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IAOPA petitions ICAO to modify language proficiency requirementsIAOPA petitions ICAO to modify language proficiency requirements

IAOPA petitions ICAO to modify language proficiency requirements

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) has submitted a petition to modify language proficiency requirements imposed on pilots by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

"The required proficiency level will prove difficult and costly to both attain and maintain," wrote John Sheehan, secretary general of IAOPA, in the petition. "While this requirement may be justified for those using the IFR ATS system, it is difficult to justify for the casual VFR user."

Language proficiency requirements on pilots and air traffic controllers were issued by ICAO in an amendment planned to become effective in March 2008. Under the amendment, the personnel were required to "demonstrate the ability to speak and understand the [English] language used for radiotelephony communications." The requirements state that the standard for aeroplane and helicopter pilots who fly internationally is necessary for those who "are required to use the radio telephone aboard the aircraft."

In IAOPA's document, titled Petition to Modify ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements for Light General Aviation Aircraft Operators, the association suggests changes to the current ICAO wording.

Since the majority of the more than one million pilots worldwide who will be affected by this standard will never fly under instrument flight rules (IFR) or penetrate closely controlled airspace, IAOPA suggests that the standard for all pilots is unnecessary.

Instead, the council recommends the standard be upheld only in specific locations and situations. "It is reasonable to assume that radio communications only should be required in conjunction with the primary objective of air traffic control, that of collision prevention through the provision of separation services," stated Sheehan in the petition. "IAOPA therefore advocates that ATC radio communication should only be required in Class A, B, or C airspace."

The petition is currently under review by ICAO officials.

IAOPA represents the interests of AOPA affiliates in 64 countries of the world, comprising more than 470,000 GA and aerial work pilots and aircraft operators. The council was formed in 1962 to provide a voice for GA in world aviation forums. GA encompasses four-fifths of all civil aircraft and two-thirds of all pilots worldwide. For more information, visit


May 12, 2006

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