ICAO, the governing body of the international aviation industry, identified that breakdowns
in communication or lack of English proficiency were a contributing factor in a significant
number of aviation accidents and incidents. In an attempt to reduce this human factor
element among the causes of accidents, in 2003 ICAO introduced its Language Proficiency
Requirements (LPRs), along with a Proficiency Rating Scale. From 2011 pilots and air traffic
controllers have been obliged to pass a language proficiency test as part of their licensing
requirements. As a result, many aviation English tests have been produced and are in use
for pilot and ATC certification. However only one, the ELPAC test, has been recognised by
the ICAO as conforming with their Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for
Language Proficiency Requirements.
English Language Proficiency for Aeronautical Communication (ELPAC) are tests to assess
the English language proficiency of pilots and air traffic controllers in an operational context.
There are separate tests for pilots and controllers.
Raters undergo one week of training with a further two days of training required for raters
to be able to award test-takers the ‘Expert’ level of proficiency.
ELPAC tests have two parts. The first is an internet-based listening test. Candidates’
listening comprehension of routine communications is tested, such as identifying flight
levels, followed by non-routine situations, for example medical emergencies or equipment
malfunction. The authenticity of the recordings is enhanced by the use different accents
and background noises typical in real pilot-controller communications.
The second part of the test is a direct speaking test administered by two examiners.
Candidates participate in simulated routine and non-routine radiotelephony
communications, and face-to- face interactions where they report events and take part in a
Take a look at the user-friendly Eurocontrol website. There’s lots of useful information and
some sample tests you can investigate: http://elpac.eurocontrol.int/prepare_test.html
Joanna Leigh, is the head of the English Department at GAL ANS Training Centre.
She is an experienced school teacher, teacher trainer and instructor of English as a second
language. Words are her passion!