September 2007

Welcome to this edition of Aviation English Services  newsletter.

IFATCA support ICAO Aviation English Requirements

IFATCA encourages all Service Providers and Regulators who have not already done so to act without delay to ensure an English language proficiency training and testing program is in place.  (Letter written to Air Navigation Service Providers by Executive Vice President Professional IFATCA)

Culture Affects Communication 

The way in which Aviation English training material is delivered is critical. 

The Impact of Computer Technology on Language Learning

Properly harnessed, computer-assisted language learning empowers both learner and student.

Interview with Captain Rick Valdes

Part One of an interview on Language Proficiency Requirements.

Upcoming events

Come and see us at the following events 

  • 1-4 October - Flight Safety Foundation Seoul Korea 
  • 15-16 October - EATS - Berlin    

AES Associates

  • Queen Noor Civil Aviation Technical College
  • ALAS de America
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • G-TELP 
  • Z-Wings
  • Jetway Aeronautics

IFATCA support ICAO Aviation English Requirements 

Letter written to Global Air Navigation Service Providers and signed by Doug Churchill Executive Vice President Professional IFATCA


"To                   Air Navigation Services Providers

Distribution       Globally

To Whom it May Concern:

The aviation industry has recognized that reaction by some States and Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) has been slower than desired in the training and testing for the ICAO Level 4 English Language Proficiency Requirements for air traffic controllers to meet English language proficiency operational Level 4 (as a minimum) by the target date of March 05, 2008. Indications are that little progress is being made by some Providers and/or Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAs) to ensure readiness to meet the deadline for English language proficiency compliance.

The International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations (IFATCA) has on several occasions expressed its concerns with regard to this delay and questioned whether or not such training is a priority for those organizations that have not taken the necessary steps to ensure compliance. We remain concerned by the lack of overall progress on a global scale in addressing the testing program and the necessary
preparatory training. Repeated requests for our members to co-operate with their employers in assisting in developing training programs and practice test packages in preparation for their language assessments, has not produced the desired results. The prospect of accomplishing this goal in a timely way appears to be beyond the capability of many States. Large States and national organizations may have resources to develop their own language proficiency programs, but many others are reliant upon the services of specialized language institutions.

The second ICAO Aviation Language Symposium held in Montréal from 7 to 9 May 2007, presented models of implementation of provisions/initiatives that support quality language training and testing and it provided participants with tools to develop implementation plans of the language proficiency requirements within their respective organizations. We have renewed hope that those Service Providers who did not know where to turn for guidance and assistance to properly structure training courses and testing methods within their jurisdictions will have found in the ICAO seminar the inspiration needed to re-kindle their efforts.


The introduction of English language proficiency requirements is an ambitious undertaking. It remains the responsibility of States to ensure that their training and testing procedures will comply with ICAO Annexes. IFATCA encourages all Service
Providers and Regulators who have not already done so to act without delay to ensure that an English language proficiency training and testing program is in place in their State and that the English language proficiency of all operational air traffic controllers is fully tested and rated not later than March 05, 2008. 


If IFATCA can be of assistance to you during this process, please contact us at your convenience."

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Culture affects Communication   

We know that differences in education, perceptions and expectations can make communication difficult; these differences are often critical when we need to communicate in the workplace.  Pilots and controllers, however, share a common professional culture, regardless of their differences in native language, race and nationality. 

AES training courseware capitalizes on the connection between culture and communication.

This is one important reason why Aviation English Services (AES) fully accepted the guidance in the ICAO language proficiency manual* that content-based learning is an appropriate language training methodology for pilots and controllers. Content-based learning programs “speak” to students in a common language of understanding. This methodology is, for pilots and controllers, a means of building the unknown on the known: the concepts are known; their proper linguistic expression needs to be learnt.

Moreover, AES content-based courseware incorporates contemporary safety-related subject matter that has the twin benefits of effectively facilitating acquisition of the English language and improving the safety consciousness of pilots and controllers.

Teaching English to pilots and controllers is not enough.  It is ineffective to teach a brand of “aviation English” that is unrelated to operations on the flight deck and in the control tower; topics such as the four forces of flight, travel itineraries and hotel accommodation fall into this category.  AES instructional design focuses on cutting edge subject matter of direct operational relevance and effectiveness.  This includes such topics as controlled flight into terrain, safety management, runway incursions and threat and error management.

AES Aviation English courseware has been developed by experienced operational personnel and highly qualified linguistic experts working in cooperation with airlines, service providers, industry groups and regulators.  It is specifically designed to meet ICAO language requirements in the most cost-effective way possible. Many AES instructional designers have been either members of the PRICE Study Group or closely associated with it. AES courseware is training material designed and presented by professionals.  AES believe these training programs will prove to be world’s best. 

What if you could learn about a subject like human factors in aviation and improve your aviation English at the same time?

* ICAO Document 9835: Manual on the Implementation of the ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements

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The Impact of Computer Technology on Language Learning

Far from diminishing the human element in the learning process, the advent of computer technology as an integral part of language learning provides an opportunity to reflect upon and implement principles that enhance the learner’s status and expand the teacher’s role.

Most teachers would probably agree on how:

  • Respecting learners` particular needs and learning habits increases their learning potential;
  • Learner self-esteem and involvement foster learning efficiency; and
  • The best use of a teacher’s time is not to teach vocabulary and grammar or provide listening practice, but to foster speech production and live interaction.

Now, paradoxically, the use of computer technology can enable precisely these features to be developed by providing the means to create a learning environment in which each learner or learning group can select speed, level and content to suit their specific learning needs and styles. 

‘Guided freedom would be a feature of intelligent CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning), where the program would make suggestions, but the learner would make the choices.’ (Warschauer & Healey 1998)

At the same time, the teacher’s role expands beyond being a provider and assessor of knowledge and know-how (i.e. someone in front of the class) to being also a coordinator of media and a tutor (i.e. someone who is also in the midst of his/her learners).

Teachers become freer to use their time more efficiently by devoting their time to:

  • Facilitating communicative oral activities;
  • Assisting those learners who need their support most; and
  • Discussing effective learning strategies.

Experience shows how the proper use of technological tools can be an extraordinary means of generating peer discussion, knowledge exchange, curiosity, motivation and relaxation: all prerequisites of effective learning.

These values are inherent in the content-based, blended-learning English for Aviation Safety courseware designed by AES. The flexibility, availability and depth of  relevant informational content of its web-based training mean that learners come to the classroom for the Intensive Speaking Seminars ready to use their time to the full in communicative interaction, putting into practice the skills, knowledge and know-how they have acquired at their own pace.

Especially for pilots and controllers, learning English is not primarily about learning a language; it is learning how to perform certain essential functions in English in a timely and efficient manner.

Philip Shawcross is Director of Training Curriculum at AES
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Interview with Captain Rick Valdes

First part of an interview with Captain Rick Valdes

How did you get involved in the ICAO Price Study Group?

IFALPA (International Federation of Airline Pilots Association) wanted to support ICAO's efforts to improve English in radiotelephony communications when ICAO was putting together the PRICE Study Group.  They looked into their ranks and found me - a non-native speaker of English (first language Spanish) and international pilot who had worked on safety issues for many years.  At the time, I was working on ATC issues for Latin America within the ALPA structure.

I was aware of the language issues in aviation.  I knew that English proficiency needed to be improved.  Most pilots and controllers are proficient using ICAO's phraseology.  However when an incident occured that was not covered by normal phraseology, communications deteriorated rapidly.  At that point, everything was reactive rather than proactive.  We dealt with a problem after it happened. Some ICAO Member States and IFALPA brought the language issue to ICAO's attention.  Something needed to be done.  There were too many accidents where language played a major role in the event.

Can you tell me something about your international flight experience?

I fly domestic and to Europe and South America.  I flew a number of years to Asia, to Japan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore and Seoul with over-flights over China.  I also worked as a pilot for a number of years in Latin America for a South American carrier. 

I was flying into a South American country once.  The ATIS there was bilingual. The native language ATIS pointed out that there were balloons in the area, one in proximity to the outer marker.  However, the English version ATIS made no mention of balloons at all. Then, a regional carrier making the approach in front had to swerve around a steel cable holding the balloon in place, from the ground.  He told the controller in the local language to "tell  Airline X about the balloons on the localizer, that we had to take evasive action."  Silence.  The pilot told him again.  Again..silence.  Finally the regional pilot notified us in English.  The controller did not have the English ability to relate the information.

So, I've seen first hand why we need to strengthen the use of English worldwide.

What was IFALPA's point of view on the work of the Price Study Group?

IFALPA had a policy statement on languages for aviation communication. IFALPA maintains that all pilots and controllers should use English-only all of the time.  The reason?  Situational awareness.  When you fly an airplane, you are aware of what is happening around you.  You know if the guy in front of you is having problems.  You are totally cognizant of everything that happens on the frequency by listening in.  When you are listening to a foreign language, you can have a pilot having an emergency speaking in another language and have no clue an emergency is going on.  (Therefore, you could continue to make proper reports interrupting the communications during an emergency, having no idea what is happening on the frequency).

At this time the political process in ICAO worldwide would not allow that English be mandated as the only language for ATS.   ICAO, a UN Agency, wouldn't have been able to get a single-language policy through the 189 Member States.

The new Standards and the Rating Scale and test requirements are a huge step forward.

But, I still have some concerns about the implementation process.

The second part of this interview will be published in the next edition of the Newsletter.

Captain Valdes is a member of the Aviation English Services Board of Advisors.  He was one of the Speakers at the ICAO – Eurocontrol Workshop on Language Proficiency Requirements Implementation held in Langen, Germany, September 6 – 7, 2007.

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Upcoming events

Flight Safety Foundation   

1-4 October                       

Seoul, Korea


15-16 October   



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AES Associates

AES is very pleased to be working with the following Associates:

Queen Noor civil Aviation Technical College

ALAS de America

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University



Jetway Aeronautics

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