Aircraft communications. ICAO Aviation English

One of the first barriers to getting your pilot licence is passing the language test. Whether you wish to apply as a cadet entry pilot to Dragonair or Cathay Pacific, attain a Private Pilot Licence or even a Drone Pilot Licence, you will need to first pass the language test set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). This test is known as the ICAO Aviation English proficiency test.

Why is ICAO Aviation English important?

Communication between air traffic controllers and pilots is critical to maintaining the safety of passengers and others around you, above and below. Aircrew operating on international routes communicate using both English and ICAO standardised phraseology.

ICAO introduced a standard for the English language that has emphasised proficiency in plain communication. Since March 2011, all civil international pilots have been required to obtain a Level 4 or above to retain or gain a professional licence for aircraft communications.

There are six levels established in their Language Proficiency Rating Scale:

  • ICAO Level 1—Pre Elementary
  • ICAO Level 2—Elementary
  • ICAO Level 3—Pre Operational
  • ICAO Level 4—Operational
  • ICAO Level 5—Extended
  • ICAO Level 6—Expert

4 is the magic number

Achieving an ICAO Level 4 or above is one of the requirements when gaining a pilot licence. Unfortunately, this means that you cannot be considered by major airlines, such as Cathay Pacific or Dragonair, if this standard is not met.

At ICAO Level 4, six core language skill areas are assessed by ICAO:

  • Pronunciation
  • Structure
  • Vocabulary
  • Fluency
  • Comprehension
  • Interactions

Your test results will be valid for a different amount of time depending on the level you reach. ICAO recommends that:

  • Level 4 is valid for license endorsement for 3 years from the test date
  • Level 5 is valid for license endorsement for 6 years from the test date Level 6 is valid for license endorsement for an indefinite period from the test date

Putting your skills to the test

The ICAO Aviation English test can be conducted at our Learn To Fly Melbourne office. The test consists of the following components:

  • Personal questions – E.g. previous flight training experience
  • Listening comprehension – E.g. aviation phraseology in an emergency situation
  • Describing an image of conditions – E.g. runway incursion
  • Listening to a conversation and responding – E.g. conversation between pilot and air traffic control (ATC)
  • Watching a video and responding – E.g. engine failure
  • Conversing in English about topics related to aviation – E.g. your opinion about a current event or development in the aviation industry

Learn Aviation English with Learn to Fly

Learn to Fly offers an Aviation English Program to help you improve your Aviation English skills. This program is catered to students who do not speak English as a first language. It is also recommended for those who want to improve their Aviation English language skills in order to pass the test. It will help you to develop high-level listening and speaking skills in plain English for use in aviation-related contexts.

The program will include radiotelephony communication contexts in line with the ICAO Aviation English Language Proficiency Requirements and it will help students maintain their English language proficiency between tests.

For more information about our Aviation English Program or to book a test with us today, contact us at hello@learntofly.edu.au or 1300 LearnToFly.