09 August 2011
Taking ICAO language requirements beyond level 4
RMIT English Worldwide has launched an online English learning tool for international pilots and air traffic controllers that will enhance and maintain language proficiency levels between tests.
To minimise potentially dangerous miscommunication, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) introduced English language proficiency requirements for all pilots and air traffic controllers operating in international airspace. More than 100,000 have been tested worldwide, including 22,000 who have taken the RMIT English Language Test for Aviation (RELTA).
RMIT English Worldwide, part of RMIT University in Australia, has now developed an online training package – Beyond Level 4 – to allow aviation personnel to maintain English proficiency between tests while meeting busy work schedules.
Aviation English test results range from ICAO level 1 to 6. A level 4 pass is valid for three years, a level 5 pass for six years and a level 6 pass is valid for life. Test results expire because proficiency in any language declines over time without constant practice, and this “language erosion” becomes worse in an emergency, when the user is under stress.
Captain Zhou Yizhi, Flight Operations Manager, China Southern Airlines, said: “Language proficiency is a skill, like playing table tennis, and therefore requires constant practice. Recurrent language training is as crucial for dealing with non-routine events as any other emergency training.
“The focus should be on maintaining language proficiency and improving English after personnel have reached level 4 in RELTA or in other ICAO-approved tests.”
Online training helps aviation organisations save on costs. Traditional face-to-face instructors are expensive, but the greatest cost is in interrupting flight schedules to put pilots and air traffic controllers into the classroom.
RMIT Aviation English specialist and former air traffic controller, John Keech, said: “Pilots and air traffic controllers put a lot of time and effort into achieving their level 4 status. They can reduce the stress of re-training for the test in three years’ time by simply maintaining language levels through regular training input.”
Beyond Level 4 is a fully interactive self-study e-learning solution for pilots and air traffic controllers who need to maintain ICAO level 4 or reach level 5. Users can access the training modules online at work, during layovers and from any airport or hotel, minimising disruptions to operational schedules.
The progress and performance of users is constantly monitored by training managers and by instructors. Beyond Level 4’s online reporting system tracks user progress and automatically produces reports on performance.
The online course:
- contains up to 80 hours of integrated learning materials across eight thematic units
- develops plain English in non-routine air-ground and incident debrief communication contexts
- provides practice in listening and speaking at higher levels
- allows for self-directed learning, with in-built checks showing participants how they are progressing
- incorporates tutor-guided sessions
- develops all six ICAO skill areas in preparation for any ICAO Aviation English test