IAOPA Wins Language Reprieve

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The International Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has successfully lobbied the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to delay by three years implementation of onerous language proficiency rules it says would severely limit VFR flight in much of Europe. Under the ICAO proposal, all pilots would require to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in either English or the language of the country in which they are flying. In an interview with AVweb at AOPA Expo in Hartford, IAOPA General Secretary John Sheehan said the rule makes sense for IFR operations but not for recreational flyers. "For VFR people it doesn't make any sense," Sheehan said. "I don't think [VFR] requires a high level of [language] proficiency."

Sheehan said language proficiency is graded on a scale of six with six being native familiarity. ICAO wants pilots to be proficient to level four, which is the ability to think, react and express themselves in emergency situations with confidence and accuracy. "Four is pretty high," Sheehan said. "We estimate the impact on a VFR pilot is going to be $5,000 to $10,000 for training and four to five months of practice." He said a more reasonable proficiency level is about two, which encompasses ATC phraseology.