Aviation English in the Age of Airline Safety

Authored by: Mitch R. Confesor

Beyond pilot errors and aircraft reliability, one underrated issue in airline safety involves miscommunication or misunderstanding with air traffic control.

At best, they can lead to situations on the runway or hangar. At worst, they have led to multiple lives lost in airline collisions and mountainside crashes.

“In response to fatal accidents in which the lack of proficiency in English was identified as a contributing factor, ICAO adopted standards to strengthen language proficiency for pilots and air traffic controllers involved in international operations.” — Nancy Graham, Director of ICAO’s Air Navigation Bureau.

Versant implements ICAO’s Language Proficiency Requirements.

On the 75th anniversary of the founding of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in 2019, now would be the best time to take another look at the benefits of Versant Aviation English Test.

Versant designed the test “to measure facility in spoken aviation English and common English in the aviation domain.” This refers to the ability to understand spoken English regarding aviation radiotelephony and phraseology.

The Versant Aviation English Test also measures the ability to understand related topics such as airline movement, position, time, duration, and weather. The test therefore measures “the ability to respond appropriately in intelligible English at a fully-functional pace.”

Aviation Language Proficiency

Benefiting pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), the test aligns with a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) R&D agreement.

Moreover, the test aligns with the ICAO mandate in the 2004 Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements.

The manual requires all pilots and ATCs serving international traffic at least Level-4 English language proficiency on the ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scales.

Even the Aviation English Academy uses the Versant Aviation English Test.

As for scoring, VAET reports all six ICAO sub-skills:
  • Pronunciation
  • Structure
  • Vocabulary
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension, and
  • Interaction

For convenience, testers can deliver the Versant Aviation English Test over the telephone or on a computer. The test consists of eight sections:

  • Aviation Reading
  • Common English Reading
  • Repeat
  • Short Answer Questions
  • Readback,
  • Corrections and Confirmations,
  • Story Retelling, and
  • Open Questions.

Don’t Get Lost in Translation

A top-notch aviation English test, like Versant, solves issues lost in translation and transmission.

Real-time pilot and controller transmission issues usually cover speech delivery and language (slang, colloquialisms, pleasantries), and also technical ones. Most of the time, they involve radio/antenna interference, and noisy frequency involving headsets and adjusting volume controls.

Communication issues include mumbling, poor articulation, enunciation, foreign accents, even information overload, like complex or multiple instructions, or both. The Versant Aviation English Test can very well help solve this communication (or miscommunication) issue.

Contact TDS Global Solutions to learn more about the Versant Aviation English Test.