The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has introduced language proficiency requirements for air traffic controllers and pilots with the objective to improve the level of language proficiency globally and reduce the frequency of communication errors.
Historically, insufficient English language proficiency of the flight crew or the controller has contributed to a number of accidents and serious incidents.
The proficiency scale ranges from Level 1 to Level 6, with guidelines published for:
ICAO requires that language skills of pilots and controllers rated at Level 4 are reassessed every four years, Level 5 every six years, while at Level 6, no further assessment of English language skills is deemed necessary.
The Level 4 (operational) proficiency is considered as a minimum ‘stepping stone’ to higher levels.
The main benefit of high international standards of aviation English is that communications between aircraft crew and controllers are fully understood, particularly when non-standard words and phrases are used.
Also, improved language skills could help increasing the situational awareness of flight crews in relation to other aircraft, both in the air and on the ground.
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