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Learning English to fly: A study of Chinese cargo airline pilots’ learning engagement

Understanding Chinese pilots’ English learning and use informs efforts to improve their command of English and ensure aviation safety

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2017


Due to a growing concern with the English language competence of international airline pilots, a growing body of research has been conducted on issues related to the International Aviation English Test, which pilots need to pass in order to fly on international routes (e.g. Jones, 2003; Ragan, 1997; Seiler, 2009). This paper contributes to this research by reporting on a mixed method inquiry into Chinese pilots’ engagement with learning English for aviation. The study involved a survey of 165 pilots working for a major Chinese cargo airline, and follow-up interviews with two of the surveyed participants (one senior and one junior) to explore their International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) test preparation and learning engagement. The findings of the study indicate that policy-makers and relevant English language education specialists need to develop tailor made courses that will better help these pilots to improve their command of English and thus ensure aviation safety.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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