VOLUME 5 AIRMAN CERTIFICATION
CHAPTER 14 FAA ENGLISH LANGUAGE STANDARD FOR CERTIFICATION UNDER 14 CFR PARTS
Section 1 Determine If an Applicant/Certificated Airman Meets the English Language Eligibility Requirement for an FAA Certificate
5-1905 PROGRAM TRACKING AND REPORTING SUBSYSTEM (PTRS) ACTIVITY CODES.
A. Operations: 1590.
B. Maintenance/Repairman: 3504 for mechanic; 3508 for maintenance repairman.
C. Avionics: 5508.
D. Parachute Rigger: 3503.
E. Aircraft Dispatcher: 1524.
5-1906 BACKGROUND. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has
determined that the Aviation English Language Standard (AELS) is similar to
other skills and proficiencies an FAA-certificated airman or applicant must
possess. The airman must continue to possess the required skills and proficiencies
stated in the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) and airman
practical test standards (PTS).
This is especially critical regarding the AELS, since the FAA identified that
lack of AELS skills is a serious hazard to the National Airspace System (NAS)
and flight operations. The FAA has coordinated with the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) and its Member States affirming that the English
language will be used for all standard aviation communications. The FAA has
accepted the ICAO Language Proficiency Ratings Scale Operational Level 4 as
the minimum English proficiency level required for all persons who currently
hold a temporary or permanent FAA certificate and/or rating. This includes a
person making an application for, or who already holds, an FAA Student Pilot
Certificate. Further, the FAA accepted the ICAO standard and adopted the following
guidance to provide a reasonable method for determining that an individual meets
the FAA regulatory English language eligibility standards for all the respective
unrestricted FAA certificates issued under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) parts
Finally, the increasing number of foreign students entering
the United States seeking to obtain flight training and the increase in pilot
deviations (PD) reported by the Air Traffic Organization (ATO) involving lack
of English language skills have precipitated the agency to develop an AELS metric
to be utilized to assess applicants for or holders of FAA certificates without
placing restrictions due to failure to meet the AELS. The use of this metric
will enable aviation safety inspectors (ASI) and Designated Examiners (DE) to
determine if an applicant or FAA-certificated individual meets the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements for his or her respective FAA certificate.
5-1907 APPLICABILITY. This section provides an ASI with a process
to assess an individual referred to the FAA, or otherwise showing cause for
an English language assessment, because his or her ability to meet the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements to apply
for or hold an FAA certificate is in question. The basis for the referral could
be from, for example, an authorized individual or organization (see subparagraph
B) during testing, checking, or training (such as a proficiency check, flight
review, or solo flight endorsement), or by an ASI during surveillance or investigation activities.
A. Regulatory Requirement. Part
and 61.183 state
an applicant must “[b]e able to read, speak, write, and understand
the English language.” In addition, each of the following FAA certificates has
a respective FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirement:
• Flight Engineer (Part
• Flight Navigator (Part
• Air Traffic Control Tower Operator (Part
• Aircraft Dispatcher (Part
• Mechanic (Part
• Repairman (Part
• Parachute Rigger (Part
• Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Remote Pilot with a small UAS rating (Part
B. Authorized Individuals and Organizations.
The FAA has determined that authorized individuals (such as flight instructors), organizations, and
training centers have responsibility during testing, checking, accepting an
application for a Student Pilot Certificate, issuing an endorsement for a flight
review or solo privileges, or conducting a pilot proficiency check, to ensure
that the individual meets the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements. Advisory Circular (AC)
FAA English Language Standard for an FAA Certificate Issued Under 14 CFR
provides guidance for authorized individuals and organizations
to assess if an applicant for a certificate or rating, or holder of an FAA certificate,
does or does not meet the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements
for his or her respective FAA certificate. If the individual’s ability to meet
the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements is in question,
they are to refer that individual to the FAA Flight Standards District Office
(FSDO) of jurisdiction to have his or her ability to meet the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements assessed.
5-1908 REFERENCES, FORMS, AND JOB AIDS.
A. References (current editions):
1) Title 14 CFR Parts
2) FAA Orders:
• FAA Order 2150.3,
FAA Compliance and Enforcement Program.
• FAA Order 8900.1:
• Volume 3, Chapter 54, Section 2, Part
142 Training Centers:
Training, Qualification, and Designation of Training Center Instructions and Evaluators.
• Volume 5, Airman Certification.
• Volume 13, Chapter 5, Section 2,
Paragraph 13-436, Review of a Designee’s Decision.
• Volume 14, Chapter 1, Appendix 14-1,
Compliance Philosophy and Pilot’s Bill of Rights Brochure.
• Volume 16, Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
• FAA Order
Air Traffic Control. Prescribes air traffic control (ATC) procedures and phraseology.
• FAA Order
General Aviation Airman Designee Handbook.
3) Other Documents. Resources include, but are not limited to:
107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS).
• FAA Airman Certification Standards (ACS).
• FAA Airman Knowledge Test Guides, Handbooks, and Manuals available at
• FAA Information for
Operators (InFO) 08012, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Language Proficiency Requirements.
• FAA-S-8081-10, Aircraft Dispatcher Practical Test Standards.
• FAA-G-8082-9, Flight Engineer Knowledge Test Guide.
• FAA-G-8082-20, Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide.
• FAA-H-8083-25, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
• FAA-H-8083-27, Student Pilot Guide.
• FAA-H-8083-30, Aviation Maintenance Technician Handbook.
• ICAO Annex 1, Personnel Licensing.
• ICAO English Language Criteria Definitions found in ICAO Document
9835, Manual on the Implementation of ICAO Language Proficiency Requirements. Available at
• Live ATC audio at
B. Forms. None.
C. Job Aids. None.
5-1909 ICAO ENGLISH LANGUAGE CRITERIA DEFINITIONS. The FAA has accepted
the ICAO Language Proficiency Ratings Scale Operational Level 4 as its minimum
proficiency requirement. The Proficiency Scale is found in ICAO Document 9835.
These definitions apply to any applicant or airman applying for or holding an FAA certificate.
A. Pronunciation (P).
This assumes that English is not the applicant’s
native language and that the applicant has a dialect or
accent that is intelligible to the aeronautical community.
Pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation are influenced by the applicant’s
native language, but only sometimes interfere with ease of understanding.
B. Structure (S).
Relevant grammatical structures and sentence
patterns are determined by language functions appropriate to the task. Basic
grammatical structures and sentence patterns are used creatively and are usually
well controlled by the applicant. Errors may occur, particularly in unusual
or unexpected circumstances, but rarely interfere with meaning.
C. Vocabulary (V). The applicant’s vocabulary range and accuracy
are usually sufficient to communicate effectively on common, concrete, and work-related
topics. The applicant can often paraphrase successfully when lacking vocabulary
in unusual or unexpected circumstances.
D. Fluency (F).
The applicant produces stretches of language at an appropriate tempo. There
may be occasional loss of fluency on transition
from rehearsed or formulaic speech to spontaneous interaction, but this does
not prevent effective communication. The applicant can make limited use of discourse
markers or connectors. Fillers are not distracting.
E. Comprehension (C).
Comprehension by the applicant is mostly
accurate on common, concrete, and work-related topics when the dialect, accent,
or variety used is sufficiently intelligible. When the applicant is confronted
with a linguistic or situational complication or an unexpected turn of events,
comprehension may be slower or require clarification strategies.
F. Interactions (I).
Responses by the applicant are usually immediate,
appropriate, and informative. The applicant initiates and maintains exchanges
even when dealing with an unexpected turn of events. The applicant deals adequately
with apparent misunderstandings by checking, confirming, or clarifying.
Note: Reports have determined that an individual referred for an AELS
may possess the attributes listed above and be able to communicate using the
English language, yet be handicapped during flight in a high-traffic environment
(also due to the stress associated with being an inexperienced pilot) because
English is their second language.
5-1910 THE FAA MINIMUM ENGLISH LANGUAGE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENT.
ICAO Operational Level 4 is the minimum acceptable level of proficiency to meet
the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements for an FAA certificate.
ASIs are encouraged to use the following ICAO language proficiency website to
familiarize their hearing and educate themselves with regard to ICAO English
language proficiency (ELP) operational levels so they can better determine whether
an individual meets FAA AELS at ICAO Operational Level 4:
Note: This site provides language audio samples of ICAO Operational
Level 4, which is required to meet the AELS criteria defined in paragraph 5-1909.
In the audio samples, proficiency criteria are listed as P (Pronunciation),
S (Structure), V (Vocabulary), F (Fluency), C (Comprehension), and I (Interactions)
for the various levels of proficiency, as shown in Figure 5-233, ICAO Rated Speech
Samples Developed for ICAO by the International Civil Aviation English Association
(ICAEA). The minimum operational level for an FAA certificate is Operational Level 4.
5-1911 ASSESSING THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS OF AN APPLICANT FOR OR HOLDER
OF AN FAA CERTIFICATE. The following is the overall English language assessment
policy and actions to be taken if an individual’s ability to meet the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements to apply for or hold an FAA certificate is in question.
Note: Reports have determined that an individual referred for an AELS
assessment may be able to communicate in English during a conversation, but
may become inhibited and unable to communicate in accordance with the ACS during
flight in a high-traffic environment due to English being their second language
and the stress associated with being an inexperienced pilot. Therefore, a totally
unassisted flight in a busy environment with induced stress may be necessary
to accomplish the AELS assessment. In such cases, the ASI is to observe the
student or certificated pilot conduct a flight without any assistance, unless
a safety issue occurs, to determine that the individual can perform in accordance with the ACS.
A. Individual Referred to the FAA for an AELS Assessment. Per AC
an FAA AELS evaluator will refer the individual to the FAA for
assessment. Per the definition in the AC, an evaluator is any individual who
is authorized to conduct certification, training, testing, or checking, or to
issue an endorsement required by the regulations. Upon receiving notification
from the evaluator of an individual whose ability to meet the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements to hold an FAA certificate is in question,
the FSDO of jurisdiction will contact the individual and schedule an appointment
to assess if the individual meets the FAA regulatory English language eligibility
requirements to hold an FAA certificate. Initially, the ASI will conduct an
AELS assessment to validate the reason the individual was referred to the FSDO.
As part of the assessment, the FAA will provide the individual
with the Pilot’s Bill of Rights (PBR) brochure.
B. Referred Individual Does Not Contact FSDO for an AELS Assessment.
1) The application that started with the evaluator should have
been submitted to the Airmen Certification Branch (AFB-720) indicating “Referred
to FSDO for AELS Determination.” If the individual does not contact the FSDO
of jurisdiction or the FSDO is not able to contact the individual within a reasonable
time (e.g., 2 weeks), the FSDO will notify AFB-720 to place a stop on any application
for an FAA certificate or rating filed for the respective individual. After
receiving that application, AFB-720 will have an indicator placed in the airman
record that will prevent any future issuances or reissuances until an ASI has
submitted a “Meets AELS” application to AFB-720. If the individual attempts
to sidestep the AELS validation process and goes to another DE in another jurisdiction
and is issued the certificate/rating, then AFB-720 will notify the office granting the certificate/rating
of the previous lack of qualifications by returning the application on a Correction
Notice and request that the second FSDO and certifying DE collaborate with the
initial FSDO and DE to have the individual assessed for AELS by the second FSDO.
2) If an evaluator refers an FAA-certificated
individual to the FSDO of jurisdiction for an AELS assessment, regardless of whether the event
was a certification event or any other event, and the individual does not contact
the FSDO or the FSDO cannot contact the referred individual,
the FSDO will follow the procedures in subparagraph C.
C. Certificated Airman Does Not Meet the FAA AELS. If the initial
assessment reveals that the certificated airman does not meet the FAA AELS,
FAA personnel will use the reexamination authority of Title 49 of the United
States Code (49 U.S.C.) § 44709(a). See Volume 5, Chapter 7, Reexamination of an Airman, and refer to Order
2150.3, chapter 5, paragraph 11.
Note: Per Order
2150.3, chapter 5, the FAA does not allow an airman
who has not demonstrated qualifications to try repeatedly to prove qualification.
Generally, if the airman has twice submitted to reexamination and twice failed,
the certificate or rating is revoked. The opportunity for a second reexamination
is allowed when the airman voluntarily places his or her certificate “on deposit”
with the FAA following the first failure, while the certificate holder prepares for the second attempt.
D. Applicant for a Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator, Air Traffic
Control Tower Operator, Aircraft Dispatcher, Mechanic, Repairman, Parachute
Rigger, or Remote Pilot Certificate Does Not Meet the FAA AELS. In the case
of an applicant for a Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator, Air Traffic Control
Tower Operator, Aircraft Dispatcher, Mechanic, Repairman, Parachute Rigger,
or Remote Pilot Certificate who does not meet this requirement, the Administrator
may place any limitation on the certificate that he or she considers necessary
for safety. If it is determined that an individual applicant for one of these
certificates does not to meet the respective FAA regulatory English language
eligibility requirements, see Volume 5, Chapters 4 and 5, and Volume 16, Chapter 3, as applicable,
to determine if a limitation for English language is available.
5-1912 CONDUCTING THE AELS ASSESSMENT.
A. The FAA AELS. The FAA AELS is the metric by which the applicant
for an FAA certificate or rating, or a holder of an FAA certificate, demonstrates
his or her ability to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
Meeting this standard will ensure that the individual meets the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements for his or her respective FAA certificate.
The ACS English language standard for pilots states, “In accordance with the requirements of 14 CFR parts
the FAA Aviation English language standard, throughout the application
and testing process, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to read, write,
speak, and understand the English language. English language standard is required
to communicate effectively with ATC, to comply with ATC instructions, and to
ensure clear and effective crew communication and coordination. Normal restatement
of questions does not constitute grounds for disqualification.”
For those certificates issued under parts
the metric parallels the ACS. However, the ASI should focus on the individual’s
ability to communicate in English in a discernible and understandable manner with others.
B. Communication in English. Regardless of whether the individual’s
first language is or is not English, listen to determine that the individual
can communicate in English with ATC, pilots, and others involved in preparing
an aircraft for flight and operating an aircraft in flight. This communication
may or may not involve the use of the radio.
Note: Specific to a pilot and additional ratings, refer to the appropriate
to ensure that the pilot/applicant is able to communicate effectively with ATC,
to comply with ATC instructions, and to ensure clear and effective crew communication and coordination.
C. ASI Interaction. The interaction between the ASI and the individual
will assist the ASI in determining whether or not the individual meets the FAA
regulatory English language eligibility requirements.
D. Assessment and Testing Examples. Assess the individual’s ability
to meet the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements for the
respective FAA certificate. See paragraph 5-1911 for details. Below are testing
examples that can be used during the assessment, which must be tailored to meet
the expectations of the certificate held.
1) As part of the process, engage the individual in conversation.
2) Ask the individual to read from aviation materials. Ask the
individual to explain and write down what he or she read.
3) For pilots and instructors, have the individual listen to
ATC instructions and explain what he or she hears.
4) Listen, observe, and ask yourself:
• Can the individual read English?
• Can the individual write English?
• Does the individual understand and follow your verbal conversation?
• From the individual’s explanation of what he or she read, could
you understand him or her without undue focus on his or her pronunciation and speech?
• Will his or her English skills enable him or her to communicate
effectively with ATC, understand and comply with ATC instructions, communicate
with others involved in the preparation of an aircraft for flight and/or in
the conduct of flight, and provide effective communication and crew coordination as needed?
• Did the individual explain/respond to questions that demonstrated
he or she understands the English presented in the material(s) he or she read,
ATC instructions he or she heard, and the questions you asked?
5-1913 EXCEPTION TO CONDUCTING 49 U.S.C. § 44709 REEXAMINATION
DUE TO INDIVIDUAL NOT MEETING AELS. The following are exceptions to the
requirements to conduct a § 44709 reexamination, or denial of issuing the individual
an FAA certificate (see Figure 5-231, Referred to FSDO for AELS Determination Process).
A. The Individual Has a Medical Condition. An applicant who is
unable to meet the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements
due to medical reasons (e.g., he or she is hearing impaired) may be issued an
FAA certificate. In this case, the Administrator may place such operating limitations
or an exemption on the applicant’s certificate. If a limitation or an exemption
is available for the respective certificate relative to a medical reason for
not meeting the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements, refer
to the appropriate section of this order for the certificate applied for or held by the individual.
B. Flight Engineer, Flight Navigator, Air Traffic Control Tower Operator,
Aircraft Dispatcher, Mechanic, Repairman, Parachute Rigger, or Remote Pilot
Certificate Applicant Does Not Meet the FAA Regulatory English Language Eligibility
Requirements Other Than for a Medical Reason. Per part
§ 63.42; part
65.71(a)(2); or part
as applicable, refer to the appropriate guidance in this order to determine
if a limitation can be issued for the individual not meeting the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements for the respective FAA certificate.
5-1914 IF THE ASI DETERMINES THE INDIVIDUAL DOES NOT MEET THE FAA AELS.
A. FAA-Certificated Individuals. If the ASI has reasonable question
as to whether a certificated individual, including an individual holding a Student
Pilot Certificate, does not meet the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements, he or she will:
1) Issue a letter of reexamination to the individual containing the written PBR.
2) Prepare the letter of reexamination stating the factual basis
on which the reexamination is requested and the scope of the reexamination.
For example, the reexamination is based upon reasonable question of the individual’s
qualifications to meet the FAA regulatory English language eligibility requirements
to apply for or hold an FAA certificate, and the ASI requests the certificate
holder place his or her certificate on temporary deposit with the appropriate
Flight Standards office (FSDO/certificate management office (CMO)) pending reexamination.
The inspector can inform that certificate holder that while the certificate
is on deposit, the individual can improve his or her English language proficiency
before taking the reexamination (e.g., by taking the aviation English language
course). Refer to Volume 5, Chapter 7;
Volume 14, Chapter 1, Section 3; and
chapter 5, paragraph 11.
B. FAA Certificate and/or Rating Applicants. For
an applicant for an FAA certificate and/or rating, the ASI will:
1) Initiate a new Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating
Application (IACRA) or appropriate paper FAA application form and certification file.
2) Disapprove the IACRA or paper application.
3) If the appropriate application form has
a “Meets Aviation English Language Standard” box, mark the box.
If the form does not have a “Meets Aviation English Language Standard”
box, indicate in the free text box, “Does Not Meet English Language Standard.”
4) Provide comments to indicate the reason for the rejection.
5) Forward the application to AFB-720.
6) Confirm that the evaluator forwarded
the rejected application/notice of disapproval to AFB-720 (per Order
8900.2). If the evaluator used the paper application form, ensure that the
form was forwarded by the FSDO for processing to AFB-720. If the application
is based on a foreign certificate or military experience, ensure the evaluator
issued FAA Form 8060-5, Notice of Disapproval of Application.
7) Complete a PTRS record of the actions taken by the ASI and the evaluator.
C. Corrective Action Before Another AELS Assessment Can Be Conducted.
Advise the applicant/airman that he or she may take an aviation English language
course to receive a certificate of completion that meets the ICAO Operational
Level 4 before reapplying for the certificate. See Figure 5-232, Examples of
English Language Proficiency (ELP) ICAO-Recognized Course Completion Certificate, for sample completion certificates.
5-1915 ACTONS TO BE TAKEN FOR AN APPLICANT FOR AN FAA CERTIFICATE AND
FOR AN FAA-CERTIFICATED INDIVIDUAL THAT MEETS THE FAA AELS.
A. Certification Application/Test or Student Pilot Application. The ASI will:
1) Initiate a new IACRA application, or initiate a paper application,
and mark/enter on the application that the individual meets the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements to hold an FAA certificate.
2) Issue the appropriate temporary certificate, and forward the
approved and appropriate completed FAA application to AFB-720 for processing.
3) Complete a PTRS record of the actions taken by the ASI and the evaluator.
B. FAA-Certificated Individual. If an FAA-certificated individual
is referred by an evaluator that was conducting a required 14 CFR testing, checking,
or review event that was terminated or not signed off by the evaluator because
the evaluator questioned whether the individual meets the FAA regulatory English
language eligibility requirements to hold an FAA certificate, the ASI will:
1) Complete a PTRS record indicating in the “Remarks” section
that the FAA assessed the individual and that individual meets the FAA regulatory
English language eligibility requirements for an FAA certificate, and enters
the action taken to notify the evaluator of the results and authorizes the evaluator
to complete the initial event as applicable.
2) Inform the evaluator of the results, and if the event involves
obtaining the evaluator’s endorsement, the evaluator can complete the flight
event and issue the appropriate endorsement or training as appropriate in order
for the airman to continue exercise the privileges of their FAA certificate.
5-1916 FOREIGN PILOTS HOLDING OR NOT HOLDING AN FAA CERTIFICATE.
If an ASI during any surveillance or ramp inspection becomes aware of a foreign
pilot who appears not to speak in English in an understandable and discernable manner, they will comply with
Volume 12, Chapter 2, Section 8.
Figure 5-231. Referred to FSDO for AELS Determination Process
Figure 5-232. Examples of English Language Proficiency (ELP) ICAO-Recognized Course Completion Certificate
Figure 5-232. Examples of English Language Proficiency (ELP) ICAO-Recognized Course Completion Certificate (Continued)
Figure 5-233. ICAO Rated Speech Samples Developed for ICAO by the International Civil Aviation English Association (ICAEA)
RESERVED. Paragraphs 5-1917 through 5-1930.