Aviation language manifesto

You Say Tomato’s stance on aviation language and safety: A manifesto

Based on the findings and best practice recommendations of CAP 1375, You Say Tomato calls on ICAO Member States, the aviation industry, and national regulators to work together to improve language proficiency and communication in international aviation.

 

AVIATION LANGUAGE MANIFESTO

ICAO Member States must allow only one language to be spoken in international radiotelephony, irrespective of location and speaker.

ICAO Member States and national regulators must introduce minimum language proficiency requirements for all persons working in international aviation, irrespective of occupation, role, or language background (including monolingual English speakers).

National regulators and the aviation industry must work together to improve reporting culture regarding language-related miscommunication.

ICAO Member States and national regulators must promote and adhere to the clear and explicit international guidelines in ICAO Circular 323 to help teachers of English for aviation operational communication.

ICAO Member States and national regulators must promote and adhere to the clear and explicit international guidelines in ICAO Circular 318 for assessment of English for aeronautical communication and establish systems of enforcement.

ICAO Member States and national regulators must revisit the existing Language Proficiency Requirements and levels, researching their effectiveness, suitability, and if they are fit for purpose.

We call on decision makers, professionals, practitioners, and researchers to put your name to these assertions. If you support this proposal then stand with me, share this manifesto, and comment below.

Signed,

Dr Barbara Clark, Founder, You Say Tomato

 

Background

The UK CAA commissioned research which culminated in CAP 1375, and which covered all aspects of pilot / ATC communication including standards, training, testing, practical use, and reporting of language-related incidents.

The evidence compiled during this research demonstrated that there are improvements to be made in every aspect of aviation English. Whilst aviation remains the safest way to travel, incident reports demonstrate that there are communication issues throughout aviation. The majority of these incidents can be avoided through the measures which You Say Tomato has set out in CAP 1375 and in this Manifesto. Everyone involved in the industry should work together to eradicate these issues before an incident becomes an accident.

A single language of aviation

  • One language to be spoken during all phases of flight, including pushback, taxi, preflight briefings, and prelanding briefings
  • Single language of aviation where international flights of any sort operate
  • Implementation of English-only communication in all simulator training
  • Language proficiency requirements for all aircraft operators
  • Language proficiency training and assessment for those for whom English is their first language
  • Language proficiency awareness training for monolingual English speakers

Proficiency requirements for all aviation professionals

  • Ground staff, ramp and apron workers, pushback crews, and baggage handlers
  • Engineers, maintenance, and mechanics
  • De-icing crews
  • Caterers
  • Airport maintenance and groundkeepers
  • Gate agents and customer service agents
  • Cabin crew, cabin attendants, and flight attendants

Improved reporting culture

  • Clarification of meaning of ‘language-related miscommunication’
  • Anonymous, first-person incident reports, with space to describe incident and how it can be avoided in future
  • Report databases to be public, searchable, and available to read and download

Increased emphasis on clear and explicit international guidelines in ICAO Circular 323 for aviation English language teachers

  • Lessons and syllabi to replicate real world situations as much as possible
  • Training for teachers with non-aviation backgrounds
  • Virtual spaces and regular events for sharing ideas, lessons learned, and good / best practice

Increased emphasis on clear and explicit international guidelines in ICAO Circular 318 for aviation English proficiency rating and assessment

  • Real-world conditions replicated as much as possible including sound, smell, physical space, and time pressure
  • Increased regulation of language proficiency raters
  • Transparency about assessment expectations
  • Central repository for assessment information
  • A limit on the number of assessment methods and exams: One Standard, One Test
  • Recurrent radiotelephony training and assessment
  • Authoritative regulatory oversight of assessment criteria and methods, including penalties for non-compliance

Open, candid discussion of existing ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements (LPRs) suitability

  • Commission research to understand LPR effectiveness in all ICAO Member States
  • Scrutinisation and discussion of research results
  • Amend LPRs based on empirical and clearly founded data and analysis
  • Language proficiency training, assessment, and rating for all language backgrounds, including those for whom English is their first language
  • Evidence-based Language Proficiency Requirements and levels, grounded in real-world practices, expectations, and effects on safety, should be the way forward – ICAO Member States should not be afraid of change.