Aviation English

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Aviation English is the de facto international language of civil aviation. With the expansion of air travel in the 20th century, there were safety concerns about the ability of pilots and air traffic controllers to communicate. In 1951, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended in "ICAO Annex 10 ICAO (Vol I, to the International Chicago Convention" that English be universally used for "international aeronautical radiotelephony communications."[1] Despite being a recommendation only, ICAO aviation English was widely accepted.

Miscommunication has been an important factor in many aviation accidents. Examples include the Tenerife accident in 1977 (583 dead) or the 1996 Charkhi Dadri mid-air collision (349 dead). The crew of Avianca Flight 52 failed to impart their critical fuel emergency to air traffic controllers which led to their fatal crash (73 dead). The ICAO has acknowledged that "communications, or the lack thereof, has been shown by many accident investigations to play a significant role".[1] In 2003, the organization "released amendments to annexes of its Chicago Convention requiring aviation professionals involved in international operations to demonstrate a certain level of English language proficiency."[1] Cheating on exams, corruption and inadequate tests were key problems that affected pilots' English level. [2]

Although native English-speaking aviation professionals are automatically awarded level 6 ICAO status, they may also be sub-standard communicators in Aviation English, prone to the use of non-standard terms, demonstrating impatience with non-native speakers, and speaking excessively, and too quickly. Such native speaker failings tend to worsen in emergency situations. [3]

Aviation English is a type of English for Specific Purposes, with several specific idiosyncratic structures: for example, any epanorthosis must be conveyed using "correction".[citation needed]

The need of standardization has led to the creation of the Test of English for Aviation, an option which is not endorsed by the ICAO.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Status of English Language Standard for Use in Civil Aviation" (PDF). International Civil Aviation Organization. April 2003. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  2. ^ Poor English skills among pilots could cause air disaster, report finds, Daily Express, 2017-04-03
  3. ^ "Aviation English Research Project: Data analysis findings and best practice recommendations An independent research report commissioned by CAA" (PDF). Civil Aviation Authority (UK). March 2017. Retrieved April 13, 2017.