Learning the language of air traffic control is often difficult enough for student pilots who speak native English. For student pilots from countries where English is not the native language, becoming comfortable on the radio, while also learning to fly the airplane is no small challenge. ICAO requires all new pilots to demonstrate English proficiency before they take a checkride.
To make it easier for pilot applicants to become proficient in English – the native language of air traffic control – two Purdue University graduates, Muharrem Mane and Eren Hadimioglu created “PlaneEnglish,” a smartphone simulator that interactively trains and tests pilots in realistic environments to develop advanced skills in aviation phraseology and communication. PlaneEnglish also delivers instantaneous feedback to students through voice recognition and speech analysis.
The app comes with more than 50 lessons to guide users through simple and complicated interactions with air traffic control on every phase of flight from taxi, to takeoff, to airspace entrance, to approaches, to taxi back. Each simulation includes visual clues that show altitude, distance from an airport and direction. A variety of airports can be selected or one will be randomly selected for the user.
Users must respond properly in specific situations, using the correct phraseology, speech rate, and other factors. There can be as many as five or six exchanges back and forth with “air traffic control.” Users are then graded on those responses and given an opportunity to listen to their responses. Mane said memorizing the lessons doesn’t work since the system changes something each and every time the scenario is run.
PlaneEnglish is currently available only for Android devices although the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of the app for the iPhone. The app is available on a monthly, twice-annual or annual subscription for as little as $4.99 per month.