Researchers exploring the use of language use in radiotelephony communication have tended to focus on the limitations of the non-native English user and the threats which their limited control of English may pose for aviation safety (e.g. Atsushi, 2003, 2004). Hence the recent International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) policy places the onus on non-native users to bring their English to an appropriate standard. The present paper argues that there is a need for a broader perspective on this issue and supports this case with reference to two sources of data: a) episodes of radiotelephony discourse recorded in two air traffic control centres in Korea exemplifying non-routine, abnormal and emergency situations involving NS of English and NNS from different language backgrounds, b) focus group and individual interviews with selected Korean aviation personnel eliciting their interpretations of these episodes and of issues in aviation English more generally. Findings suggest that responsibilities for communication problems in aviation English are distributed across NS and NNS users, and may be partly due to the absence of shared assumptions about efficient and appropriate communication practices in an environment where English is a lingua franca (ELF). Implications are drawn for the communication training of all aviation personnel, regardless of language background.