to even avoid this if I can tell that they are busy, and stick with the short, sharp and standardized "Changing XYZ Approach 123.45".


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .