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English Language Proficiency Requirements

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Category: Air Ground Communication Air Ground Communication
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
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Contents

Background

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has introduced language proficiency requirements for air traffic controllers and pilots with the objective to improve the level of language proficiency globally and reduce the frequency of communication errors. Historically, insufficient English language proficiency on the part of the flight crew or the controller has contributed to a number of accidents and serious incidents (see Related Articles).

The ICAO Language Proficiency requirements are applicable to both native and non- native English speakers. According to ICAO the burden for improved communications should not be seen as falling solely on non-native speakers - ICAO Doc 9835 states: “Native speakers of English, too, have a fundamentally important role to play in the international efforts to increase communication safety.”

Radio Telephony Communications - ICAO Requirements

The requirements for language proficiency for operational personnel are detailed in ICAO Annex 1 - Personnel Licensing (see Further Reading).

International Standards

In 2003, ICAO set a deadline of March 2008 for English language proficiency at Level 4 and above for all pilots flying international routes and air traffic controllers serving international airports and routes.

For States which were not able to meet the March 2008 deadline, full implementation is to be completed by March 2011.

The proficiency scale ranges from Level 1 to Level 6, with guidelines published for:

  • Pronunciation
  • Fluency
  • Structure
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension
  • Interaction


ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale

936x1069

Reassessment Procedures

ICAO require that language skills of pilots and controllers rated at Level 4 are reassessed every three years, Level 5 pilots and controllers - every six years, while at Level 6, no further assessment of English language skills is deemed necessary.

The Level 4 (operational) proficiency is considered as a minimum ‘stepping stone’ to higher levels. The main benefit of high international standards of aviation English is that communications between aircraft crew and controllers are fully understood, particularly when non-standard words and phrases are used. Also, improved language skills could help increasing the situational awareness of flight crews in relation to other aircraft, both in the air and on the ground.

Related Articles

Further Reading

ICAO

UK CAA

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