Language Error in Aviation Maintenance

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SofemaOnline looks at language-related issues and exposure-related specifically to the Aviation Maintenance environment


Communication effectiveness and efficiency serve as an important pillar to maintain safety and aviation professionals have a responsibility to engage with a fully understandable communication process.

Communication enables people, processes, structure, and systems, to interact simultaneously and effectively. Communication skills not only include verbal behavior and effective use of the appropriate words but include the need to ensure appropriate tone of voice, body expression, as well as other gestures.

Related to the Maintenance environment the fundamental function of communication is to deliver a message from person to person, communication also serves as an enabler related to the delivery or accomplishment of a Maintenance Task.

Effectiveness of Communication

It is clearly understood that language barriers can lead to performance errors, this is particularly so in the case that 1 or more of the communicators is a non-native English speaker.

A language errors is in actual fact a communication errors (simply by definition).

There are 2 types of primary communication methods within the Aircraft Maintenance Environment:

a) Synchronous communications (Typically verbal and informal)
b) Asynchronous communication (Typically written and formal)

Focused Analysis Related to Maintenance Organisation

Considering models of communication.

Communication is defined as “a dynamic and irreversible process by which we engage and interpret messages within a given situation or context.

There is an underlying element that reveals the dynamic nature of relationships and organizations”.

Communication can be formal or informal. (Formal communication typically implies that a record is kept of what has been said or written so that it can be related to the initiator.)

Consider that many times on-the-job communication is typically informal and often neither written or recorded.

Communication Disconnects are typically caused by:

a) Wrong information may be used
b) Situation awareness may be lost
c) Failure to build a shared understanding of the message

Example - Whilst aircraft maintenance technicians appear to have a good understanding of how human factors affect them in their everyday work, poor coordination during shift handover can still result in negative repercussions.

Precursors to Error Exposure Include:

a) Maintenance Staff Inadequate written or verbal English ability (Impacting Performance)
b) Lack of Appreciation related to limited English ability of the person sharing the communication
c) Overly Complex task Instruction - (TASK CARDS)
d) Not fully understanding the information within the aircraft technical documentation
e) Time Pressure (Commercial Pressure)

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