The Talk of the Sky - Air Traffic Control Language explained
Dublin, 16 July, 2018 – “Shamrock 452, route direct to LAPMO, Cleared ILS approach, Runway 28…” Aviation English is the de facto international language of civil aviation, used by air traffic controllers and pilots in Ireland and across the world. However, Aviation English can seem like a completely foreign and different language to English at times, due to the range of specialised acronyms and terms evident in the language.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is responsible for the management of Irish controlled airspace, the safety regulation of Irish civil aviation and the oversight of civil aviation security in Ireland, and therefore Aviation English is used within the IAA on a daily basis.
It is predominantly used by IAA Air Traffic Controllers (ATCOs) based in Cork, Shannon and Dublin during the day-to-day Air Traffic Control (ATC) operations, however, it is also used by Radio Officers in the IAA’s North Atlantic Communications Centre in Ballygirreen, Co. Clare and other IAA personnel.
Paul McCann, General Manager – Operations, IAA says; “The history of Aviation English is quite interesting. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommended in ‘ICAO Annex 10 ICAO (Vol I, 220.127.116.11.2) to the International Chicago Convention’ that English be universally used for ‘international aeronautical radiotelephony communications. This was in 1951’
McCann added; “Now in 2018, nearly eight decades later, the use of Aviation English throughout the world today by Air Traffic Controllers, Radio Officers, Pilots and other personnel, ensures efficiency, but above all else, safety. The IAA continues to invest in the development of our staff, to deliver a world-class service to our airline customers.”
Some callsigns for Airlines in Aviation English are:
✈ Shamrock – Aer Lingus
✈ Ryanair – Ryanair
✈ Nortrans – Norwegian Air International
✈ City-Ireland - Cityjet
✈ Contract - ASL Airlines Ireland
✈ Speedbird – British Airways
Some examples of Aviation English sentences and their meanings are:
✈ “After departure, track extended centre line, climb to altitude 3000 feet”
Meaning – After take-off, continue straight ahead and climb to 3000 feet.
✈ “Cleared direct to ASDER, descend to Flight Level 80 expect to rejoin the STAR as ASDER”
Meaning- The aircraft is instructed to route direct to ASDER (which is a point in the airspace Close to Skerries in North Co. Dublin) and to descend to a flight level of one hundred (10,000 feet). At ASDER the aircraft is being told that it is likely to join a standard arrival (STAR) procedure into Dublin airport. A further instruction will be given afterwards.
✈ “Reduce to minimum approach speed, number 4 for ILS approach runway 28”
Meaning- The aircraft is instructed to fly at its minimum safe speed and it is the 4th aircraft on the approach to the runway.
✈ “Climb Flight Level 390 cross GISTI at Flight Level 350 or above”
Meaning- The aircraft is instructed to climb to flight level 390 (39,000 feet) and advised that they must cross the point GISTI (a point in Irish airspace off the West coast of Ireland) at 35,000 feet or above.
✈ “Push back approved stand 301, report ready for taxi”
Meaning – The aircraft is approved to push back from its parking gate and requested to call air traffic control when it is ready for taxi towards the runway.