Monitoring the Evolution within PRICESG and English for ATCOs

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Monitoring the Evolution within PRICESG and English for ATCOs

42ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 17-21 March 2003

WP No. 166

Monitoring the Evolution within PRICESG and English for ATCOs


The “Proficiency Requirements in Common English Study Group” (PRICESG), is an ICAO committee set up to consider concerns on the proficiency and understanding of English by some ATM staff found wanting, during investigations of major incidents.

The ethos is to produce policy to cover training, testing and standards for the use of English where there is a different native language between two aviation radio stations and the specific task is to “Develop ICAO provisions concerning standardized English-language testing requirements and procedures”.

The task has been assigned a high priority, and includes the following areas:

  • Carry out a comprehensive review of the existing provisions concerning all aspects of voice communications in civil aviation;
  • Identify deficiencies or shortcomings in existing provisions;
  • Develop provisions concerning:

a)  the enhancement of communications procedures;

b)  standardized English-language testing requirements and procedures;

c)  setting minimum skill level requirements in the common usage of the English language.


The Group first met in Montreal between the 14th and 17th of November of 2000, and this was followed by Luxembourg over the period 15th to 18th May 2001 then again in Montreal over the 11th to 14th September 2001.

Within PRICESG there is a linguistic sub-group, which met in Montreal on the 2nd to 5th July 2002 and again in November of the same year.

IFATCA has had representation through Fuzz Bhimji of Canada at the second and third of these meetings, whilst reports of all of them have been obtained through the ICAO web site at:

Some discussions have also taken place through correspondence of various forms along with a seminar held in Warsaw in September 2002 under the auspices of the International Aviation English Association (of which IFATCA is a member), and it was agreed that a number of ICAO Annexes, along with PANS-ATM, needed amending.

IFATCA has not been invited to attend the Linguistic sub-group, and it was not possible (due to lack of available air fares) to attend the Warsaw seminar although a brief report was forwarded after the meeting.

An ICAO State Letter has been drafted, as a basis for introducing change, and briefly, is as follows:

Para The Air Ground radiotelephony communications shall be conducted in the language normally used by the station on the ground or in the English language.

Note 1. The language normally used by the station may not necessarily be the language of the State in which it is located. A more common language may be agreed upon regionally as a requirement for stations on the ground within that region.

Note 2. The level of language proficiency required for aeronautical radiotelephony communications is specified in the Appendix to Annex 1.

Para The English language shall be available, on request from any aircraft station and at all stations on the ground serving designated airports and routes used by international air services.

The ICAO proposals go on to include details of how pilots and controllers should be tested for competence and proficiency, training (including the use of English in a CPLDC environment) and an update of the Manual of Radiotelephony (Doc 9432).

  • A copy of the report of the third meeting is given in Appendix A
  • A copy of the ICAO State letter is given in Appendix B

The ICAO Air Navigation Commission discussed the proposals and responses from States during November 2002 for which, shortly before the meeting, there had been 40 replies regarding the State letter. Ultimately, agreement was reached with few changes, and at the time of writing this WP (December 2002) the recommendations in the form of a Working Paper are to be presented to the ICAO Council during 2003 for ratification, with implementation planned for November the same year.

The next PRICESG meeting has not yet been arranged.

For convenience of discussion the IFATCA Policy is as below:

IFATCA Manual, page 4351, paragraph 5.2.8:

It is recommended that for ATCO’s for whom English is not the native language, English language training be part of refresher training. (Cancun 02.C.5)


Eurocontrol, under its “Proficiency in English Language (PELA) project, is also carrying out activities in the same area.

ICAO envisages a general applicability date of November 2003, but language proficiency would not need to be demonstrated until January 2008.


Considerable activity is taking place within ICAO and Eurocontrol to ensure that an acceptable standard of the English language is used where appropriate.

These standards are being developed with regards training, testing and competence for both ATCO’s and Flight Crew.

IFATCA Policy covers only the requirement for refresher training, where applicable.

The ICAO policy that can be expected to be implemented appears to be acceptable and is a move in the right direction so as to resolve many problems experienced by ATC.


This paper be accepted as information material.


IFATCA Manual.

Eurocontrol PELA.

ICAO Manual Page 2-4-8-3 Para 8.2.11.

ICAO Annexes.


Last Update: September 29, 2020  

March 21, 2020   204   Jean-Francois Lepage    2003    

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