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ICAO English test

  • Accident Case Study: Emergency Management

    Description: As safety-minded pilots we need to make conservative decisions for the best chance of a positive outcome. In this case study, we share lessons drawn from this pilot's unfortunate decisions during a vacuum pump failure in instrument meteorological conditions. Take this opportunity to boost your awareness of critical and proper decision making in an emergency.

  • Accident Case Study: Time Lapse – misunderstanding in-cockpit weather displays can lead to tragedy

    Description: One of the great advances in general aviation in recent years has been the widespread availability of datalink weather. Like any technology, though, it can be used improperly. Come along as we examine a tragic accident that highlights an important and often-overlooked limitation of datalink radar.

    Excerpt from video transcript:
    It’s just before ten o’clock on the night of December 19, 2011. In a house near Bryan, Texas, the gentle patter of light rain is suddenly interrupted by a sound like an explosion—loud and violent—but not like thunder. Outside, in what has now become a deluge, the source of the noise soon becomes apparent. A short distance away—strung out and shattered into a dozen pieces, lie the barely recognizable remains of a light aircraft—it’s five occupants beyond help. Soon, emergency responders are on site documenting the scene, doing what has to be done. There’s one simple question on everyone’s mind: What went wrong? Watch the video to learn more!

  • ASI Safety Tip: Four Ws of Communication

    Do you know what to say before keying the mic? The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Safety Tip: Four Ws of Communication will help jog your mind. Whether you’re flying at a nontowered field or communicating with ATC, concise communication improves safety.

  • Ask ATC: Bothering ATC

    Some GA pilots believe that ATC are very busy and that they would be bothering them by talking to them.  In this video produced in partnership with NATCA and the FAA, Air traffic control specialist Sarah Patten debunks the notion that talking to flights squawking 1200 is an inconvenience for ATC.

    Listening comprehension - plain English in an aeronautical context

    Watch the video and then check your comprehension by comparing against the transcript hidden below.

  • Ask ATC: Fast Talkers

    Air traffic control specialist Sarah Patten gives practical advice for pilots who are worried ATC will speak too quickly for comprehension.

    Ask ATC is produced in partnership with NATCA and the FAA.

  • Ask ATC: Flight Following

    Should I bother calling for flight following services if ATC is busy?

  • Ask ATC: Flight Following and Airspace

    Flight following and airspace

  • Ask ATC: IFR Practice Approaches

    IFR Practice Approaches

  • Ask ATC: Minimum Fuel vs. Fuel Emergency


  • Ask ATC: Precipitation Intensity – how to collaborate with ATC to deviate around weather

    Pilots often assume that all air traffic controllers have weather radar, but that’s not the case. In this Ask ATC segment, air traffic controllers Beverly Cook, Mel Davis, and AnnMarie Taggio share tips for how pilots can better communicate their knowledge of the weather ahead to help ATC find a safe solution.

    To learn more, check out our Radio Communication and ATC safety spotlight at

    The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Ask ATC video series was made possible by generous donations to the AOPA Foundation by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

    Please visit the AOPA Foundation at to learn how you can participate in funding future safety programs by the Air Safety Institute.

    Watch the entire Ask ATC series at

  • Ask ATC: Student Pilot - Tell ATC


  • Ask ATC: Thunderstorms


  • Ask ATC: VFR Flight Plans – What air traffic controllers know and don’t know about your flight

    In this Ask ATC segment, air traffic controllers Leanne Martin and Matt Sullivan clarify the differences between VFR flight plans and flight following services to help pilots fly safely to their destination.

    To learn more, check out our Flight Planning and Preflight safety spotlight at

    The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Ask ATC video series was made possible by generous donations to the AOPA Foundation by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

    Please visit the AOPA Foundation at to learn how you can participate in funding future safety programs by the Air Safety Institute.

    Watch the entire Ask ATC series at

  • Ask ATC: When to Ask for Flight Following – How to communicate with air traffic control

    In this Ask ATC segment, air traffic controller Leanne Martin talks about the importance of requesting flight following in advance before taxiing in order to help ATC process your request and provide the services you need in a timely manner.

    To learn more, check out our Radio Communication and ATC safety spotlight at

    The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Ask ATC video series was made possible by generous donations to the AOPA Foundation by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).

    Please visit the AOPA Foundation at to learn how you can participate in funding future safety programs by the Air Safety Institute.

    Watch the entire Ask ATC series at

    Video transcript:
    The best place to communicate with air traffic control your intentions is always on the ground when you’re not moving. That way we can get all of the specific information that we need. Then at that point in time, we as controllers can pass that information on. It does not help controllers for you to tell us information at the last second. When you’re on Ground Control or Clearance Delivery, and you let the controller know what you’d like to do, we write down all that information. That information is passed to the Local Controller. The Local Controller then knows which direction to turn you. From, after you depart, then that information is now passed to the Approach Controller, and the Approach Controller then will know what requested altitude you would like and what direction of flight that you’d like.

  • ATC RADAR MAPS EXPLAINED - What information do they provide?

    Audio source:


  • Datalink Weather: Choices & Capabilities

    Datalink weather ranks as one of GA’s great technological advances. But clear information about datalink service options can be hard to find, and there’s sometimes confusion about the 2020 ADS-B mandate (which does not require pilots to use ADS-B In/FIS-B weather). This video takes a detailed look at the two providers—SiriusXM and ADS-B In/FIS-B—comparing modes of delivery, weather products, and other pros and cons to help pilots of all aircraft types decide which best fits their needs.

  • Datalink Weather: From Concept to Cockpit

    By bringing up-to-the-minute weather into the cockpit, datalink has increased the utility of our aircraft while making weather flying safer and easier. In this video, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the “datalink revolution” as told by the people who made it happen.

  • Describing pictures in ICAO Aviation English tests

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

    In this article you are going to learn techniques to describe pictures in ICAO English tests.  As mentioned in a previous article, The ICAO English test - guidance and advice, describing a picture is a common part of many ICAO English tests.  Describing pictures isn't something that pilots and controllers tend to do as part of flight operations, but the AEROSTA Framework and ICAO Document 9835 does indicate "giving a visual impression" as a relevant linguistic task.

    What language skills are required?

    Quite often the pictures will be of unusual or unexpected events such as damage to an aircraft, a crash/collision or a malfunctioning piece of the aircraft's equipment.  You will need to develop your vocabulary so that you can easily explain these situations without being lost for words.  As a pilot or controller you will need vocabulary to describe

    1. each part of an aircraft,
    2. weather and time of day,
    3. the physical layout of an airfield and
    4. various types of damage that can occur.

    You will also need a good command of verb tenses so that you can describe:

    • what is happening now
    • what has happened before
    • what is likely to happen in the future

    You should also learn the language skills needed to explain why these events have occurred.  This will involve (among others) modal verbs of possibility/probability, conjunctions and infinitives of purpose. You should also use prepositions to describe the physical location, or path of movement of the various objects in the picture.

    Phrases for describing pictures

    Start by giving a brief description of each picture.

    • The incident involves ...
    • This is a...
    • I can see...
    • This is an incident that happened...

    There are different phrases you can refer to parts of each pictures. For example:

    • on the left / on the right (hand side)
    • in the background / in the foreground
    • behind  x / in front of x

    Depending on the picture you will need to use appropriate tenses.  For example:

    • an aircraft is trying to land (present continuous because it is something happening at the moment the photo was taken)
    • the aircraft in this picture has collided with a ground vehicle (present perfect because it is something that happened in the recent past with a result in the present)
    • a ground vehicle is about to make a wrong turn that will surely cause a problem for aircraft that are landing.

    The assessor might also ask you to give your opinion about the picture.

    • In my opinion...
    • I think that...
    • It looks like...
    • x seems to be...


    1. Take a look at the following picture for 30 seconds.
    2. Describe it in as much detail as possible for 90 seconds
    3. Explain how you think the situation occurred for 30 seconds.
    4. Post your description as a comment.  We will review it and give you feedback.

    gearwont-comedown ICAO English test -

    Five tips for describing pictures in an ICAO English test

    1.  Keep it simple Try to avoid complicated expressions or grammatical structures if you are not sure how to use them.   Don't waffle (speak unnecessarily about a topic), and if you have nothing to say it's better to wait for the assessor to prompt you.

    2.  Ask the assessor for an explanation if you don't understand the task If you don't understand what you are supposed to do, ask the assessor to explain. For example, you could say:

    • Could you repeat the question, please?
    • I'm sorry, could you explain what the word.... means ?
    • Could you please ask the question in another way?

    3.  Use full sentences Avoid answers which are single words or answers that sound like a list of bullet points.  Demonstrate that you know how to form sentences correctly  and can use a range of structures to express yourself.

    4.  Be aware of the time limits When you are asked to describe a photo and explain why something has happened, make sure that you leave some time for explaining your own opinion if that is a required part of the task.  You should also avoid rushing, as speaking slowly and clearly is an essential skill in aeronautical communications.  You will have better pronunciation if you slow down and don't swallow your words.

    5.  Get feedback Before an ICAO English test, get expert advice from Aviation English Asia Ltd.  If you only practice with friends in a study group, you might copy their mistakes, and you will not be aware of your actual difficulties or proficiency.  Remember, it's not what you say to answer a question, it's a matter of how well you answer a question.   Students at Aviation English Asia are a friendly bunch who really make the effort to help each other.  Of course, all our English courses for ICAO compliance offer thorough practice of these skills in each unit.

    What to do next

    For feedback and more information about Aviation English Asia’s courses please visit 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 special offers and details of courses in your area.

  • English course content similar to the real ICAO test?

    We had a rather strange question recently.  Someone applying for a cadet pilot programme that had failed asked us if AEA "course content is going to be similar to the real test, like making a cabin announcement because otherwise it would be a waste of time and money".

    There are many ICAO English tests, and though they vary in format, the language tasks assessed should be within a range of topics that have been identified in ICAO 9835 as being relevant.  However ICAO does not endorse or approve courses, tests and raters, and some language tasks might not be suitable for ab initio and low hour pilots.  Therefore the Aviation English Organisation was formed by an independent body of linguistic and aviation experts to assess the quality of rating organisations, teachers and courses.  The course and test assessment mechanism is called the AEROSTA Framework.  When you see that a course "conforms to the AEROSTA Framework" that is your guarantee that it is relevant and meaningful to you at your current experience level.

    A test can change, and any decent test provider will have a question bank of at least 100 versions, so it's not really a matter of whether a course is focused on the content of a test, it's a matter of whether a test or a course conforms to the AEROSTA Framework and ICAO 9835.

    Let's look at some examples of topics which were included in a recent ICAO English test conducted in Hong Kong.  

    Test content (domains) Identified in the AEROSTA Framework / ICAO 9835 Full range of associated language tasks included in Aviation English Asia Ltd courses
    ATIS Yes Yes
    Decompression Yes Yes, but airline procedures not a valid topic for low hour pilots
    Engine failure Yes Yes
    Lightning strike Yes Yes
    Engine fire Yes Yes
    System failure - unable to capture the localiser, flap extension problems Yes Yes
    Forced landings, including procedures and announcements Yes Yes, but airline procedures not a valid topic for low hour pilots
    Radiotelephony procedures Yes Yes
    Radio call and practice Yes Yes
    ATC communication Yes Yes

    You can see that relevant topics are well covered on AVIATION ENGLISH ASIA LTD courses.  In fact, by coincidence all of those topics were offered within the previous 10 days. Cockpit to crew communication is included, as is every relevant communicative function of ICAO 9835.  

    it's not what you answer, it's how well you answer

    Of course, it's not just a matter of a course conforming - teachers must also surpass minimum requirements and have recognised teaching qualifications too.  

    An English test should not be about knowledge, it should be about language proficiency.  AEROSTA based courses include specific activities to improve proficiency in relevant and valid language tasks.  For example, negotiating a level change or giving a visual impression of damage is relevant.  Describing a picture is not relevant.  Comprehension of an ATIS is relevant, comprehension of non-routine situations with strong interference might not be relevant to a student pilot.  The danger is that focusing on the test content could lead the candidate to neglect improving the actual language skills required. A test which rewards candidates for rote memorisation of answers is not valid or reliable, particularly so when test content is beyond the candidate's experience.

    The ICAO English test is not necessarily the "real" ICAO test

    ICAO tests designed for cadets are often just filters.  It's not fair to assess candidates on operational knowledge beyond their experience.  A pilot should expect to be tested again and again throughout their career.  For example, in a recent internal English test at Flight Training Adelaide 5/11 candidates failed a listening comprehension activity.  Two of those candidates had already scored level 6 in an ICAO English test conducted in Hong Kong.  

    FTA_English_test ICAO English test -

    AEROSTA is the guarantee of excellence in Aviation English Teaching

    For example a rating organisation which gives unreliable (inconsistent) ratings would not conform, similarly an English teacher who claims to be "ICAO approved" would not conform, and an English course which is only focused on replicating the content of the test without real life application would also not conform.

    An Aviation English course which teaches a range of relevant language skills, and improves proficiency within those domains would conform.  Aviation English Asia Ltd is the only training provider in Hong Kong which wholly conforms to the AEROSTA Framework.  AEROSTA based tests and courses are used internally within a number of organisations, including Cathay Pacific Airways and Airport Authority Hong Kong.

    Yes, Aviation English Asia Ltd can help you pass the real ICAO test

    It is natural that you should want to pass a test, and of course Aviation English Asia Ltd can help with that. But you should be cautious of English teachers who try to manipulate gullible candidates saying that they can teach you to "pass the test" or teach "content similar to the real test".  The truth is that as a training provider to airlines and airports where genuine proficiency is important we see many problems facing high-stakes candidates that were caused by high test scores but low proficiency.  

    There are no magic pills for proficiency but I can say that a fair and properly conducted test is not at all difficult to pass.  The vast majority of AEA students do well in tests but there are also factors such as low starting level (they need a longer course), or unreliable testing.  In fact, Aviation English Asia Ltd guarantee that if you follow our recommendations you will pass a test which conforms to the AEROSTA Framework.

    #AEROSTA #AviationEnglishAsia

  • Flying the Weather: Airframe Icing

    Hear from a weather expert on the dangers of flight into "known icing" conditions and what you can do to escape those conditions with your life.

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.


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.


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


Member of the Aviation English Organisation


matf ICAO English test -


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