Eurocontrol has expressed concern over the potential risk to safety posed by the proliferation of non-standard liveries, and has advised pilots and ground controllers to exercise particular caution in order to avoid misidentification.

In a recent safety awareness bulletin it states that, while aircraft have typically been identified during ground transmissions by their carrier and call-sign, commercial co-operation means aircraft liveries are “often no longer entirely consistent” with those normally expected.

Individual Star Alliance member airlines, for example, have several aircraft painted in Star’s uniform alliance livery with only small distinguishing features to identify the operating carrier.

Star Alliance 445px 
© Lufthansa 
Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 in Star Alliance livery
Similarly a number of airlines, particularly budget carriers, have adopted all-over colour schemes for third-party advertising purposes, while other operators carry multiple variations on a basic livery scheme within their fleet.

“When being provided local traffic information by the aerodrome or ground controller, confusion and ambiguity have been reported [by pilots] as regards the aircraft livery of the traffic in question,” says the bulletin.

“For these reasons air traffic control must take particular care when describing aircraft in local traffic information, particularly as regards the use of conditional clearances.”

It stresses that controllers, when issuing instructions referring to other aircraft by their carrier or operator call-sign, should ensure that an aircraft’s livery is consistent with that which pilots might expect – preferably by visual confirmation.

Eurocontrol adds: “It is of utmost importance that this identification procedure is carried out correctly. There must be no doubt as to whether the correct object has been identified.”

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