Say What

 - June 7, 2007, 6:16 AM

An International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standard requiring demonstrated language proficiency for air traffic controllers and pilots operating internationally is set to take effect on March 5, but the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) has asked ICAO for a delay.

“Inadequate preparation to test pilots and air traffic controllers within many states will thwart the intent of the ICAO standard designed to bring safe, intelligible communications to international civil aviation,” said John Sheehan, secretary general of IAOPA. “Our sampling of states’ testing preparedness indicates few are fully ready to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of aviation personnel that will require certification.”

When the requirements go into effect, aviation personnel must be highly proficient in English or the language of the country in which they are operating. Speaking at the Language Proficiency Symposium in Montreal, Sheehan asked ICAO and member states to delay implementation until testing protocols and facilities were universally available; to prioritize implementation of the requirements, testing airline pilots and air traffic controllers first; or provide grandfather rights for private pilots operating under VFR for a three-year period. IAOPA has previously petitioned ICAO to eliminate or reduce the high level of English proficiency for VFR operations.

“Few or remote testing facilities, excessive testing fees and lack of adequately qualified testing personnel are all matters of concern,” said Sheehan. “The time and expense required for the more than one million general aviation pilots to be trained and tested to the high levels specified will have a significant impact on our community. This could lead to a substantial reduction of the number of pilots in areas of the world where sovereign boundaries are frequently crossed, such as Europe.”

IAOPA represents the interests of GA through AOPA affiliates in 66 countries, comprising more than 470,000 GA and aerial work pilots and aircraft operators. GA encompasses four-fifths of all civil aircraft and two-thirds of all pilots worldwide.