Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Management


Aviation Technology

Committee Chair

Bernard W. Wulle

Committee Member 1

Julius C. Keller

Committee Member 2

Michael S. Nolan


Many people are often inspired when finding out that I, a Deaf pilot, can fly. The general population assumes that pilots must be able to communicate via radio to fly, thus resulting in the belief that deaf people cannot be pilots. Yet, there are Deaf pilots in the United States and in other countries. As Deaf pilots, we use communication methods other than the radio to communicate with air traffic controllers. The most common communication method used by Deaf pilots may be the light gun signals, but it may not be enough to support Deaf pilots in a career as a pilot. My research is to improve communications between Deaf pilots and air traffic control. The purpose of this study is to answer the research question: “What are the existing communication methods between air traffic control and Deaf pilots?” For this qualitative research, I interviewed approximately 15 Deaf pilots to explore communication methods they use with air traffic control along with their opinions and suggestions for a better air traffic control communication. This thesis discovered that many Deaf pilots still use the light gun signals method. Not only that, some pilots have a plan of action to aid with the coordination between them and air traffic controllers. Some participants from this research discussed a lot about text-based communication system that the Deaf pilots need to have full communication access with ATC. This use-inspired basic research study is to develop knowledge and processes that will increase the communication for Deaf pilots and the air traffic controllers to use. This thesis research is the beginning of my overall research on improving the communication between Deaf pilots and air traffic control.