The Case for an Aviation English Screening Tool for US Flight Schools

Jena Kathryn Lynch, Adriana Mendes Porcellato
2020 The ESPecialist: Research in Language for Specific Purposes  
This article makes the case for an aviation English test which screens and assesses incoming non-native English-speaking flight students to US flight training organizations. The need for such a test arises from the lack of standardization in flight students' aviation English proficiency assessments throughout their flight training and the potential negative consequences of inadequate proficiency for students, training centers, and other stakeholders. Looking into proficiency tests that are used
more » ... tests that are used as screening measures in other domains, it becomes clear that an adequate screening test for flight training candidates is needed. An existing proficiency test specifically designed for flight and ATC training candidates is also discussed. Results of this investigation point to two main conclusions: first, there is a need for a deeper understanding of the flight training domain through observation, collection and analysis of written and spoken texts in a variety of genres and registers that are typical of the flight training context; second, the necessity remains for a screening tool that takes into account the specificities of the flight training domain. RESUMO Este artigo argumenta a favor da implementação de um teste de inglês para aviação que avalie e selecione estudantes de aviação falantes não nativos de inglês que queiram ingressar em uma escola de aviação civil nos EUA. A necessidade por esse tipo de teste surge da falta de padronização na avaliação da proficiência em inglês para aviação dos estudantes durante seu treinamento de voo e das potenciais consequências negativas que uma proficiência inadequada pode trazer para os alunos, as escolas de aviação e as outras partes envolvidas. Ao examinar os testes de proficiência utilizados como método de seleção em outros contextos, desponta a necessidade de criar um teste próprio para candidatos à formação de pilotos. Analisa-se também um teste de proficiência criado especialmente para candidatos à formação de pilotos e controladores. Os resultados dessa investigação apontam para duas conclusões: em primeiro lugar, precisa-se alcançar um maior entendimento do contexto de treinamento dos pilotos por meio de observações, coletas e análises de dados escritos e orais nos diversos gêneros e registros que são típicos desse ambiente; em segundo lugar, permanece a necessidade de um instrumento de avaliação que leve em consideração as especificidades do contexto de treinamento dos pilotos. Volume 41 | Número 4 | Ano 2020 revista.pucsp.br/esp | ISSN: Organization Document 9835 uses the term "aviation language" to encompass the language used within the aviation industry for a wide variety of training and operational purposes (2010, 3-2).Under the umbrella of aviation English, a variety of smaller subsets exist, such as plain language, aeronautical radiotelephony communication, and standardized phraseology (ICAO, 2010). Tosqui-Lucks and Silva (this volume) and Roberts and Orr (2020) acknowledge that the term Aviation English is commonly, and at times confusingly, used to refer to language used in many different contexts within aviation. Without overlooking the importance of clearer naming conventions for the subsets of aviation English, articulated by Tosqui-Lucks and Silva (this volume) as a means to more targeted teaching and testing in the global aviation community, in the current discussion, the term "aviation English" is used to cover the breadth of English used during flight training. This choice can be justified in that the English used for flight training includes both aeronautical radiotelephony communications and "other uses of English in the communication between multiple aviation professionals" (SCARAMUCCI; TOSQUI-LUCKS; DAMIÃO, 2018 p. 296-297 apud TOSQUI-LUCKS; SILVA, this volume). More illustration of the context of flight training, and thus a clearer illustration of the English used during flight training, follows later in the current discussion. International requirements for operational pilots and ATCOs The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has promoted the importance of oral English proficiency specific to aviation operations in a globalized world. In Document 9835 their Language Proficiency Requirements (LPRs) and guidance to member states on training and test harmonization shed light on the importance of English proficiency, and the need for plain language (beyond the standard phraseology) proficiency in particular (ICAO, 2010). The LPRs describe proficiency levels for professional pilots and air traffic controllers in terms of pronunciation, structure, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and interaction, using a scale from Pre-elementary level 1 to Expert level 6. In ICAO member states, the candidate must earn a rating at or above Operational Level 4 to be eligible for licensure but, since there is little regulation/standardization on how the tests need to be structured, we agree with Friginal et al. (2020, p. 206) that "Aviation English testing remains a widely unregulated industry". The ICAO LPRs have been widely evaluated and debated; however, for the current discussion,
doi:10.23925/2318-7115.2020v41i4a8 fatcat:lu3q2vnumbegfnux7afjlxwz6u