For pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate clearly and efficiently around the world, a universal aviation language had to be established. Both parties work closely together to exchange crucial information about the aircraft, flight, crew members, and passengers as well as other external factors and situational awareness that help ensure safe and efficient operations.
Since miscommunication and language barriers are human errors that could gravely impact flight safety and put those on board at risk, ICAO established English language proficiency requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers serving and operating international flights. Though English was chosen as the language of the skies at the Chicago Convention in 1944, ICAO first began addressing language proficiency for pilots and air traffic controllers in September 1998. In 2008, an English language proficiency test was established as part of the requirements for pilots and air traffic controllers to be fully qualified.
Aviation English is known globally for the phonetic alphabet, specific terminology and phraseology, and the universal jargon that we’ve likely heard in films or onboard a flight. It is actually a lot more complex. While much of the language is technical, functional command of English is necessary to pass along essential messages as clearly, fast, precisely and as naturally as possible, particularly when there is an emergency. Another advantage of having a standard language for pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate in is that pilots flying in the same airspace can monitor air traffic transmissions and increase situational awareness.
There are different language levels used to assess English language proficiency. Although the ICAO language rating scale ranges from 1-6, level 4 is the minimum level requirement for operations, with level 5 (extended level) and level 6 (expert level). Regardless of the proficiency level, testing assesses listening, comprehension, and speaking skills in addition to pronunciation, sentence structure, vocabulary, and fluency.
The validity of the test depends on the proficiency level acquired. Native English speakers and those who dominate the language at the expert level (6) do not need to be reevaluated. Those at level 4 have to test every three years, while those at level 5 every five years.
Safety is a number one priority in aviation, and effective communications are a contributing factor. Slight misunderstandings in language between pilots and air traffic controllers could affect the meaning of a message and become an obstacle that could lead to severe consequences. Introducing language proficiency requirements to demonstrate adequate knowledge of English is an extra layer of safety since there is less room for error or misinterpretation. Pilots and air traffic controllers require intensive training and a series of requirements pre, during, and throughout their careers, and demonstrating language proficiency is one of them. We know that the key to a successful relationship is effective communication, and it couldn’t be more applicable in this field.
There are several language training and testing services available to assist in preparing for the exam: ICAO’s Aviation English Language Test Service (AELTS), English Language Proficiency for Aeronautical Communication (ELPAC), and ICAO Rated Speech Samples Training Aid (RSSTA), are amongst many.
A test to assess ICAO English Language Proficiency for pilots and air traffic controllers.
CaptainPilot offers its customers a wonderful training package prepared for all pilots and traffic controllers who will take the ELPAC test exam, including all the topics they are curious about (such as the question type, the structure of the exam and how it is carried out) as a promotion, completely free of charge.
For more detailed information, we recommend you to read our "ELPAC English Language Proficiency for Aeronautical Communication" article.
CaptainPilot offers an excellent e-learning package for Aviation English Training online, catering to all topics relevant to pilots and traffic controllers preparing for the TEA Test of English for Aviation Exam. This promotion provides easy access to ICAO English Proficiency Test online, completely free of charge. Explore the exam structure, question types, and ace your Aviation English Exam with this comprehensive course!
CaptainPilot offers its customers a great e-learning training package that includes all the topics they are curious about (such as the type of question, the structure of the exam and how it is done) for all pilots and traffic controllers who will take the TEAP Test of English for Aviation Personnel Exam. As a promotion, it's completely free.
RELTA (RMIT English Language Test for Aviation) is designed for pilots and air traffic controllers who must demonstrate their English language proficiency for licensing purposes. The test assesses a candidate's ability to speak and understand English in aviation contexts, including routine and non-routine radiotelephony communication contexts, with a focus on plain English.
RELTA consists of a 30-minute Speaking Test and a 40-minute Listening Test. Both parts of RELTA are delivered via computer with an examiner interlocutor delivering the Speaking Test.
RELTA evaluates the Aviation English language skills of pilots and air traffic controllers in accordance with the language proficiency requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Candidates are assessed against ICAO’s six-band Language Proficiency Rating Scale.
CaptainPilot offers its customers a great e-learning training package that includes all the topics they are curious about (such as the type of question, the structure of the exam and how it is done) for all pilots and traffic controllers who will take the TEC exam. As a promotion, it's completely free.