Aviation English Language Proficiency Rating
From the Forward of the ICAO Manual of the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements (DOC 9835)
“Safety experts are constantly seeking to identify means of improving safety in order to reduce the already low accident rates. With mechanical failures featuring less prominently in aircraft accidents, more attention has been focussed in recent years on human factors that contribute to accidents. Communication is one human element that is receiving renewed attention.”
Linking in with Deal Alliance’s core values of “Threat and Error and Risk Management,” our Training Organisation saw the need the ICAO requirement that pilots and air traffic controllers were able to demonstrate proficiency in the English language when operating in an operational aviation environment.
In 2009 three members of our Team attended the first Language Rater’s training course presented by ICAO in Johannesburg. We immediately began the language testing process for pilots and controllers in the Cape Town area. Six years later we have rated almost 500 operators and have embarked upon training foreign students to improve their English language skills.
Aviation is a high stakes industry and effective communication is essential to the safety of all involved. The testing takes the form of a relaxed,recorded, yet very specific interview, conducted by two raters, during which the pilot or controller is asked general and aviation-related questions. His responses are then evaluated by the qualified raters against an ICAO-developed scale of language proficiency ranging from levels 1 – 6. A level 4 is the minimum requirement for a pilot or controller to be permitted to operate in the aviation environment.
ICAO has specified that those demonstrating language proficiency below the Expert Level (Level 6) will be formally reevaluated at intervals in accordance with their individual proficiency level. ICAO recommends that the interval be 6 years for those at the Extended Level (Level 5) and 3 years for those at the Operational Level (Level 4)
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
ICAO has defined English language proficiency as one of the key skills required to manage unusual, non-routine or emergency situations.