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English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael Egerton In this article we are going to explore the use of past tenses in English, by examining an incident that  happened unexpectedly during flight.  Tenses are an essential part of plain English, as you can use tenses to indicate the time and sequence that something happened.  At ICAO level 4 the requirements for structure are that:

Basic grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually well controlled. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere with meaning.

Relevant grammatical structures are determined by language functions appropriate to the task.  This means that you need to be proficient in grammatical structures that are used in flight operations.  It is expected that you will make some grammatical errors eg such errors that could occur in non-routine situations, but the meaning is generally understood. This article includes short exercises for comprehension, structure, vocabulary and pronunciation.  The tenses examined include:

  • Past simple
  • Past continuous
  • Past perfect
  • Past perfect continuous

Activity [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IqWal_EmBg] Credit: HouieLouy Watch the above video then answer the following questions. Comprehension questions Are the following statements true or false?

  1. The incident happened in the USA.
  2. There was a problem with the pilot’s microphone.
  3. The controller declared an emergency.
  4. The pilot was slurring his speech because he was drunk.
  5. The pilot requested vectors for Cincinatti.
  6. The pilot was suffering from hypoxia
  7. The pilot couldn’t control the altitude, speed or heading.
  8. The aircraft crashed in Athens, Greece in 2005.

You can email your answers to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we'll give you some feedback.  Now let's take a look at some of the structures used in an account of the incident. Structure – past simple and past perfect Past simple is used to talk about complete actions in the past.  Past perfect is used to talk about an earlier past (except when it is part of a logical sequence).  Read the following text and answer the questions. Flight KFS-66 was enroute at approximately FL320 and had just checked-in with Cleveland’s Air Route Traffic Control Centre, when the controller noticed the microphone of KFS-66 was continuously keyed.

  • Which of the above words are verbs, adjectives and adverbs?
  • Which of the above phrases describe “short actions”?
  • Which of the above phrases describe states or conditions?
  • In what order did the above events occur?

Structure – past continuous and past simple Past continuous is used to talk about a long action at a specific time in the past or an action at a specific time in the past that gets interrupted by something. While the primary controller was trying (with the aid of a second pilot in another aircraft) to understand what the crew were reporting, his colleague Stephanie Bevins tuned the radio frequency and recognised that the crew were suffering from severe hypoxia.

  • Which of the above are long actions and which are short actions?
  • Draw a timeline to show the sequence of events.
  • What is the difference between using while and when?

Structure – past simple and past perfect continuous Past perfect continuous is used to talk about (a) something started in the past and continued up until another time in the past, or (b) the cause of something in the past. The airplane descended to 11000 feet, where the crew of the Learjet recovered and began to respond normally again.  They subsequently confirmed that they had been suffering from hypoxia.  The airplane continued to Detroit’s Willow Run Airport, where it landed safely.

  • Are all the events in the above paragraph related in chronological order?
  • Why does the paragraph use had been suffering instead of were suffering?

Vocabulary

  • report
  • suffer
  • recover
  • descend
  • recognise
  • key
  • confirm
  • en route
  • check-in
  • hypoxia

Which of the above words mean:

  • a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues
  • an act of reporting one’s presence
  • to return to a normal state
  • during the course of a journey
  • to state that something said previously is correct
  • to move downwards
  • to give a spoken or written account of something
  • to enter or operate
  • to experience something unpleasant
  • to acknowledge the existence of something

Pronunciation How do you say the following verbs in their past simple form?

  • report
  • suffer
  • recover
  • descend
  • recognise
  • key
  • confirm
  • check-in

What sound do the verbs end in - /d/ /t/ or /id/ ?

What you should do next

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