The growth forecasts of the aviation sector in the Asia Pacific region will require a series of reforms regarding Aviation English proficiency within the industry. While ICAO has defined English language proficiency as one of the key skills required to manage unusual, non-routine or emergency situations, over the past decade the collective focus had mostly been on put the requirement for pilots and air traffic controllers to pass the ICAO Level 4 of Aviation English certification, instituted in March 2011 for ICAO member states. New methods to switch from passing the mandatory test results to actual training must be taken to ensure maintaining safety standards and situational awareness, emphasize experts from Baltic Aviation Academy.
Due to the dialects, accents and local slang of native and non-native English speakers (e.g. Philippine pilot communicating to Spanish air traffic controller), standard phraseology is not sufficient for effective communication in aviation. The well-known global mistakes, led by English or Aviation English miscommunication include: miscommunication between pilot and aircraft traffic controller (ATC) due to pilot’s Dutch syntax usage with English words in 1977 in Tenerife; the collision of aircrafts caused by miscommunication between ATC and Kazakh pilot in 1996 in India; the crash of the aircraft caused by pilots misunderstanding English autopilot directions in 1994 in Japan; barely avoided crash in 2008 in London when Polish pilots couldn’t understand British ATC. These and other cases led to 2011 imposed rule all pilots and air traffic controllers must demonstrate a minimum English language proficiency at ICAO Level 4 in order to be fully licensed internationally.
“We all can remember times in school, where you had to pass the exam only and compare it to studying something for our own pleasure, need or motivation. Air companies should relocate additional budgets to help the personnel master English language in an attractive and time- efficient manner”, commented Ricardas Ramoska, Executive Business Developer in Asia Pacific at Baltic Aviation Academy. The widely used and cost-efficient solution is e-learning programs, reducing costly pilot down-time, since pilots and other personnel may use the system anytime, anywhere with only a periodic teacher support in a blended configuration.
“Popular Aviation English e-learning systems, such as developed by DynEd or Relta, develops ICAO skill areas: pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension and interactions. The e-kits usually include the examples of normal and non-normal situations, video footage, speech recognition or system recordings for the assessment by qualified language instructors, some of the programs are being developed in cooperation with airlines”, commented R. Ramoska.
As a second or foreign language deteriorates if it is not used regularly, ICAO also recommends continuous language development and assessment. Some organizations may look at developing their own system rather than purchasing an established product, however using the current may save from 20% to 80% depending on the size of the organization and the actual language level of the pilots there, according to Baltic Aviation Academy. Moving personnel beyond the English 4 level requirements may also bring additional benefits: not only increasing safety in the air and on the ground, but e.g. maintaining and enhancing customer services standards.
The Asia Pacific region is expected to lead growth in travel demand over the coming years. "If we look ahead to 2015, we anticipate that Asia-Pacific will represent 37 percent, while traffic associated with Europe and North America will fall to 29 percent," Tony Tyler, Director General and Chief Executive Officer of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), told a summit of industry leaders ahead of the Singapore Airshow 2012.
“Training departments within other sections of the industry, e.g. cabin crew, MRO, ground handling, airport management, are coming under the same pressure to recruit and train large numbers of staff while maintaining the language proficiency standards. However, there is still room left for similar regulations as recurrent type rating training, mandatory for the pilots, as three to six years period without the training after once passing the mandatory language test may not be enough”, concluded Ricardas Ramoska, Executive Business Developer in Asia Pacific at Baltic Aviation Academy.
Aviation training centre Baltic Aviation Academy arranges a webinar entitled ‘Speak English – Fly Safe’, investigating most frequent miscommunication situations occurring in the cockpit due to a lack of proficiency in English. The webinar will be released on the 28th of November at 12:00 UTC/GMT, please register at: http://www.balticaa.com/webinars/ for accessing the material.