Guidelines for English in aircraft maintenance?   

Both the FAA and EASA (ex-JAA) have had requirements for the English language used by Aircraft Maintenance Technicians in Parts 66-15b, 145-35e and 147 since the 1990s. On the other hand, all airlines and MRO organisations are aware of the need for the staff to be proficient in English. However, there is still a missing link which means that many operators struggle to interpret and find appropriate training and assessment solutions to implement these requirements on the flight line, in the hangar and the workshop. The needs vary from one location, activity and skill to another.

Unlike the statutory ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements for pilots and controllers, the FAA and EASA requirements contain no rating scale, detailed holistic descriptors or support mechanisms for their implementation. It is not that more regulation is required, but rather practical guidelines to assist with the interpretation of the existing regulations.

We have suggested through the EAMTC and ICAEA that a small working group be formed in order to draft such guidelines which could provide the industry with precise and pragmatic assistance when deciding how best to reach and maintain appropriate levels of English proficiency within the various areas of aircraft maintenance. ICAO Circular 323 (Guidelines for Aviation English Training Programmes) sets a precedent as regards pilots and controllers for such an enterprise.

This was a subject discussed by the EAMTC working group on the next generation of aircraft maintenance professionals hosted by Infowerk in Innsbruck in 2011, where one of the main findings was that transversal skills such as IT, communication, human factors and language would be the major challenges as regards training the next generation of aircraft maintenance professionals.


The European and North Atlantic regional office of ICAO held a workshop on Implementing and Maintaining the ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements on 8th-10th December 2010 and will be holding another workshop on the safety implications of the Language Proficiency Requirements in Saint Petersburg, hosted by the Saint Petersburg University of Civil Aviation on 24th-26th May. The programme and presentations can be found on the ICAEA website (www.icaea.pansa.pl) immediately after the events.

Another ICAO workshop is being held on the theme of ‘Language Proficiency: A Safety Issue’ from 24th to 26 May 2011 in Saint Petersburg, hosted by the Saint Petersburg Aviation University.

The ICAO Head Office is currently pursuing the development of a proficiency test endorsement process through a working group and an advisory committee of experts under the management of Jean-Marc Guillemette. The process will be piloted this Spring and should be ready for full implementation by September 2011.


The European Civil Aviation Conference ad hoc working group on English Language Proficiency has issued a report with recommendations on how to address the various ‘flexibility’ and non-compliance issues encountered by SAFA ramp inspectors since 5th March 2011. The report also draws attention to the disturbing practice of ‘test shopping’ which is common today as well as to the States which publish their LPR compliance without any significant documentary evidence.


Turkish Airlines hosted the latest EAMTC (European Aircraft Maintenance Training Committee) meeting in Istanbul on 29th and 30th March and an instructor workshop is taking place in Montpellier, hosted by ESMA in June 2011.


The final meeting of the ICAEA Rated Speech Sample panel was held in Cambridge, hosted by Cambridge ESOL, on 9th March 2011. The first stage of the new Rated Speech Sample Training Aid will soon be available from the ICAO website.

ICAEA is planning two forums later this year: in Toulouse, hosted by the ENAC (Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile) on 6th and 7th September and in Buenos Aires, hosted by the ANAC (Argentinean CAA) on 29th and 30th September. Further forums are planned for 2012 in Bangkok and Porto Alegre (Brazil).


We conducted a week-long advanced aviation English teacher training course for teachers from Transaero Airlines, Complang, LIC (Flight Research Institute), Kazaeronavigacia, Kavminvodyavia and Tatastanavia in Moscow from 20-24th September 2010. The topics addressed included: What do aviation English teachers need to know; How do we familiarise EFL teachers with aviation?; Defining required lexical content; Teaching technical terminology; Defining required grammatical and syntactical content; How do we go from passive to active language skills?; What are relevant raw materials; Using Simplified English; Report writing; How do we test technical English?


Another course is scheduled for the autumn of 2011. www.complang.ru



ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation)

EAMTC (European Aircraft Maintenance Training Committee)

ILTA (International Language Testing Association)

ICAEA (International Civil Aviation English Association)

Flight Safety Foundation

Ingles Aeronautico


IFALPA (International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations)

IFATCA (International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations)

Recent articles and papers which will be of interest to the aviation English community are:

Linda Werfelman: Speak Up in AeroSafety World, December 2010/January 2011

CAA Paper 2009/05: Aircraft maintenance incident analysis

Airline mechanics who can’t read English






Improving communication
skills in Aviation English

technical language training

instructors and learners

Creating effective evaluation tools


Training teachers
and facilitators

Linking language, management,
human factors and
the working



... wherever English is used as a working tool