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FAASTeam Notice
Type: Flight Schools & CFIs
Notice Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Notice Number: NOTC7522
Aviation English Language Standards
This notice expired on
Sunday, January 6, 2019

You are receiving this Notice to remind you of Flight Instructor Responsibilities for ensuring that airmen meet the FAA English Language Standards (AELS).  Additionally we will provide some suggestions for best CFI Practices to help ensure acceptable communications in our National Airspace System (NAS)

PURPOSE: Training Facilities and individuals authorized to conduct evaluations, training, testing, checking, and certification of airmen all share the responsibility to ensure that applicants for and holders of FAA airmen certificates meet the Aviation English Language Standards as set forth in the applicable Airmen Certification Standards (ACS/PTS).  The Office of General Counsel (AGC-1) has affirmed that Aviation English Language Standards apply at the time of airman certification and continually thereafter during operations in the NAS.

Advisory Circular 60-28B contains guidance for Aviation English Language Standards.  You can find this AC at: AC 60-28B

Flight Instructors are reminded that the Aviation English Language Standard is an eligibility requirement for all Airman Certificates.  Additional guidance for instructors can be found in Advisory Circular 61-65G.  You can find this AC at: AC 61-65G

AC 61-65G specifies that flight instructors must access the ICAO language proficiency website, which provides audio of the various ICAO English language levels.  This will allow flight instructors to familiarize themselves with the ICAO English levels and best accomplish the FAA AELS evaluation:

The following are Certificated Flight Instructor actions where airman English Language Standards must be evaluated and found acceptable prior to endorsement or other action:

  • Process an application for Student Pilot Certification using IACRA
  • All Student Pilot Endorsements including Solo and applications for Knowledge and Practical Tests
  • Completion of any required Lesson or Stage of Training for a Certificated Flight School
  • A Flight Review or Instrument Proficiency Test
  • Any Instructor endorsement specified in 14 CFR 61
  • Non regulatory authorizations such as aircraft rental checks or new aircraft checkouts

There is an exception to English Language Standards for airmen with a medical condition preventing or impacting communications.  The FAA will impose limitations on that airman’s privileges which should be made known to an instructor prior to training. 

Instructors are encouraged to contact an Aviation Safety Inspector at a Flight Standards District Office to obtain advice and guidance for any issue concerning English Language Standards.  If uncertain of any airman’s language proficiency or competence, an inspector should be notified so an official evaluation can be accomplished.

Training Students for whom English is a Second Language:

Recently, the FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) has reported incidents involving Student Pilots receiving flight training at flight schools that specialize in training new pilots from foreign countries.  For these students, English is a second language and they can be expected to experience difficulties when communicating with Air Traffic Controllers while simultaneously dealing with the stress of learning to fly.  The following information and advice is of particular interest for flight instructors who train foreign students.

Nearly every school training foreign nationals is certificated under 14 CFR 141 due to Imigration and Naturalization Service (INS) requirements that foreign students attend accredited educational providers.  Many schools require foreign students to obtain a Level 4 English Language Certification prior to enrollment. Some schools provide additional language courses to enhance English Language skills.  Many students are able to converse in English along with meeting other FAA requirements such as reading and writing.  However, when faced with some of the situations that can arise in the NAS, these same students may struggle with air traffic communications leading to potentially unsafe conditions.  Therefore, it is incumbent on aviation instructors to both train and evaluate student communications.  The FAA relies on Flight Instructor to ensure that Student Pilots are able to communicate and operate safely in the NAS. 

Please Review the Following Recommended Best Practices:

Instructors should familiarize students with unusual situations by using realistic “scenarios” in ground training.  These can be accomplished with the instructor playing the role of air traffic control and conducting simulations that test the student’s Language competence and ability to correlate. 

Prior to solo, students must have demonstrated their situational awareness and ability to communicate.

Prior to solo, instructors should ensure students are familiar with all runways and airport layouts in case a change or new approach is issued while solo. 

Prior to solo, students should be introduced to common phraseology that may not be found in the Airman Information Manual (AIM).  This includes instructions such as “Square your base to final”, “Make a 180 or 360”, “Pass abeam or behind”.  These phrases would make sense to a student who grew up in the United States, but might confuse a student from another country. 

It is important that students be instructed in appropriate communications and actions in case of becoming lost or disoriented during solo.

During dual flight instruction, Student Pilots should be allowed to communicate and to occasionally struggle or learn through mistakes.  However, instructors must intervene (take over) if a Student’s performance is creating a hazard or interrupting air traffic communications.

It is recommended that Student Pilots identify themselves as “Student Pilot” or “Student Solo” on every initial contact with an ATC frequency (See AIM 4-2-4 c.)

Instructors should consider local traffic congestion and try and schedule solo flights during times and at locations that will reduce potential problems.

Instructors should always notify ATC on appropriate frequency of a first student solo.  Instructors are encouraged to monitor student communications using a handheld radio.  It is helpful for instructors who work at busy schools to provide ATC with a telephone contact number for use if assistance is needed for any serious problem that might arise during solo.

It is recommended that student pilots be scheduled to visit tower facilities remembering that special procedures apply to visitors who are not U.S. citizens.  If possible, ATC managers should be invited to visit schools or meet with instructors to discuss mutual concerns and to solve small problems before they become serious.

Instructors must remember that a Student Pilot is a Pilot in Command during solo operations and while inexperienced, must be competent to operate the aircraft and communicate safely and effectively.  The professional instructor is the person responsible to ensure that training and evaluation of students is accomplished in a manner that will ensure safe operations during solo and future learning flights.

For questions or to learn more about this FAAST Notice please contact:

Harlow Voorhees
Safety Liaison Team (SLT) AFS-921,
(415) 802-7849