So how do deaf people communicate in aircraft?

Every deaf person is unique.  The severity of the their deafness does affect how well they can communicate with ordinary people.  Deaf pilots have developed several different techniques to help communicate whilst flying.


The best cockpit arrangement is the side-by-side seating type which is much better for communication.  Students and Instructors can see each other and point to things, sign or lipread.

However alot of aircraft and especially gliders have tandem cockpits – i.e. front and back seating arrangement where the instructor usually sits in the back seat.

So how do deaf people communicate in tandem aircraft?

Cockpit Mirrors

One really great and simple tool is to use mirrors in the cockpit and both occupants can see each other.

Using mirrors helps communicate in tandem aircraft


Sign Language

Andrew from Dunstable developed his own sign language for the words and instructions used most frequently when flying.

Sign Language 1

Sign Language 2


Electronic Communication Devices

Joan from Husbands Bosworth used an electronic communication device that used lights to convey instructions from the instructor to the deaf student.


Personal Amplifiers

Terry from Dumfries uses a personal amplifier to help communicate in the cockpit.


Use side-by-side aircraft

Tim practicing speed control

One really useful training tool is to do some flight training in a side-by-side aircraft, then switch to a tandem aircraft as the student gains more experience.  This technique works really well when using a side-by-side motor-glider during the early stages of learning to fly gliders.