Aviation English matters
Interviews with aviation English experts
As an Aviation English teacher, you might sometimes feel a bit out of your depth in classroom discussions with students who have had years of training and experience in the air or the control tower. This series of interviews with aviation industry figures can help you get better informed about issues of safety and operational practice, so you can initiate and take part in classroom discussions with more confidence.
Michel Trémaud on aviation safety initiatives at Airbus and the Flight Safety Foundation
MICHEL TRÉMAUD is former Director of Safety Initiatives at Airbus and a member of the Flight Safety Foundation. We interviewed Michel on how aviation manufacturers approach safety issues, and about the work of the FSF.
I: Michel Trémaud, you have recently retired as Director of Safety Initiatives at Airbus. Do you think that you could say a few words about Airbus's main safety concerns and the sort of initiatives which a manufacturer can take to impact operational safety?
MT: For an aircraft manufacturer, enhancing operational safety is a holistic approach. The core is "product safety", which covers aircraft design, manufacturing and testing, operation and maintenance.
In terms of in-service operation and maintenance, the highest operating and maintenance standards as well as experience-based training standards for pilots, cabin attendants and maintenance personnel all contribute to enhancing operational safety.
Manufacturers are also involved in safety initiatives aimed at enhancing safety regionally or on a worldwide scale: co-operation programs with other manufacturers, safety organizations, national regulatory authorities, training organizations and vocational universities are examples of the wide portfolio of safety initiatives that support such a holistic approach.
Enhancing safety also means anticipating the implications of changes in our industry and contributing to the basic education and initial training of future generations of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, air traffic controllers – and also airline managers and regulators.
I: You are still actively involved with the Flight Safety Foundation. Could you tell our readers what the Foundation is exactly and what it does?
MT: The Flight Safety Foundation has the unique talent of harnessing the knowledge of aviation experts worldwide, presenting this knowledge in a usable format for operators of different size and type of operation, and disseminating this information worldwide, often supported by regional organizations and reachout teams.
The Foundation is also an advocacy group that represents the voice of operators whenever a single message needs to be conveyed to appropriate international or regional organizations.
Read the rest of the interview.
How is English for Aviation different from general English and what are the challenges for both teachers and learners?
Find out from our latest interview with Philip Shawcross, an aviation English expert and author of aviation learning materials.
What do you think are the main challenges of teaching aviation English?
Aviation language proficiency training and testing are high stakes in terms of the safety of the travelling public, the careers of aviation professionals, and airline economics. Aviation language professionals, whose activity is still unregulated, and often still growing towards maturity, have a duty to provide pilots and controllers with training which reflects the requirements, functions and constraints of operational situations. This will be quite different from conventional academic and theoretical teaching practice, and nor should it be ‘teaching to the test’.
I remember a senior airline pilot who was a founder member of the PRICESG saying in the course of one of our meetings when we were listening to and rating speech samples, “Would you want to put your family on a plane flown or controlled by this person?” Ultimately, this is the acid test which, as teachers and testing professionals, we should constantly be applying to our students.
Given the specifics of the conditions of its use and the high stakes involved, aviation English is not just another branch of ESP (English for Specific Purposes). Indeed, aviation English is more about performing operationally-specific communicative functions in English than learning the English language.
Aviation English training should be:
- Communicative to develop interaction
- Oral, as writing and reading skills are not included in ICAO Language Proficiency
- Content-based and work-related both in lexical and functional terms
- Proficiency-oriented to develop skills rather than knowledge
- Designed within an operational context and taking into account the ability to switch codes between formulaic standard phraseology and plain language
- Learner-centred for relevance, effectiveness and motivation
Read the full interview.
What are the short-haul highlights and challenges for pilots?
We ask Martin Reade, a commercial pilot who flies the A-320 series for a large short-haul carrier in Europe. Martin was one of the panel of reviewers who checked the accuracy of aviation language in Flightpath while it was being written.
I: You fly for a short-haul carrier in Europe. How many different destinations might you fly to and how many legs might you fly in the course of a day?
Martin: As a short-haul pilot for one of the biggest airlines in Europe I could fly to any of the destinations we serve all over the continent. I normally fly from a base which serves 30 destinations, but could be sent to operate from another airport, for example Gatwick, which serves 100 destinations! Typically, I would fly either two or four sectors in a day, which means one or two return trips. A single return trip would typically be a long one, for example southern Europe, a double trip would inevitably be two shorter ones of about 1.5 hours each sector.
I: In your experience, are there notable differences in ATC practice and airport infrastructure within Europe?
Martin: ATC practice and airport infrastructure are similar on general level, but if you delve into any detail, differences emerge. These entail different standards of operation, buildings, facilities, navigation aids, and so on. The differences tend to be national and there are differences in what may be expected due to cultural and economic factors.
I: What are the things which you enjoy most about flying short-haul?
Martin: The most enjoyable things about short-haul are the different destinations, the different challenges posed by operating to northern Europe in winter, then southern Europe in summer, the number of take-offs and landings, and for a family man, sleeping in your own bed most nights!
I: And finally, what do you consider to be the main challege of this sort of operation?
Martin: The main challenges of short-haul are coping with the weather, which can vary enormously, the frustrations of slot delays when you are ready to go (especially at peak times) and the risk of fatigue when working multiple sector days back to back with minimum rest.