American English is technically a dialect

What special version of English do international pilots and ATC need to learn?


Declaring an emergency would be one of the most critical conversations, but it would be limited to the following:

pilot : MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, Metro Control, Big Jet 345, main power failure, request immediate landing from Metro, position 35 miles northwest of Metro, direction 120, flight level 80, descending, 150 people on board, endurance three hours.ATC: Big Jet 345, Roger the MAYDAY, turn left towards 090, Radar Vectors ILS runway 27.pilot : Big Jet 345 request runway 09. ATC: Big Jet 345, Roger, turn right towards 140 for radar vector runway 09, get off 3000 feet, QNH 995, report generated.pilot : Big Jet 345, heading 140, descending to 3000 feet QNH 995, reported localized runway 09.

The vocabulary and grammar used are very simple and the exchange uses the prescribed language.

ICAO Chicago Convention, Appendix 10. recommends the use of English and the local language. Local dialects are accepted as the norm for both languages. So for English there is in fact no reference to British or American or any other variation.

Since 2003, the ICAO has recommended member states to test language skills and set the minimum acceptable level at 4. The actual and detailed requirements are given in Appendix 1 Appendix 1.

Appendix 1, Appendix 1

Describes two types of criteria by which competency is assessed: an overall understanding and explicit details.

  • In order to meet the language requirements in Chapter 1, Section 1.2.9, an applicant for a license or a license holder must demonstrate compliance with the holistic descriptors in Section 2 and the ICAO Operational Level (Level 4 ) the ICAO rating scale for language proficiency in Appendix A.

The general criteria allow different dialects and accents:

  • 2. Holistic descriptors. Competent speakers must: e) Use a dialect or accent that is understandable to the aviation community.

A detailed scale can be found in Appendix A, ICAO Language Proficiency Rating Scale. I am only showing levels 4 through 6 here, as 4 is the minimum expected for operating personnel.

1.1 Expert, advanced and operational levels

ICAO member states have agreed on a number of standard phrases to be used in place of plain language. Simple language is used only when this phraseology is ineffective. The crew and air traffic controllers do not have to learn the language like an interpreter, they just have to be understandable.

To understand the type of conversation used in regular communication:

The Chicago Convention is applied by the member states at the national level. If recommendations are not followed exactly, this is indicated in the local AIP, section GEN 1.7 mentioned. Differences from ICAO standards, best practices and procedures . AIPs links can be found on this Wikipedia page.

The next paragraphs contain only the references in the ICAO documentation. You can skip them if you're not interested.

ICAO documents can be downloaded (in French) from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation on this page.

Appendix 10

Before the Plain text, a standardized form of expression must be used.

  • The standardized ICAO terminology is to be used in all situations for which it has been specified. Simple language may only be used if a standardized form of expression cannot serve an intended transmission. [...] You can find detailed requirements for language skills in the appendix to Appendix 1.

Examples of ICAO standard phraseology in Appendix 10 (standard phrases are in capital letters):

  • The following words and expressions are to be used accordingly in radio communication and have the following meanings: [...]

  • CONFIRM • "Please check: (release, instruction, action, information)."
  • CONTACT • "Establish communication with ..."
  • CORRECT • “Correct” or “Exactly”.
  • CORRECTION • “An error occurred during this transmission (or message). The correct version is ... "
  • DISREGARD • "Ignore".
  • HOW TO READ • "How is my transmission legible?"
  • I say again, "I repeat for the sake of clarity or emphasis."
  • MAINTENANCE • “Proceed according to the specified conditions” or literally, e.g. B. "Maintain VFR".
  • NEGATIVE • “No” or “Permission not granted” or “This is incorrect” or “Not able”.

Two languages ​​are available for the crews.

  • Air-to-ground radio communications shall be in the language normally used by the station on the ground or in English.

  • The English language must be available upon request from any aircraft station at all stations on the ground serving certain airports and routes used by international air services.

Pronunciation differences are taken into account and there is a standardized pronunciation that can be used for critical elements, e.g. B. Spelling words and numbers, including the use of English.

  • Spelling in radio telephony. [...] The pronunciation of the words in the alphabet as well as the numbers can vary depending on the language habits of the speakers. In order to avoid large differences in pronunciation, posters are available from ICAO that illustrate the desired pronunciation.

  • If the language used for communication is English, numbers are transmitted with the following pronunciation [...]

Annex 1

In 2003 the ICAO amended its Appendix 1 to the Chicago Convention to add language proficiency requirements:

Change of definitions; new regulations requiring language skills for airplane and helicopter pilots, navigators with radio telephony, air traffic controllers and air station operators; Introduction of a note on the qualification and training of aviation meteorology personnel; Change in Human Factors Knowledge Requirements for Aircraft Maintenance Engineer.

This includes the requirement to demonstrate language skills, both for crews ...

  • Airplane, airship, helicopter and motor lift pilots as well as flight navigators who have to use the radio telephone on board an aircraft must prove that they can speak and understand the language used for radio communication.

and for ATCO.

  • Air traffic controllers and operators of aeronautical stations must prove that they can speak and understand the language used for radio communication.

This competence must be assessed using a common scale.

  • From March 5, 2008, aircraft, airship, helicopter and motor lift pilots, air traffic controllers and aeronautical station operators must demonstrate that they can speak and understand the language used for radio communication at the level specified in the language proficiency requirements in Appendix 1.

Those who do not meet the highest level are being checked over and over again ...

  • Recommendation.— The language skills of aircraft, airship, helicopter and motor lift pilots, flight navigators required to use the radio telephone on board an aircraft, air traffic controllers and aeronautical station operators who demonstrate knowledge below the expert level (level 6). should be formally assessed at regular intervals.

But the natives and assimilated are not disturbed. You just have to show that they are for that international aviation community are understandable.

  • A formal assessment is not required for applicants who demonstrate proficient language skills, e.g. B. Native speakers and very competent non-native speakers with a dialect or accent that is understandable to the international aviation community.