What is Aviation English?

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What is Aviation English?

What is Aviation English? When controllers and pilots better understand that language is an imperfect medium and is easily misinterpreted, they will be careful in their use of both standardised phraseology and plain language - and the airways will be safer because of it"

Brian Day - Air Traffic Control Instructor

Lorem Ipsum DolorSimply put - Aviation English is the de facto international language for both civil and commercial aviation.

On the 1st of November, 1944 - in response to a British initiative, the government of the United States invited 55 allied and neutral countries to meet in Chicago.

52 attended this meeting. The aim of this meeting was to discuss the international problems that were being faced in Civil Aviation.

Outcome of the Meeting:

The Chicago Convention on Civil Aviation.Formation of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

How did English become the standard language for Aviation

The Chicago Convention saw the implementation of English as the official standardized language to be used in Aviation around the world.

Why English?

English speaking countries dominated the design, manufacture as well as operation of aircrafts - thus it made sense to have English as the standard language that would be used by all the countries involved in Aviation around the globe.

Having a standardized language aids in avoiding misunderstanding and confusion, aspects which both have an effect on air safety.

Standard Language

Problems arise when English is a second language to the individual - humans in general reason and think better in their native language. This becomes a problem non-native speakers have to overcome.

Issues can also arise when other aviators in the area cannot fully understand another pilot's accent, potentially causing confusion as to aircraft location, intentions or in extreme cases, an emergency situation response.

The main type of accident that could be caused by this is mid-air or near-miss collisions simply due to a misunderstanding.

Unfortunately, mid-air collisions tend to be fatal. It is very rare for a mid-air collision to end without any injuries or deaths. The problem of English as a second language has played a big part in past accidents in the industry.Problems When English isnt Ones Native Tongue

1976 A Trident and a DC-9 collide mid-air over Zagreb - English ability cited as contributory. 176 Die. 1977 The Tenerife Disaster - English ability cited as contributory. 583 Die.

1990 An Avianca Boeing 707 suffers fuel exhaustion and crashes, JFK. - English ability cited as contributory. 73 Die.

1995 American Airlines Boeing 757 Controlled Flight into Terrain, Cali, Colombia. - English ability cited as contributory. 159 Die.

1996 An Illusion 76 and a Boeing 747 collide mid-air over Charkhi Dadri, India. - English ability cited as contributory. 349 Die.

1997 The FAA advises ICAO that the US would like English proficiency legislation for all international pilots and ATCOs.Examples of incidents relating to poor English

Have a listen to this actual ATC Recording

An actual accident possibly caused by miscommunication

Tenerife Accident (1977)The Dutch pilot of a Boeing 747 misunderstood a clearance, after take off for a take off clearance and began rolling down the fog-covered runway.

He radioed to the tower (a Spanish ATCO) that he was at takeoff.

The non-native English speaking air traffic controller took the at to literally mean at the take off position.

However, through fatigue or frustration, the Dutch pilot had performed an error, that only bilingual speakers can, called code switching.

It is when one uses two languages concurrently. In this case the Dutch infinitive ing, (as in taking off), but replaced with the English word at.

ATC Recording - DiscussionIn this recording, the Controller amended the SID by instructing the pilot to turn left heading 290 at 1500 feet on departure off Runway 32. However the pilot after take off stated the initial climb of 1500 feet instead of 3000 feet, as per Departure instructions.

Have a listen to this recording - did the pilot misunderstand the instructions given? Or were the instruction given by Tower not clear enough?

English language proficiency requirements as defined by ICAOIn 1997 ICAO recognized the importance of improving communication between pilots and air traffic controllers in order to avoid accidents.

The Air Navigation Commission (ANC) reviewed the existing provisions for air-ground and ground-ground voice communication in the international civil aviation context.

The ANC made changes to strengthen ICAO Annexes 1, 6, 10, 11 about language proficiency requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers.

Implications of the Changes for the Aviation IndustryAll speakers of English must demonstrate a minimum English language proficiency at ICAO Level 4 (Operational) in order to be fully licensed internationally.

Air traffic personnel will be required to take a test to determine their English language proficiency according to the ICAO proficiency scale.

Personnel will need to demonstrate ability to use the language specific to all aspects of radio telephony communication.

Implications of the Changes for the Aviation IndustryPersonnel who demonstrate English language proficiency at:

ICAO Level 6 (Expert) will not be required to demonstrate English language proficiency in the future.ICAO Level 5 (Extended) will need to be retested every six years.ICAO Level 4 (Operational) will need to be retested every three years.ICAO Level 3 or below will need specific Aviation English language training to reach the minimum ICAO Operational Level.

Member states that do not comply with the new licensing requirements will be required to notify ICAO. Non-compliance may limit the international recognition of the licenses of aviation personnel.

Questions / Discussion

Further ReadingICAO Standard Phraseologyhttp://aviationenglishacademy.com.au/resources/icao-standard-phraseology/

Rules of the Air and Air Traffic Services (ICAO Document 4444)http://aviationenglishacademy.com.au/resources/rules-of-the-air-and-air-traffic-services-icao-document-4444/

Manual of Radiotelephone (ICAO Document 9432)http://aviationenglishacademy.com.au/resources/document-9432-manual-of-radio-telephony/

Aviation English Academy (AEA)AEA is an Australian based school that focuses on the teaching, regulation and research of the specialised language that forms Aviation English.

Staffed by qualified professionals who have a strong history and interest in the aviation sector, as well as fully experienced ESL teachers, you can be assured that the training, information and resources provided by AEA will allow you and your organisation to comfortably comply with the international standards for Aviation English.

Aviation English AcademyPO Box 368Dickson ACTAustralia, 2602

www.aviationenglishacademy.com.au