All About ELPAC . . . Aviation English For Fun And Profit!

All About ELPAC . . . Aviation English For Fun And Profit!

Joanna Leigh


ICAO, the governing body of the international aviation industry, identified that breakdowns in communication or lack of English proficiency were a contributing factor in a significant number of aviation accidents and incidents. In an attempt to reduce this human factor element among the causes of accidents, in 2003 ICAO introduced its Language Proficiency Requirements (LPRs), along with a Proficiency Rating Scale. From 2011 pilots and air traffic controllers have been obliged to pass a language proficiency test as part of their licensing requirements. As a result, many aviation English tests have been produced and are in use for pilot and ATC certification. However only one, the ELPAC test, has been recognised by the ICAO as conforming with their Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for Language Proficiency Requirements.

An overview of the test

English Language Proficiency for Aeronautical Communication (ELPAC) are tests to assess the English language proficiency of pilots and air traffic controllers in an operational context. There are separate tests for pilots and controllers.

Raters undergo one week of training with a further two days of training required for raters to be able to award test-takers the ‘Expert’ level of proficiency.

ELPAC tests have two parts. The first is an internet-based listening test. Candidates’ listening comprehension of routine communications is tested, such as identifying flight levels, followed by non-routine situations, for example medical emergencies or equipment malfunction. The authenticity of the recordings is enhanced by the use different accents and background noises typical in real pilot-controller communications.

The second part of the test is a direct speaking test administered by two examiners. Candidates participate in simulated routine and non-routine radiotelephony communications, and face-to- face interactions where they report events and take part in a discussion.

Take a look at the user-friendly Eurocontrol website. There’s lots of useful information and some sample tests you can investigate:

Blog Contributor

Joanna Leigh

Head of the English Department at GAL ANS Training Centre. She is an experienced school teacher, teacher trainer and instructor of English as a second language. Words are her passion!