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Articles

Understanding past tenses - plain English for pilots and ATCs

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

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs.  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.

Improve your Aviation English Grammar - Passive Voice

Advice about improving your Aviation English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia. Article written by Michael Egerton Using English grammatical structures accurately is an important skill needed by pilots and controllers in their ICAO English test but also for other airline employees in their everyday duties, particularly if you need to say something in a subtle way or obscure information.  When learning English you should also learn the function of a structure rather than just memorising the structure itself.  When you know what a structure is for, and why it is used your Aviation English will improve rapidly. In this article we are going to look at passive and active voice, and why they are used in English.  We will then look at an example of how they can be used in an aviation context, followed by some Aviation English exercises.

Aviation English Exercise

Reading comprehension

Six passengers on-board a flight from Turkey to Russia on 24th September were made to stand because there were not enough seats.  The adult travellers stood for the entire five-hour flight, except for when the plane hit turbulence, during which time the passengers were forced to sit in the aisle without seatbelts. The passengers were subjected to ‘standing room only’ after the Tatarstan Airlines flight from Antalya to Ekaterinburg was replaced by another aircraft with fewer seats just before take-off. The standing passengers were without oxygen masks or life vests on the overcrowded jet. One passenger told the UK's Daily Mail newspaper “The adults had no choice but to fly standing for five hours.  When the plane flew through turbulence, they went from standing to sitting in the aisle where they had no safety belts.” The cabin crew told passengers to put children on their lap - but the children were too big.  The angry passengers have each demanded $4,900 in compensation but were only offered $212 by the tour company which had booked many passengers on the flight. A spokesperson from the tour company defended the airline, saying the passengers could have waited for a later flight.  “People had a choice to fly on that plane standing up, or wait seven hours for another plane,” said Evgenia Fedorova “All the tourists decided to fly back despite uncomfortable conditions.” The incident has not been denied by the airline and aviation regulators are said to be probing the incident.

Comprehension questions Before answering the questions, read the article again and identify which sentences use passive voice and which sentences use active voice.

  • Why was passive/active voice used?
  • Why do you think the airline made the decision to make passengers stand?
  • Was it a good decision?
  • What were the dangers of having passengers standing during a flight?
  • Would you have liked to have been one of the cabin crew working on that flight?
  • If you were a member of the airline how would you explain to a passenger that they had to stand?

Structure The structure of passive voice is:

Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle

Passive voice is used for the following purposes:

  1. To emphasise an object, eg six passengers were made to stand
  2. To de-emphasise the subject/agent, eg the airline told passengers to sit in the aisle (not good for the airline)
  3. If you don't know who is responsible for an action

When rewriting active sentences in passive voice:

  • the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  • the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
  • the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is omitted)

Aviation English Exercise How do you say the following sentences in passive voice?

  1. Cabin crew made passengers stand because there were not enough seats.
  2. Cabin crew forced passengers to sit in the aisle without seatbelts.
  3. Another aircraft with fewer seats replaced the Tatarstan Airlines flight from Antalya to Ekaterinburg.
  4. One passenger told the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper …
  5. The cabin crew told passengers to put children on their lap.
  6. The passengers have each demanded $4900 in compensation.
  7. The airline has not denied the incident.
  8. Aviation regulators are probing the incident.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. 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. Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

Improve your Aviation English Grammar - Sequencing Events

Advice about improving your Aviation English and passing an ICAO English test from Aviation English Asia . Article written by Michael James Egerton In this article we are going to look at past tenses, and how they can be used to indicate the sequence of events.  We will then look at an example of how they can be used to report an aviation incident, followed by some Aviation English exercises. Using past tenses correctly (and intelligibly so that people understand what you mean) is very important when working with checklists and when reporting information.  You will also find this exercise to be very useful if you have to report information about a video or recording as part of an ICAO English test. [caption id="attachment_317" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Learn English as it is used in an aviation context"]Learn English as it is used in an aviation context[/caption] Take a look at the following sentences:

  1. The captain told him to pull out the quick reference handbook and run the checklist.
  2. The aircraft had just leveled off at its cruise altitude of 35,000 ft. when the master caution lit up.
  3. The first officer did so and the flight proceeded uneventfully.
  4. The first officer canceled the warning, scanned the overhead panel, and said, “We have a bleed failure.”

Emergency and abnormal situations such as these occur onboard aircraft every day. They range from life- threatening and highly time-critical to mundane and relatively trivial. Sometimes these situations can be anticipated so pilots have checklists to help them.

Aviation English Exercise 1:

  • What tenses are used in each of the sentences?
  • What is the correct order of the sentences?
  • What clues are in each sentence to help you find the correct order?
  • What other "time phrases" are used?

Structure

There are two tenses used in the sentences above - past simple and past perfect. Here is a description of the function of each: Past simple is used to talk about

  • actions that are complete in the past - eg The first officer cancelled the warning
  • a specific time in the past (possibly at the same time as another event) - eg The aircraft was at 35,00 ft when the master caution lit up.
  • a sequence of events - eg He canceled the warning, scanned the overhead panel, and said, “We have a bleed failure.”

Past perfect is used to talk about

  • completed action in the earlier past - eg The aircraft had just levelled off at its cruise altitude of 35,000 ft. when the master caution lit up.
  • duration before something in the past

Aviation English Exercise 2:

Think about the procedures you would follow if there was a fire on board the aircraft.  Then consider how such an event could be reported.  Look at the following sentences and reorganise them into the correct order.  The correct answers will be posted on our Facebook Page Discussion Forum.

  1. Thick, black smoke billowed everywhere.
  2. Despite the reduced visibility in the cockpit and the loss of the displays and systems, the crew completed a successful emergency landing and all passengers were evacuated without injury.
  3. The long flight had been uneventful until the aircraft was 240 miles from its destination—then everything seemed to go wrong at once.
  4. Electrical systems began to fail and the glass cockpit displays flickered off and on randomly for over two minutes before going completely black.
  5. A small fire in the front galley could not be extinguished.

Aviation English Vocabulary

Make sure you are familiar with the following words:

billowed  visibility   evacuated   uneventful   flickered   extinguished

You should be able to guess their meaning from context, but if not you can also find their synonyms on the Facebook Page Discussion Forum.

What to do next

For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit http://aviationenglish.com. We can help you improve your English whether you are an experienced pilot, a cadet entry pilot, a controller, aerospace engineer or flight attendant, with custom courses designed specifically for your needs. 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. Of course, feel free to leave a comment or even a suggestion for a future article. We value all of your feedback.

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