A focus on unusual and strange occurrences during flight operations

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael McBride. How would you communicate the following situation to the controller? flockofbirds Learning Advice | Learning Zone | Page 1

In this article I'm going to explain the different components of Aviation English, and explain why English is important and essential for communication in unexpected situations.

Summary of Aviation English language

Aviation English (AE) is split into three key areas;

  • Phraseology,
  • Plain English used in an aviation context and
  • General English.

All three areas work side by side to create language ‘moments’ in the sky and on the ground.  Phraseology is the scripted communication that every pilot and controller has been trained to use.  Plain English is a way to communicate simply without use of over-complex language. It may help to aid understanding and deliver the meaning of something and indeed save lives in certain situations.  General English is not a specific part of many Aviation English courses but it is integrated and assumed.  You need General English as the foundation before you add the building blocks to create your dream home. The main rule is that you cannot have one linguistic area without the other.  It is a fair assumption that some people discredit or rather devalue the use of ‘plain’ and General English in Aviation English, but the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) completely disagree.  ICAO state that pilots/controllers at level 4 standard can “handle successfully with relative ease the linguistic challenges presented by a complication or unexpected turn of events.”  After all, unforeseen events in the sky may not be as predictable as a holding pattern around London Heathrow.

Phraseology will not get you out of every situation

The official phraseology used by aviation personnel is highly specific and fine-tuned, it will form the basis of all flights, and is indeed a ‘special’ feature of Aviation English.  Phraseology is the result of decades of expert knowledge due to accidents, incidents and logic.  The framework needed to get from A to B safely.  However, it is not enough and you need Plain and General English to get you out of strange and unpredictable problems. 

English is one of the most important aspects of ICAO level 4+ language testing.  For example, what if there are animals loose in the aircraft?  What if there is a piece of luggage blocking the taxiway?  How would you explain this to a controller in English? Professional Aviation English training with Aviation English Asia will help you integrate all 3 aspects of Aviation English language.  This is done by training you to use a wide range of language skills to get you out of those ‘sticky situations’ when you need to explain an unusual situation.  The  ICAO level 4 requirements state, “(this person) can often paraphrase successfully when lacking in vocabulary for unexpected circumstances.”  This requirement means that you do not need to know every word in aviation or general English, but you do need to know how to get around not knowing certain vocabulary.

Advice on how to communicate in unusual situations

It is essential for any uncertain communication that you maintain a connection with the pilot or controller, “checking and maintaining exchanges in unexpected turn of events” (ICAO).  Aviation English training can help you to build solid communication strategies to solve these communication difficulties and ‘fly out of danger.’   In the classroom or online course you will get plenty of practice on using these language skills.  Relevant grammatical structures include include stock phrases such as:

  • [subject] is similar to…
  • [subject] is like…
  • [subject] looks like...
  • [subject] appears to be...
  • [subject] seems to be...

and stock phrases/expressions to help you describe unusual situations.  You will also be trained to create and change words to combine both simplicity and clarity in your exchange over the radio.  You cannot use a dictionary in your ICAO test and you cannot search for one in your cockpit!  A wide vocabulary is very important in aviation as you might be communicating with another non-native speaker that doesn't recognise the words that you used.  You will need to learn how to paraphrase so you can use alternative words. You will learn aviation-related words as part of your pilot/controller training and also in Aviation English training. 

It is advisable to learn words in groups, such as technology, mechanical parts, weather related etc.  It is much easier for you to learn when you can see a pattern.  It is also good for your wider English knowledge to study word families – receive, reception, receiving…etc.  And it is a good additional communication strategy to find words with the same meaning, these are called ‘synonyms’, eg, fire, blaze, explosion etc.  Maybe you will remember one word more than others. For more practical study, try creating situations and imagine how you would communicate it.  For example, animals escaping into the terminal, damage to aircraft by animals.  Then think of the connected vocabulary – containers, cages, hinges...  What information is key when listening?  And if the person you are speaking to doesn't know what a “cage” is, how could you communicate this?

How would you communicate these problems?

  1. A lot of cargo + gate
  2. Animal + in terminal
  3. Rain + window

For feedback on your answers please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Checklist

  • Phraseology is vital but is also not enough
  • Communication strategies
  • Structured learning of words, phrases etc

 

What to do next

For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit aviationenglish.com

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How many is too many when making errors in Aviation English? 

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael McBride

In this article I am going to focus on accuracy and making errors in Aviation English communication.  As ICAO state, “errors may occur” at ICAO Level 4.  This article will examine what kind of errors you can reasonably make and what you need to do to be as accurate as possible.   To be accurate is also to be realistic, you cannot expect to be correct in what you say all of the time, so what ‘errors’ are important and what aren’t to be ICAO operational?

What is an error and what is a mistake?

The basic difference is that an “error” is something you do not know the answer to, maybe through a lack of knowledge or skills.  A “mistake” is when you forget the answer to something you previously knew. So we must look further into the first term – error.  This is where problems can arise and what you need to target in getting your message across even without being 100% accurate and using other words and communication strategies.  Let’s look at the term in more detail by separating it into the following: -

  • Global error – something is said incorrectly and it affects the meaning entirely
  • Local error – some parts of what is said is wrong but overall it doesn’t change the meaning, it is understood to a good extent.

As you probably would guess ICAO will tolerate local errors more, as they state the candidate “rarely makes global errors…and some local errors.”  In other words you must avoid making global errors as much as possible and understand that local errors could still guarantee ICAO level 4 as long as it is not frequent.  Which do you think is local and global from the following: -

#1 “My job is check first the aircraft status.”
#2 “My jos is first the aircraft status.”

#1 is not grammatically correct, but the meaning is clear = local
#2 could be interpreted correctly but it is unclear and when in a pilot-controller situation (as one example) is there enough time to try to understand what is spoken? It totally interferes with the interaction = global

Advice and information on how to reduce errors

Do you think mis-communicating “he speak” rather than “he speaks” on the radio will be seen as a major problem in the eyes of ICAO requirements?  Is it really crucial to meaning?  Well, the simple answer is that it is a local error and if all you need is Level 4 it is not a serious issue, it depends how far you want to go, ICAO level wise. I must stress that ICAO is more interested in appropriacy and intelligibility than correctness all the time, which means not everything has to be correct but it must be understood overall. As I have mentioned in previous articles, you need to practice communication strategies to reduce errors and increase accuracy which can be helped by practising the following: -

  • Synonyms – use words of similar/same meaning if you forget your first thought
  • Word families – practice the different forms of words eg. extend, extension, extended, which one is used when?
  • ‘Invent’ new words rather than struggling to remember the correct word for something e.g. “animal container” instead of “cage”

Furthermore you must always be able to check and clarify certain uncertain interactions, which ICAO state as “using clarification strategies” when communication problems arise.  Do not give up, you might not be accurate with a message first time around, so adopt the 3 Cs rule.  Clarify, Check and Confirm.  Which “C” do you think applies to the following: -

  • “Is the altimeter 1014”?
  • “Affirm”
  • “What is the altimeter setting?”

The 3Cs provide a way to make less mistakes in interactions and carrying out a full procedure in the air or on the ground.

Answers – Check, confirm, clarify

An error is only an error if it is not understandable to the vast majority of speakers/listeners.  You must focus on working on the core sounds of words to become more accurate in terms of pronunciation (previous article) and the above strategies in terms of vocabulary and understanding. In conclusion, remember that your training time might be limited with due to your schedule, so do not worry too much about local errors like missing out the/a/an and “s” in 3rd person verbs, your instructor will probably not focus too much on correcting this.  Of course this depends on what level you need and your current English ability.

Next steps

Enrol in a course with Aviation English Asia.  Practice and interact in English with colleagues, Aviation personnel and friends using Aviation related topics, such as discussions and even arguments.  Your Aviation English course will be communicative, which means that you must talk, make mistakes and not give up to gain fully from the course.  After all, the ICAO recommended testing system is communicative, which I will focus on in the coming weeks.

Test

Re-write the following sentences, which ones do you think would be acceptable for ICAO Level 4?

  • Avion Air 734, has things in the air flying around, need you
  • Something in the cabin, possibly fighting
  • It seem to coming out of cargo hold
  • He have problem with baby out now

Checklist

  • Some local errors are acceptable, meaning and intelligibility is more important than full and complete accuracy.
  • Communication and clarification strategies should be practiced
  • It is good to make mistakes in your training, keep at it, and don’t give up.  Continually focus on communication of Aviation related topics in and out of the classroom.  Errors and mistakes should reduce the more you practice and communicate (speaking and listening).

What to do next

For more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for special offers and details of courses in your area.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael McBride In this article I am going to focus on a typical ICAO recommended Aviation English test, with emphasis mainly on Level 4 operational standard.  Of course, airlines have implemented the ICAO guidelines in different ways and each test is different but the aims are the same.  We will examine the different requirements from ICAO, the typical structure of the test and you will be able to practise with some exercises.  It is important to know what you will eventually face when training so you have a target and it can help focus on your strengths and weaknesses.

ICAO Level 4 requirements – an overview
  • Pronunciation – You will not be expected to ‘sound like a native (English) speaker’ but your local accent/dialect must only “sometimes interfere with ease of understanding”, the core sounds of words should most of the time be clear.
  • Structure – You should demonstrate at least basic English grammar (verbs, word order etc) competency without making mistakes, but for “unusual circumstances” small errors can be made, but it must be understandable to overall meaning.
  • Vocabulary – Ability to communicate in Aviation context, if in doubt of words you must be able to “paraphrase successfully” using communication strategies e.g. “container for animals” instead of “cage.”
  • Fluency – Good speed of communication should be made, although when changing from phraseology to plain English there may on small occasions be a pause or a small mistake made.  “Fillers are not distracting”, which means words like “you know” and “like” do not interrupt flow of interaction.
  • Comprehension – You should for the most part understand what is spoken to you and then for you to respond or take action.  However, if there is a non-routine situation you should be able to get around it by a system of checking, confirming and clarifying.
  • Interactions – There should be “immediate and informative” interaction between yourself and pilot/controller, you must never stop communicating in any type of interaction (routine or non-routine).  If there are “misunderstandings”, you must be aware of this and check, confirm and clarify.

ICAO 9835 Document

ICAO English Test introduction

A typical Aviation English test is usually around 35 minutes, your assessor will be a subject matter expert in the aviation industry and the test is communicative.  This means that you will not be expected to write a report/essay or complete a reading assessment.  Reading and writing are still important but are not the main skills assessed here. You will be assessed on your ability to use both phraseology and plain English to describe and analyse both routine and non-routine situations.  Your training at Aviation English Asia will focus on listening and speaking rather than a lot of reading and writing. Test format Your test may include the following components: -

  • Picture description
  • 2 role plays, enroute or during taxi, for example
  • Writing brief but relevant notes on paper, maybe ATIS or landing instructions

Picture description You will most likely be given a number of pictures to describe and analyse.  You will have to say what it is and/or what is happening, but it is not enough to just list different things.  You must also look at why the main element of the picture happened, what happened before, what will happen next?  Having some knowledge of future and past verb forms would be key here.  It is your chance to show off any extra language skills you may have without major time constraints that you would face in a flight deck role-play. Role plays You usually will have two video role-plays to work through, testing your ability to change from routine to non-routine communication.  Something will happen to test you, usually two things.  An example may be animals walking over the taxiway before takeoff.  You will be listening to multiple transmissions, for example chatter, ATC/pilots but the key is something will be non-routine.  You will be expected to make notes quickly about what unusual or unexpected event you hear, which you will then report about and answer questions. Practice Tasks 1.  Click on the following link and practise standard phraseology and prepare checklists for gate arrival.  Then anticipate what potential problems could occur on paper, what action and communication would you take? Taxi to gate (swedflyer – credit) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duTAXcCRj2g 2.  How would you communicate the following problem, can you use standard phraseology only, or would plain English also play a part?  Again, anticipate another problem, maybe the cockpit window smashes or something enters the runway.  What action would you take and what would you say to the controller/pilot? Engine fire on landing short (kukovrein- credit) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M88XrxmtS6s

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

English learning advice from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael McBride In this article I will focus on the context of the ICAO recommended English language requirements. In other words, why have ICAO shown so much interest in English language proficiency.  We will also look at various examples showing poor English skills that contributed to aviation incidents/accidents and then a quick look at what ICAO expects from you.

Do you know why you are here?

These should be fairly simple questions for you: Why are you in English language training? Who are you and what do you want to achieve? It goes without question that you should be here for the fundamental reason of preventing injury or even death in the sky or on the ground with intelligible and effective English skills. Despite some airlines having their own Aviation English tests, as do some language academies, the common goal is to make sure pilots/controllers can communicate effectively in routine and non-routine situations.  Obviously a lack of English awareness could lead to an aviation incident or accident.

  • Generally, an aviation incident is an event that results in injury or damage to people/aircraft or at least is a cause for concern eg. a near-miss.
  • An accident usually means resulting fatalities from an aviation related event

Specific incidents/accidents showing lack of English communication

We will now look briefly at some aviation incidents/accidents, be aware that a lack of English skills was one factor in the problems that occurred.

  • Heathrow LOT 282 incident (2007).

This incident is a recent example used by Aviation English instructors to show that a clear and effective use of English could resolve an issue quickly.  From AAIB (2008) reports we are informed that the aircraft had navigational aid problems and pilots showed poor situational awareness, but also the responses by the crew to the English speaking ATC were practically unintelligible.  Good communication would not have escalated the chain of problems and the crew showed a lack of even basic English competency, for example the commander reported position as “330” instead of the actual “030”.  This could have been fatal but thankfully the aircraft eventually landed safely and was a recent ‘wake up’ call for all ICAO level 6 and lower Aviation personnel. Please study the AAIB report here

  • New York Avianca 52 accident (1990)

This accident highlighted the problem of unsuitable AE lexis/vocabulary in alerting ATC of on-board problems.  Not far from Kennedy International flight deck problems resulted in a command for “priority landing” rather than a much better “emergency” command given the seriousness of their situation.  The captain and co-pilot did not ‘agree’ with the English commands, in other words there was little understanding in plain and phraseology English between them.  One thought “emergency” was stated, rather than the less critical “priority landing.”  Was there a Spanish-English translation issue here? Was it a lack of confidence and competency in English communication? For a transcript of the communication before this tragedy resulted please click here

ICAO outcomes and recommendations

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is the general authority in aviation, underneath their position of authority are national regulators, with international organisations, such as JAA and Eurocontrol feeding expertise and recommended practices into the national regulators and ICAO.  The ICAO English requirements (level 4 etc) that you are studying for affect private pilots, commercial pilots, helicopter pilots and air traffic controllers. ICAO English requirementsImplementation of ICAO recommended requirements for English Proficiency were originally set for 2008, but after this being unrealistic the date was changed to March 5th, 2011.  This is the date you must target for level 4 proficiency. The overview of English proficiency as stated by ICAO is as follows: - “The English Language shall be available on request from any aircraft station on the ground or in the air.” Which means you must have the capability to respond in English even if in your ‘local’ airspace. “Clarify that both phraseology and plain English proficiency are required” As has been stated clearly in previous articles, you must be generally and on the whole effective in communicating phraseology and unexpected events, which may require plain/general English. ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements (September 2004) 9835 Document is seen in AE teaching as the guide to getting you at your required level of operation.  The articles I have written take information from this master document.

Conclusion

ICAO gave a series of recommendations after the Avianca accident, for example, including setting a fixed language of terms.  (ICAO, 1991)  It must be clear that  ICAO gives recommendations, not accreditation of assessment. Targeting the level you require is your first step with AE instruction, once you have obtained this after being tested by your airline or academy your English skills will become a long-term component of your career, with testing every 3 years if under ICAO level 6. Your instructor at Aviation English Asia will guide you through the ICAO recommended practices in your course.  Remember you are interested in being intelligible, effective communicators for the majority of the time in both routine and unpredictable situations, using fixed phraseology and also plain English when required.  It should remain one very important part of your aviation career.

Quiz

  • What is the difference between an incident and an accident?
  • Must you speak English all the time on the radio?
  • What basic English problems caused the Heathrow LOT 282 incident to be in the news?
  • What, in your opinion, are the key words that describe ICAO level 4?
  • How will you be tested?
  • Evaluate your next step, what are the most important reasons for your training?

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. If you haven’t already please join the Aviation English mailing list for instant access to free demonstration units of the ICAO Aviation English Online course, special offers and details of courses in your area.

Hong Kong

Aviation English Asia has been offering part time and full time courses in Hong Kong since 2009.

All courses are available in Hong Kong. Check the schedule above for details.

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Aviation English Asia has been offering part time courses in Vietnam since 2014.

All courses are available in Vietnam - typically every 8 weeks, or by special arrangement.

Taiwan

ICAO Aviation English, English for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, Technicians and Mechanics, and English for Flight Attendants are available in Taipei, Tainan and Kaosiung.

Cambodia

Aviation English Asia has been offering part time and full time courses in Cambodia since July 2018

All courses are available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Check the schedule for details.

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