Learning a new language may not be an easy task in any setting. It becomes more difficult for new pilots as they have to learn the language of the sky, while simultaneously navigating the instrument panel and learning to fly the aircraft safely.
Recently, two alumni of Purdue University have proposed a new technology that can help new pilots easily learn radio communication skills and enhance their interaction with air traffic control operators.
Muharrem Mane and Eren Hadimioglu, alumni of the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology respectively, have designed and developed an aviation radio stimulator called ‘PlaneEnglish’.
According to the engineers, the new tool could help new pilots acquire enhanced radio communication skills; become more proficient in aviation communication and phraseology, develop advanced skills in realistic conditions, and provide immediate feedback through speech analysis and voice recognition.
Additionally, it could help new pilots reach Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for English Language Proficiency, navigate in place to ensure air safety.
The app-based tool has received positive feedback that it is something new and different in the area of flight training, Mane said. The technology is a combination of ease of access, similar to method used for speech analysis, and user’s feedback, something which has never existed before.
There are over 50 lessons in PlaneEnglish which are accessible at a time. These lessons guide the new pilots through simple as well as complicated interactions with the air traffic control in the entire flight procedure – taxi out, takeoff, airspace entrance, approaches, and taxi in. Each simulation has visual clues that show, altitude, direction, and distance from the airport. Different airports can be selected or one will be randomly chosen for the particular user.
In flight training, the new pilots are needed to respond accurately in specific situations, using correct speech rate, phraseology, and other factors. There can be as many as 5-6 exchanges back and forth with the air traffic control operator, and these pilots are graded according to their responses. The lessons cannot be memorized, as there is going to something that changes after each lesson, Mane said.
The technology has come at a time when FAA has been increasing their focus on the English language proficiency for pilots, and instructors are asked to test the students on their language and communication abilities, according to the engineers.